Danville native Taylor Payne is used to being around high-profile athletes and corporate sponsors because of her job at marketing and communications manager for USA Track & Field. However, she has a slightly different role at the Olympics in London — she is media manager for the United States Olympic Committee High Performance Training Center.
“Not all U.S. teams can train in their competition venues, so the U.S. is utilizing East London University as a resource for training,” said Payne, a Danville High School graduate. “On this campus, we have training venues, fitness and strength training resources, recovery stations and sports medicine and nutritional support. My role is to coordinate all media requests that take place at the High Performance Training Center for the U.S. athletes and manage all open-media practices.”
That’s a different role than she had in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics when she was the media relations director for U.S. synchronized swimming.
“I had a team of 10 athletes that I had been promoting for three years. When you are the press officer for one particular team, everything you do revolves around that team. So I was going to their practices, competitions, press conferences, fielding their media requests, et cetera,” Payne said. “Now that I am in London in a USOC capacity, I am working with all of the teams that are training at this facility and not just one particular team. I am working with a variety of sports, including basketball and most of the combat sports.”
However, she is ready for track and field to begin as it will this weekend.
“It is a bit strange to be away from the sport that I work for in a full-time capacity. Most of the activity at the High Performance Training Center dies down in the late afternoon, so I plan on heading over to the track for the evening sessions. It will be nice to see the athletes that we work hard to support every day living out their dreams in person,” she said.
She does like the variety in her duties.
“I am working with so many different sports, so many different media members and a different staff. Not to mention, we have conducted everything here on campus from John McEnroe and Shaun White learning how to fence (for an NBC-TV piece) to hosting the first lady (Michelle Obama) during her first appearance in London,” Payne said.
Payne grew up a Kentucky basketball fan and says the biggest media draw at the High Performance Training Center is when the U.S. men’s basketball team practices there.
“We have about 100 media that attend every open-media practice. So yes, I have seen (former Kentucky star Anthony) Davis while I am attending men’s basketball practice,” Payne said. “It’s fun to see an athlete that played for a team that you cheer for, but since I work around athletes, I am not your typical fan. I don’t do autographs or photos with athletes,”
She hoped to attend a beach volleyball game Thursday night and has been able to see women’s gymnastics and men’s water polo.
“I arrived a week before opening ceremonies but that was our busiest time as athletes began training at our facility six days before the Games started. And if athletes are on-site training, that means media are eagerly waiting nearby,” Payne said. “Now that the Games have started and we are in a bit more of a routine, I have been able to get out to see a couple of events in the evening.
“Hopefully I will get to see a few of the highlights of central London before I leave. It will probably have to wait until after closing ceremonies, though.”