Polo Is Launching a New Collection to Support Olympic Athletes' Extra Year of Training for Tokyo
Ashleigh Johnson and Nathan Adrian are among the Olympic athletes sponsored by Ralph Lauren and starring in the campaign
The rescheduled 2020 Olympics were meant to be just beginning in Tokyo, Japan, this week, but instead, athletes are now marking the one-year out date — and Ralph Lauren is helping them.
The Polo Ralph Lauren One-Year-Out Collection, which will support the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s (USOPC) Team USA Fund, is launching on Thursday.
The 32-piece collection — which was inspired by the graphic look of the Tokyo 1964 games and, of course, America's most patriotic colors —is modeled by Ralph Lauren-sponsored athletes, including skateboarder Heimana Reynolds, surfer Caroline Marks, water polo star Ashleigh Johnson, Paralympian Melissa Stockwell, and swimmer Nathan Adrian, among others.
Twenty-five percent of the purchase price of each unit from the collection will go to the Team USA Fund, which supports athletes in their journeys to the games — especially necessary during this extra year of training.
"The USOPC doesn't receive any government funding," explains Johnson, 25, to PEOPLE. "It's just really special that a company like Ralph Lauren would dedicate all of the dollars raised by this fund directly to the athletes and to their support."
The money, she says, will go to things like athletes' training, rent, gear, car payments and more. Explains Johnson, "For me it's recovery, just things that keep me healthy, keep me safe, basic necessities."
"I personally know some medal contenders that would have been snatched up by sponsors this year really quickly," swimmer Adrian, 31, echoes to PEOPLE of the importance of Ralph Lauren's support of the Team USA Fund. "They're now looking at getting jobs at, you know, breweries or working hourly wage jobs because the sponsors weren't picking people up like they normally do [because of the postponement]."
He continues, "So when Ralph Lauren came out with the collection and instead it was going to the Team USA Fund, that's going to help athletes focus on training and use this year to train instead of going without assistance and without this funding."
"I think given the circumstances in the U.S. economy, a lot of athletes could miss their opportunity to really shine on an Olympics stage," Adrian tells PEOPLE. "So I think this is an amazing, amazing thing for Ralph Lauren to be doing right now."
The collection has pieces for men, women, and children, and includes items like t-shirts, polos, baseball caps, sweatshirts and more. "My favorite piece was this USA sweatshirt that's dark blue and just super comfy, super cozy," Johnson says. "That's the kind of thing that I'd wear it anywhere, always, all the time."
Polo Ralph Lauren is an official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams in Tokyo. And both Johnson and Adrian will, once again, proudly wear "USA" across their chests next summer.
"It's just really humbling to be a part of a group that pushes towards excellence so hard, reaches excellence so consistently, and just represents what I believe we all stand for," Johnson explains to PEOPLE of being part of Team USA.
Both athletes are now figuring out how to approach an extra year of training — and doing so while practicing social distancing. But both were supportive of the postponement.
"It just became abundantly clear that that was what needed to happen," says Adrian. "It was honestly kind of a sigh of relief. ... Once they finally postponed, everyone could breathe a little sigh of relief and say, 'Hey, we can focus on what we need to focus on first in terms of public health and then, you know, figure out our training and how we can make sure that we win gold medals after that.' "
Johnson notes it's "the one thing that you think is never going to be moved."
"The one thing that we worked towards for the full four years, and then we're like, Olympic games set in stone," she elaborates. "It was a huge blow, but also I personally was able to grieve that, felt the blow, grieved it. Then I feel like being an elite athlete has helped me learn to pivot."
But Johnson has embraced that pivot. She says, "You almost never get the opportunity to reengage, re-push yourself again, push yourself harder. ... I just think this is a cool opportunity to get closer to my team, to rethink who I am as an athlete, and push towards new goals and set those new goals."
The Polo Ralph Lauren One-Year-Out Collection will be available for purchase through Instagram Checkout on the athletes’ and brands’ handles, as well as on Ralphlauren.com and select Ralph Lauren retail stores.
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