The faculty and staff of the United States Sports Academy celebrated Olympic Day on June 23, 2015. Olympic Day is a worldwide annual celebration in recognition of the Modern Olympic Games. The Academy and the American Sport Art Museum and Archives offered an open house featuring the Academy’s Olympic Art – a diverse, one-of-a-kind collection, and a reception which included former 1996 USA Team Handball Olympian, Mr. Darrick Heath.
During the open house, the public was invited to view the Gallery, Library, and many collections including an outdoor Sport Sculpture Park that features many pieces created by Bruce Larsen, a sculptor from Fairhope. Many of these found-object sculptures are named for great gold medalist Olympians, including sprinter Valeriy Borzov, gymnast Nastia Liukin, and basketball great Michael Jordan.
Around the world, more than 160 countries take part in the annual celebration. Olympic Day, created in 1948 to commemorate the birth of the Modern Olympic Games, focuses on the Olympic values and ideals such as fair play, perseverance, respect, and sportsmanship. In the U.S., Olympic Day events range from small gatherings to large, city-wide events.
An unexpected surprise waited for Heath in the Olympic Room, which is located in the Academy’s Library. Many different types of Olympic memorabilia on display behind locked glass cabinets, including pendants, pins, medals, sculptures, and one item truly special to Heath – his handball.
At a glance it was just a handball, but a closer looked revealed that it was indeed a ball signed by Heath himself. “I always signed my name with a smiley face,” Heath said. He used to get teased by his teammates for the silly signature, but it made for a great surprised when he was reunited with his ball after so many years. “It was smiling back at you,” said Bruce Larsen, 2009 Sport Artist of the Year.
Heath’s sport career started as a basketball player for the C.W. Post. After practice one day, he was asked to join in on the Garden City Team Handball Club. He thrived in handball, becoming a shoo-in for the Team USA Handball at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Since then, Heath and his now wife, Stewart Heath, traveled the world while Heath dominated the Handball field. They now reside in Spanish Fort, Ala., with their son.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.