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      USOEC athletes have eyes set on 2016 Olympic Games

      As the world turn its attention to London for this summer's Olympic Games, a group of athletes at the United States Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University is hard at work for their shot on the world stage.

      At just 21-years of age Andrew Vrabel is relatively new to the sport of olympic weightlifting, but what he lacks in years of experience, he makes up for in determination.

      "I started lifting when I was 18," said Vrabel. "I taught myself how to lift from Youtube and I wanted to get better, I didn't have a coach."

      Vrabel moved from Highland, Indiana to Marquette to enroll at NMU and become a member of the USOEC.

      Now a senior, Vrabel already has his eyes trained on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

      But uncertainty continues to surround the facility that he and other athletes spend countless hours training in.

      "People want to know what's going to happen to the center, is it going to be here? Is the USOEC going to survive?" asked Brian Gaudreau, Interim Director of the USOEC.

      Over a year ago the United States Olympic Committee restructured the way it funds olympic training centers nationwide.

      This meant a loss of $300,000 for the USOEC.

      As of now, the USOEC has a year-long trial period to secure funding for it's two programs, Greko Roman wrestling and Olympic Weightlifting.

      "I think the biggest issue is going to be fundraising," explained Gaudreau. "We have to come up with a good solid plan for fundraising and that's what we're working on right now."

      The plan is expected to include a campaign for new sponsorships and donations, more public sporting events and a re-design of it's signature license plate.

      The USOEC hopes that the upcoming London games will return attention to the facility and the impact it has had on the Upper Peninsula.

      Six olympians from the USOEC will be competing in this summer's games, an inspiring number for athletes like Vrabel.

      "It's very motivating to know that this program holds the capability of building up athletes to that caliber," said Vrabel.

      The opening ceremony for the summer Olympic Games begins Friday July 27th at 7:30/6:30c.