COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4/CBS) – Who better to tour the new United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum with than legendary ice skater Peggy Fleming? CBS This Morning Saturday co-host Dana Jacobson shared her notes from the visit the pair made recently.
Fleming was just 19 years old when she won gold at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France. The chartreuse dress her mother made hangs in the museum.
“They make a chartreuse liqueur up in the mountains in Grenoble,” Fleming explained. “She thought, well, if I wore the color chartreuse it would endear me to the French people and they would applaud more.”
The iconic dress is just one of the displays designed to inspire those who visit the museum in Colorado Springs.
“It’s a wonderful place to kind of let your dreams just explode, like ‘Could I really do this?'” Fleming said. “All you have to do is try and you, sometimes, surprise yourself.”
And challenge yourself you can, because the museum has interactive exhibits like a virtual race against four-time gold medalist Jesse Owens.
Michelle Dusserre Farrell helped create those exhibits. She’s a vice president at the museum.
“It’s a history museum. It’s a cultural museum. It’s an art museum. It’s a museum that talks about social progress,” Farrell explained.
She helps create exhibits that honor the athletes and highlight their stories. That includes the leotard she wore when she took home the silver in 1984 as a member of the U.S. Gymnastics team.
And for Farrell, it’s also important to make sure the Paralympians get equal treatment.
“We’re one team,” she said. “Our athletes are the fabric of our nation. We want everybody to see that our team represents this nation.”
But that representation is very personal for Farrell and her family.
“I have a daughter who plays wheelchair basketball. She now is seeing athletes who represent her journey, her experience in this museum and being inspired by that as well.”
It’s that sense of inspiration and ability to overcome you’ll find in the exhibit about Fleming. Two weeks after she won her first world championship in 1966, her father died of a heart attack.
“That really shook my world,” she recalled. “My mom had to raise four girls by herself and then my expensive sport. It was just amazing what we went through and how my mother was so strong.”
“When you lose a parent, you lose that strength. And every time I’d go back to try to train, I’d go ‘I’m not as strong as I was before he died.’ And then over the months and years, it all came back.”
Fleming told Jacobson she has a clear hope for the people who read her story.
“I just hope they can put themselves in my shoes, and put themselves in that story. You just never know until try a sport or try something to see where you stand. It’s not for just a special few. It’s for everybody.”
That’s a hope echoed by Farrell.
“We hope that the stories, through sports, that are told here are really a platform for telling a bigger, more global story of pursuing your passion, working hard, overcoming obstacles.”