DES MOINES, Iowa — In the heart of the Midwest, a museum in Des Moines, Iowa, makes sure the Olympic flame stays lit long after the last medal has been earned.
“Our heroes and role models give us a visual of what we can accomplish,” said Iowa Hall of Pride Director Taylor Anderson.
The Iowa Hall of Pride exhibit offers more than just athletes with Iowa ties who competed on the highest stage from high school to the professional ranks. It also offers Olympic glory. “The Olympics transcends the state level to a bigger being. A way of serving your country. Having that opportunity to compete in the Olympics for your country and the pride when you come back,” said Anderson.
Wrist wraps from Gold medalist Gabby Douglas, track spikes from world champion Lolo Jones and shoes from USA Basketball gold medalist Harrison Barnes are among the museum’s collection. Anderson said, “We see the final product, we see the accomplishments and the medal stand, but we don’t realize the story behind those individuals.”
While gold medals and high-profile names like the 2008 balance beam gold medalist Shawn Johnson are must-see attractions, it is an athlete’s story of what it took to get on that podium that many leave hanging on to. “The trials and tribulations of being in the arena and competing. You learn from your failure just as much as you learn from your accomplishments,” Anderson said.
It’s trials and tribulations like Lolo Jones experienced, the 2012 Olympic hurdles favorite who clipped a hurdle while in the lead and a gold medal in sight. “Here is the biggest stage and yet that doesn’t define her. She got back up, she competed in the Winter Olympics and it’s all that grit and determination,” said Anderson.
Stories like 1972 gold medal USA wrestler Dan Gable show that sometimes even a call from our nation’s president can’t get in the way of an Olympian’s dream. “Here’s a guy that no one scored a point on in the entire 1972 Olympics to the gold medal. When they went to visit Washington DC, before they left, President Nixon wanted to visit with the team and Dan didn’t have time because he wanted to get his workout in,” said Anderson.
Like the torch that will burn bright in Tokyo, just seeing that the opportunity is possible can be the spark that lights a fire creating America’s next Olympian. Anderson said, “When you can combine a kid’s dream with passion, it is a powerful connection. Getting these kids to realize there is nothing out of your reach.”
The Iowa Hall of Pride is open during the pandemic. Guests at the Iowa Hall of Pride are required to sign in and wear a mask. Temperature checks are also conducted before customers enter the exhibit.