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Best Places To Raise A World-Class Athlete

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Light your torch and race to these athlete-friendly metros.

Just as native New Yorkers swear you can’t get a good slice of pizza outside the five boroughs, it’s hard to deny that where you grow up influences your preferences and propensities later in life. And the same can be said for athletic prowess: World-class skier Picabo Street grew up in Triumph, ID, close to Sun Valley, a popular ski area. Street was notorious for hitting the nearby slopes while growing up, and it paid off: She won the Olympic gold medal for skiing in 1998.

So where are the best areas to raise an athlete who could compete on the global stage this summer? From trampoline parks to swim clubs, we took a look at athletic resources per 10,000 households and came up with the ultimate list of where to raise a budding gymnast, swimmer, and track-and-field star.

Not living in one of these 10 metros? Time to bounce

The floor, vault, high bar, and rings — watching the gymnasts catapult through the air and contort their bodies is mesmerizing. Unsurprisingly, training to be a world-class gymnast takes incredible discipline and time, so living in close proximity to gymnastic facilities like dance studios, gymnastics clubs, Pilates studios, trampoline parks, and trainers is of utmost importance. According to former gymnast and trainer Gina Paulhus, competitive male gymnasts on average put in 25-plus hours per week at the gym, for as many as 20 years (we’re guessing it’s similar for female gymnasts).

Case in point? Two of the 10 athletes representing the U.S. this year grew up in some of the metros on our list. Aly Raisman is from Needham, MA, which is less than 10 miles from No. 7 on our list, the Boston, MA, suburb of Newton, MA. Meanwhile, Sam Mikulak hails from Newport Beach, CA, a seaside city in the No. 2 spot on our list, Orange County, CA.

Grab those goggles and hit the pool

When it comes to the top cities to raise a great swimmer, most of the top towns are in warm, sunny states where it’s easy to be out in the pool: think California, Florida, Texas, and Hawaii. Metros in these states have the most access to swim lessons, pools, beaches, lakes, and sports clubs. And you’ll spend a lot of time honing your skills to make the cut: Of the roughly 1,850 swimmers that enter the trials, only about 50 qualify for the U.S. team.

But hope is not lost for colder-climate-dwelling aquanauts: Seattle, WA, comes in as the No. 2 place to raise a world-class swimmer. And perhaps the most famous swimmer to hail from the U.S. in recent years, Michael Phelps, trained at the North Baltimore (MD) Aquatic Club when he was growing up, proving that those of us who live in the Northeast can (and will) be represented in the games this year.

On your mark, get set … move to California

Once again, California gets the gold as the prime state for promising track-and-field stars. And it makes sense: When it comes to places where runners (and sprinters and hurdlers) can find top-of-the-line trainers and gyms, California has plenty of options. For this category, we looked at concentration of sports clubs, high schools, sports trainers, and gym training facilities relative to the population.

With 158,706 square miles of real estate in the third-largest state, that’s a lot of running trails to conquer. One of this year’s most trending athletes (according to Google), Allyson Felix, hails from Los Angeles, CA, No. 2 on the list. Also popping into the top 10 is Denver, CO, which is just an hour from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Bring on the 100-meter sprints, discus throws, long jumps, and shot puts!

Did your city make the list? Share your top picks for training like a world-class athlete (or raising one) in the comments!

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