The United States Olympic Committee has announced that USA Synchro will be recognized for its achievement in the areas of diversity and inclusion.
USA Synchro was named the 2016 recipient of the Advancing D&I Award, which recognizes the National Governing Body (NGB) with the highest annual growth percentage of underrepresented individuals based on diversity data for women, and racial and ethnic minorities.
"We are very honored to receive this award from the USOC," USA Synchro President Judy McGowan said. "In addition to having a diverse board of directors, we have recently established a task force to develop a program for athletes with disabilities. Our organization is, and will continue to be, one that is open to all."
USA Synchro led all NGBs with an 8.57 percent increase in membership for women and persons of color from 2014-15. Percentage increases were evaluated based on overall NGB numbers, which includes board members, employees, NGB membership, and national team athletes and coaches.
Olivia Morgan, USA Synchro's representative to the USOC Athletes' Advisory council, will accept the award at a celebratory dinner during the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly that begins Thursday in Colorado Springs.
Other awards to be presented by the USOC at the assembly:
* Jim Easton will receive the Olympic Torch Award, which recognizes an individual who has positively impacted the Olympic Movement by promoting the Olympic Ideals. Easton, who has devoted more than 60 years of service to the development of archery, acted as president of the International Archery Federation (now known as World Archery) from 1989-2005. Additionally, he served more than 20 years as a board member for the International Olympic Committee and USOC (1994-2015), including four years as an IOC vice president (2002-06). Under his leadership, the Easton Sports Development Foundation has supported the development of several regional training facilities, including the Easton Archery Center of Excellence at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in California, as well as the World Archery Excellence Center in Switzerland.
* Jim Eckford was selected to receive the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award presented by BP. The award recognizes an athlete, coach or official for an outstanding act of fair play and sportsmanship.When Eckford was in pursuit of a personal-best marathon time, he met Amelia Dickerson, a blind athlete, at mile 15 of the California International Marathon. Dickerson's guide runner could not finish the race with her, so Eckford took over as the guide despite having no experience. The pair ultimately crossed the finish line in 3:20:28, a new personal best for Dickerson. Even though it meant giving up his personal race goals for the day, Eckford selflessly helped Dickerson reach hers.
* Glen Bennett and BlazeSports America were chosen as the individual and program recipients for the Rings of Gold awards. The Rings of Gold awards annually recognize an individual and a program dedicated to helping children develop their Olympic or Paralympic dreams, and reach their highest athletic and personal potential. A volunteer coach for the Michigan State University archery team for more than six years, Bennett has developed archers into national champions and All-American athletes. He also currently serves as the program coordinator for the Michigan State Demmer Shooting Sports, Education and Training Center, and teaches a Junior Olympic Archery Development Program. Bennett also works with visually impaired and quadriplegic athletes to help them learn archery and crossbow shooting. For 20 years, BlazeSports America has been at the forefront of advancing the lives of children and teens with physical disabilities through adaptive sport and recreation. Designated as a USOC Multi-Sport Organization and Paralympic Sport Club, BlazeSports America focuses not only on the athletic development and Paralympic potential, but also provides opportunities for young athletes to gain independence, self-confidence, and leadership and academic skills. Since its inception after the 1996 Paralympic Games, BlazeSports America has touched the lives of more than 800,000 children with physical disabilities with more than 18 million hours of Paralympic and adaptive sports programming.
* USRowing was selected by its peers as the D&I Choice Award winner for its Freedom Rows initiative. Celebrating its third year, the D&I Choice Award recognizes an NGB for best practices in advancing diversity and inclusion, as determined by a vote of NGB peers. Originally launched in 2014 as a diversity initiative, USRowing's Freedom Rows was established to increase the number of military service members and veterans with disabilities participating in adaptive and para-rowing categories. Freedom Rows aims to provide training and outreach coordination to Veteran's Affairs adaptive sports program managers, recreational therapists and coaches. Freedom Rows expanded to provide equipment and administrative support to 20 local clubs in 2015.