FSU experts available to discuss history, preparation and impact of Olympic Games

After a year’s delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics will commence at the end of July to much fanfare, but with no actual fans in the stands.  

The games begin July 23 and run through Aug. 8.  

Florida State University researchers are available to assist reporters who are covering the Summer Olympics. Researchers with expertise in sports psychology, physiology, history and tourism are available to provide quotes to reporters who are looking to add context to their stories.  


Timothy Baghurst, professor and director, Interdisciplinary Center for Athletic Coaching (FSU COACH), College of Education
(850) 644-3486; tbaghurst@fsu.edu 

Baghurst’s research focuses on coaching education and development, with specific interests in coaching ethics and coach health and well-being. He has worked with sport organizations affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“The Tokyo Olympics will be remembered as one of the most unique in its storied history. Athletes will face the challenge of competing in empty stadia one year later than planned in a population not particularly receptive to the event being held. Coaches might be forgotten amidst these many discussion points but are an integral part of an athlete’s success. How they prepare their athletes for the unique mental and physical challenges that this Olympics has provided may be the difference between a podium finish or the four-year wait to try again.” 

Megan Buning, teaching faculty, Interdisciplinary Center for Athletic Coaching (FSU COACH), College of Education
(850) 645-4759; m.buning@fsu.edu 

Buning is a certified mental performance consultant and is listed on the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s registry (USOPC) of approved mental performance providers.  

“This year’s Olympians have had to work through the stress created by the pandemic, including sickness, seeing loved ones sick or dying, facilities shut down limiting training options, isolation (especially difficult for team sport athletes), as well as restricted training options. Team sport athletes and coaches have had the unique challenge of finding ways to compete as a whole team in addition to finding high-level competition. These Olympic Games will showcase some of the most mentally flexible and resilient athletes and coaches as a whole that we’ve ever seen!” 

Svenja Wolf, assistant professor, Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, College of Education

Wolf is an assistant professor of sport psychology. She researches group dynamics and emotions, with a specific focus on the experience and consequences of collective emotions.

Extraordinary performances moving the audience in awe, the spark of spectators’ excitement motivating athletes to go beyond their limits, individuals of all backgrounds coming together in shared joy: collective emotions like these will likely be missed greatly at this year’s Olympics, and with them their benefits for performance and social integration. Thus, one more challenge of Tokyo 2020 will be for teams, coaches and athletes—as well as organizers and journalists—to foster a sense of emotional connectedness despite the absence of an audience, visitors and substantial contact among Olympians.”



Kyle Harwell, doctoral candidate, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences

Kyle Harwell is a doctoral candidate in FSU’s Department of Psychology, who studied the cognitive components of skill development and effective training under the late “expert on experts,” K. Anders Ericsson. Following in Ericsson’s footsteps, Harwell’s research considers theoretical and applied issues concerning the acquisition of expert-level performance — especially the role of coaching and structured practice environments. This performance-focused approach to scientifically studying expertise has advanced understanding of elite performers across a wide variety of disciplines, including music, medicine and sports. 

“As we come together to watch world-class athletes perform seemingly superhuman feats of strength and agility at the Olympic Games, it is tempting to attribute that performance to some collection of gifts or talents that the rest of us are not fortunate enough to possess. Indeed, there is no question that some sports greatly favor people with certain heritable traits. As an example, consider the differences in body size between the average gold-medalist basketball player and the average gold-medalist gymnast. However, by placing such emphasis on natural talent or physical characteristics, we may underestimate the importance of the hard work these athletes have put into achieving their Olympic dreams. In many cases, the individuals on the winners’ podium have led extraordinary lives with family members and expert coaches who supported them through thousands of hours of difficult training. The relative contributions of innate and environmental factors for expertise are still being debated among scientists, but what cannot be disputed is the exceptional dedication and discipline required to compete at that level.” 



P. Bryant Chase, professor of biological science, College of Arts & Sciences
(850) 645-4775; chase@bio.fsu.edu 

Chase’s research focuses on cellular and molecular biomechanics and the structure of striated cardiac and skeletal muscles. He’s currently studying genetic variants in cardiac troponin that cause hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathies. Troponin is the calcium ion sensor that regulates contraction of the heart and pumping of blood. It is central to the heart’s function, and small changes in the troponin gene’s DNA sequence may result in detrimental changes in the heart’s ability to pump blood. This research focus derives from concern that cardiovascular diseases remain the major reason for death and hospitalization in the developed world. Chase was recognized as a Fellow of the American Heart Association in 2002. 

 “Olympic athletes, particularly endurance athletes, rely mightily on the heart to pump blood, which brings oxygen, nutrients and hormones and other chemical signals to hardworking body muscles, the neurons that control those muscles, and the muscle of the heart itself while also removing wastes such as carbon dioxide. Most cells in our body use food and oxygen for energy (ATP). During competition, much of that energy powers muscle contraction. A combination of training and genetics allows the hearts of elite Olympic athletes to effectively deliver more of these energy producing molecules when and where they are needed, and to recover more quickly so that they will be ready for the next round of competition.” 

Michael Ormsbee, associate professor of nutrition and integrative physiology and associate director of the FSU Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine
(850) 644-4793; mormsbee@fsu.edu 

Ormsbee is an expert in nutrition, supplements and exercise that improve health, body composition and performance. He works extensively with athletes and clinically obese individuals looking to improve health outcomes.  

 Robert Hickner, professor of nutrition and integrative physiology
(850) 644-375; rhickner@fsu.edu  

Hickner’s research focuses on how exercise and nutrition affect the regulation of blood flow and metabolism in skeletal muscle and fat tissue and thus can help prevent disease across the lifespan.  



Katherine Mooney, associate professor of history, College of Arts and Sciences

Mooney studies the cultural history of inequality in the United States and in particular the history and contributions of Black athletes using their platform to drive social change. 

“The Olympics have long captured the public’s imagination, but they have also reflected – in a focused way before a worldwide audience — of-the-moment debates surrounding human and civil rights and race and gender identity. As the American delegation competes, American audiences will experience the personification of struggle and triumph through athletes who are at once larger-than life figures and who in that moment have a chance to change the world.” 

James Sickinger, associate professor of classics, College of Arts and Sciences

Sickinger’s main interests lie in the history of the ancient Greek world. His research combines philological, epigraphical, and archaeological evidence and focuses particularly on the uses of writing and how Greek city-states used written texts for social, legal and political purposes. His current research focuses primarily on Athenian ostracism and how ostraca — inscribed potsherds Athenian citizens used as ballots — contribute to modern understanding of this practice. 

“The Olympics Games were refounded in 1896 to revive the ideals of amateurism and international cooperation believed to have characterized the ancient Olympics. Every four years athletes representing communities from all over the ancient Mediterranean world gathered at a small site in southern Greece to compete out of love of sport and physical competition. Of course, there were significant differences. Only males competed in ancient times, the number of contests was smaller, and athletes competed in the nude; even the amateur ideal was different. But the ancient games were also plagued by politics, professionalism and even concerns over cheating by athletes, just like those today; the modern Olympics reflect their ancient model in a number of surprising ways.” 



Nathaniel Line, associate professor, Dedman College of Hospitality 
(850) 645-2710; nline@dedman.fsu.edu   

Line’s research experience includes demand shocks in the lodging industry and marketing environment, hospitality and tourism management and hospitality marketing. 

“The decision to close the Tokyo Olympics to spectators will result in huge losses for the Japanese economy. Among the hardest hit will be Tokyo’s travel and hospitality businesses that had originally planned for weeks of full capacity demand. Still reeling from decreased revenues during the height of the COVID pandemic, many businesses in Tokyo’s hospitality industry were counting on an economic boost from the Olympics and the visitors it brings. Without international spectators, Tokyo will now incur all of the costs of hosting the Olympics and reap only a small fraction of its benefits.”