Olympians, Paralympians honored by Dodds Park monument

Peter Floess

Staff Writer

The men and women who represented Champaign county in last August’s games have joined the ranks of 41 athletes inscribed on Dodds Park’s Tribute to Olympic and Paralympic Athletes monumen

Dodds Park, Parkland College, Scott Wells, Peter Floess, Prospectus News, Champaign County

Photo of monument in Dodds Park by Scott Wells

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On Oct. 1, the Champaign Park District hosted a ceremony to dedicate plaques to five Paralympians from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games:

  • 4-time track and field Paralympian Joshua George
  • 4-time track and field and 1-time Nordic skiing Paralympian Tatyana McFadden
  • 3-time track and field Paralympian Amanda McGrory
  • 3-time sitting volleyball Paralympian Nichole Millage
  • 2-time track and field Paralympian Brian Siemann

McGrory and Millage both competed in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, and August’s games in Rio.

McGrory has won seven medals so far in her career and hopes to take part in the 2020 Tokyo games. Her favorite Paralympics moment came in Rio, when she won a silver medal in the 1,500-meter and a bronze medal in the 5,000-meter in a University of Illinois sweep of the events along with teammates McFadden and McClammer in what NBC referred to as the “McSweep” and “McDouble,” respectively.

“Being on top of the podium, listening to the national anthem, and watching three American flags be raised is a pretty incredible experience,” McGrory says.

She says that being a Paralympian is “a combination hard work and a lot of luck.”

Millage, who as member of the American sitting volleyball team, won silver in 2008 and 2012; she finally won gold in 2016, defeating China in three sets.

Bringing home the gold in Rio was Millage’s favorite Paralympic memory.

“A lot of training, sacrifice, and hard work went into achieving that goal,” Millage said. “I am so proud of my team, our staff, and myself.”

Both McGrory and Millage are very happy to be inducted to the Tribute to Olympic and Paralympics Athletes monument.

The U of I is home to an official Paralympic training place for track and road wheelchair racing, which McGrory says means that she gets to train with the best of the best in the world of track and field in terms of athletes and coaches.

“The [Champaign-Urbana] community is incredibly supportive of their athletes,” McGrory said. “[I am] so honored to be included amongst so many other accomplished athletes on the monument.”

Millage, who is from Champaign and works for the city, says the community has “cheered me on every step of the way and provided me with encouragement, especially during the hard times when I needed it the most.”

“They have always had my back. Being recognized and celebrated at the tribute at Dodds Park last weekend was icing on top of the cake,” she said. “I think it’s great that the Champaign Park District recognizes Paralympic athletes right alongside Olympic athletes. We are all one big family.”

Jeffery Poss is the architect for the monument. He says he is happy with its current state.

The Champaign Park District has cleared up the drainage of the parcel of land that the monument is on, planted shortgrass prairie plants around it, regraded the land, and added a new stainless steel handrail.

Poss is excited that the community has fully embraced the monument since it was dedicated in 1991 and agrees with the inclusion of Paralympian athletes since 2008.

One of his favorite stories is that of Champaign-native Katherine Reutter, who won a silver and bronze as a speed skater in the 2010 Vancouver games. He says she was partly inspired to pursue her Olympics career after seeing the plaque for Champaign-born Bonnie Blair at the Monument. Blair, who was part of this inspiration to build the Monument, was the first American woman to win five gold medals.

Poss hopes by the monument being a gateway to Parkland, it will inspire more athletes. He says he built it to represent the process of reaching achievement.

When one turns onto Parkland Way from Mattis Ave., the Tribute to Olympic and Paralympic Athletes monument is clearly visible and is a notable landmark.

The monument has an elevated ramp that leads to a granite platform, where the names of the athletes are inscribed. Over the final platform there is an arch based on a triumphal arch, like the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile in Paris. Before one reaches the final platform, there are several intermediate platforms that have a short vertical post.

More information on the monument can be found on the Champaign Parks District website, at champaignparks.com/olympic-tribute. The list of honored Olympians and Paralympians has, as of this date, yet to be updated to show the monument’s new inclusions.