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Commonwealth Games brings thousands of athletes to campus

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Competitors, eyes blazing with anticipation, flocked to Liberty University’s campus as the Virginia Commonwealth Games kicked off its Games Weekend on Friday. Liberty is the title sponsor of the games, the largest multi-sport festival held in Virginia each year. Games Weekend includes a significant portion of the competitions, with over 20 events taking place on campus and around Lynchburg, including basketball, indoor soccer, lacrosse, tennis, softball, archery, paintball, and track. Between 5,000-6,000 athletes and thousands more family, friends, and spectators will be drawn to Liberty’s world-class facilities over Games Weekend.

An opening ceremony was held Friday night in the Vines Center, and included a parade of athletes, torch lighting, and a keynote address from Olympic gold medalist Dick Fosbury.

This year, the Virginia Commonwealth Games expects to draw a record of over 12,000 athletes, competing in over 55 Olympic and Pan-American sports. The games are open to all ages and skill levels as a way to inspire wellness and competition. This is Liberty’s first year to host the games as part of a five-year contract.

Competitions are being held at the Vines Center, Baseball Stadium, LaHaye Recreation and Fitness Center, Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex, Thomas Indoor Soccer Center, and Kamphuis Field at Liberty Softball Stadium. Liberty has created an Olympic Village, with available housing for about 400 athletes and officials. As part of the weekend activities, Liberty hosted a large Community Farmer’s Market on Friday behind the Liberty University Barnes & Noble Bookstore, featuring several local vendors, growers, artisans, and food trucks from farmer’s markets across the region. Liberty’s dining venues are open for the games.

Dick Fosbury speaks at Liberty University.
Dick Fosbury (center) shared how he developed his signature high jump technique, which revolutionized the sport, at a meet-and-greet on Friday.

Before the games got underway, Fosbury, a high jump legend who is considered one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field, shared some of his experiences as an athlete during a meet-and-greet in Williams Stadium Friday morning.

Fosbury won an Olympic gold medal for high jump in the 1968 Mexico City games, setting a new Olympic record. His method, known as the “Fosbury Flop,” in which the athlete jumps over the bar back first, revolutionized the sport and is the universal technique used by elite high jumpers today.

As a lover of sports and the relationships they build, Fosbury said he is pleased to be a part of the Commonwealth Games.

“I am really excited about state games and coming here to the Commonwealth Games, because all of this is community-based, to give opportunity to young or adult athletes to be able to test themselves and possibly get to the podium,” Fosbury said. “It is an amazing experience.”

He said that he enjoys collaborating and is excited to see the partnerships that have developed between the city of Lynchburg, Liberty, and Virginia Amateur Sports, which runs the games.

In front of an audience of Athletics staff and some community members, Fosbury sat down with Liberty track and fieldhead coach Brant Tolsma and Paul Carmany, associate athletics communications director, and answered questions about his athletic career. He described how he perfected his technique over time, despite much skepticism from coaches, and eventually saw it adopted across the sport.

“It is funny how games evolve,” Fosbury said, encouraging those in attendance to not be afraid to take risks in trying new approaches to things. “Sport constantly changes, kids love to be creative and do things their own way, and that is why sports are unpredictable.”

After signing autographs and taking pictures, Tolsma led Fosbury on a tour of campus, including the construction site of Liberty’s forthcoming, state-of-the-art indoor track facility.