As a hot, late-August sun rose over Athens, Greece, Dr. Randy Wilber ’76 sat quietly – thinking – in an ancient empty stadium. It was early morning a few days after the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics, and Wilber, senior sports physiologist at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete Performance Lab, was trying to wrap his head around what the Americans had just accomplished.
It was the highlight of a career for Wilber, who has been a runner and sports enthusiast his entire life. The Franklin, Pa., native, who ran both cross country and track during his career at Grove City College, started his career as a high school history teacher and track coach in Titusville, Fla.
After a decade-long teaching career in Florida with a brief hiatus to earn his master’s in history while helping to coach the University of Wisconsin cross country team, Wilber made a decision that would change his life. “I’ve always loved athletics. I was being pulled in the direction of exercise physiology and working with athletes full-time.”
Wilber earned his master’s and Ph.D. in exercise physiology at Florida State University, then applied for and won a coveted year-long fellowship in exercise physiology with the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, working in environmental physiology. He has been there ever since.
Wilber’s passion for his work is bound up in much more than sport and individual achievement, and that is one of the main reasons he loves working with Olympic athletes over any other. On the door of his office – a space as equally modest as Wilber himself – hangs a quote from the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin: “There is no higher ideal for the world than promoting peace through sport.” Coubertin’s words ring true with Wilber, who has traveled around the globe, meeting and interacting with foreign athletes, government officials and dignitaries.
Wilber was part of the delegation traveling to London for the 2012 summer games and will be on the sidelines training athletes or in the stands cheering them on for some of the most-watched sporting events in the world.
“I always stay on for a few days after the games are over. It’s like you have to come down from it all and let it sink in.” No doubt Wilber did just that in the coffee shops and Underground stations of London, choking back emotion at what the Americans just accomplished- with his help.