Olympic Javelin star and National Champion Kara Winger and USATF CEO Max Siegel address the future of Track and Field
The future of USA Track and Field and World Athletics appears very bright. Max Siegel, the CEO of USATF and the retiring four-time Olympian and Javelin National Champion Kara Winger think so. Siegel and Winger joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about why the U.S. dominated much of the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon this past July. They also shared why they have both thrived in the sports world.
Max Siegel is a nationally renowned sports and entertainment executive who has also worked in NASCAR and the music industry. He describes some of the goals of World Athletics.
"World Athletics is our global federation that is comprised of 21 countries. We (USATF) are a proud member of that. I lead the United States Federation. We're collaborating on repositioning the sport and growth in the United States. We're just really heavily involved in everything from the Women's Commission on Global Diversity, the competition side, and so members of USA Track and Field are represented in almost every aspect of World Athletics."
Siegel believes in World Athletics President Sebastian Coe's goal of making track and field a top-5 most-watched sport among Americans by 2028.
"World Athletics is going to continue to grow. They have amazing leadership and with all the governance reform that they have and all the soul-searching that we've done and now the innovation, I think we are in the performance state of the group. So, amazing leadership, laser focus on the growth of the sport, excitement around the Olympics coming here domestically, I encouraged by the direction we're headed as a global organization."
Kara Winger is calling it quits from competition, but not before she set an American record in the Javelin throw. Winger won the National Championship this year as well as the Diamond League. Her second-place finish in the Javelin at the World Championships earlier in the year was also very gratifying.
"I still can not get over the 2022 season. To finally become the person that I always thought I could be at the end of this long career with the support of my teammates, the USATF staff, my coaches, my husband who was my technical coach this year, and to immediately be able to turn that around, both through involvement as an official with USATF and coaching my friend Ari (Ariana Ince) with my husband for the remainder of her career. I just couldn't be more excited about where I left the sport as an athlete and where it's going in my retirement."
Winger, who has battled through some tough injuries in her stellar career, is so respected by her teammates and coaches that the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee selected the USATF Olympic Team captain to lead the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team into the Closing Ceremony as flag bearer at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
"The true highlight of my career."
Winger, who grew up in Vancouver, Washington and starred in the Javelin at Purdue University, stresses the support she got from teammates made her journey possible.
"You know I was 11 months post-op my second ACL, I didn't achieve my dreams out on the Olympic stage, but the women around me supported me in a way that I can never repay and still can't wrap my head around. I tried to do that everyday in my job at an organization called Parity. We are directing funds to women athletes with data statistics, like values driven and intentional sponsorship matching just for women. Parity is just part of a tidal wave of organizations like that, highlighting women on social media in research and new key performance indicators that tell the world that sports are worth watching and women are worth paying within those sports."
Siegel hails Winger as the ideal Olympic athlete.
"Kara embodies everything it takes to be a leader. I think they are three things that we strive for, competitive excellence, constantly training and developing world-class athletes and coaches and I think a unique thing Olympians get to do is to have cultural impact. It takes every ounce of their being to achieve that dream. To be a star and effective, I think you have to be everything that Kara is."
Siegel would know. He's been working with superstar athletes through his impressive career as an attorney, sports agent and sports and entertainment executive. He credits two legendary players with helping him rise to the top of his field. Siegel was the sports agent for the late NFL great Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Reggie White and the late Major League Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder and batting champion Tony Gwynn.
Siegel is an accomplished author of three books and a film producer. The native of Indianapolis is the first African-American to graduate with honors from Notre Dame Law School.
You can SEE my entire SportsJam interview with Max Siegel and Kara Winger here.