Loudoun has been a breeding ground for pro sports athletes for years. Celebrated Middleburg equestrian Joe Fargis won individual and team showjumping gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. At the recent winter Olympics in Beijing, Ashburn native Ashley Caldwell won gold in the mixed team aerials freestyle skiing event. Major League Baseball pitchers Taylor Clarke (Kansas City Royals) and Conor Mullee (New York Yankees) both hail from Loudoun.
Not only have professional athletes trained here but in recent years, athletes from around the world have opened sports facilities in the county where everyone can take part.
The most famous of these is Ion International Training Center, the state-of-the-art twin rink ice-skating facility in Leesburg, which was opened in 2019 by Romanian figure skater Luiz Taifas. Taifas represented Romania at the Winter Olympics in 1992, 1994 and 1998 and as a young child trained with the legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci. At Ion, expert coaches, many of them former professionals from Eastern Europe, train future stars in everything from figure skating and ice dance to ice hockey and curling. Indeed, two Ion figure skaters were alternates for the US Olympic team in Beijing.
A few miles south of Ion, on Evergreen Mills Road, former Bavarian soccer player Niko Eckart is the brains behind Virginia Revolution Soccer Club, a full spectrum soccer program for young stars based out of the new Virginia Revolution Sportsplex. The 44-acre facility has four floodlit turf fields and trains athletes to develop technical skills and critical thinking – on and off the field. While soccer is the main sport at Revolution, the facility also caters to basketball, field hockey and lacrosse.
Let’s not forget the horses. While Middleburg is the capital of horse country, Morven Park International Equestrian Center in Leesburg trains riders in everything from show jumping to dressage as well as hosts year-round events open to the public, including the prestigious Spring and Fall International Horse Trials, which attract elite international riders and Olympic level equestrians.
From four legs to two wheels: On May 7, Loudoun will host The Gravel Grinder National Championship where elite-level cyclists take part in the 100-mile “Grinder Nationals” championship ride through western Loudoun.
If all that sounds exhausting, remember you don’t have to take part in elite sports in Loudoun to enjoy them. Segra Field in Leesburg is now home ground to soccer’s Loudoun United, feeder teams to MLS’s DC United, and to major league rugby stars Old Glory DC, whose 2022 season just got underway.