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Former Olympian and MSU professor back as artist at the 2020 Olympics

Kelly Salchow MacArthur retired as an athlete after competing in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympic games -- what she thought would be the peak of her life.
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 6:12 PM EDT
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There are quite a few athletes competing in the 2020 Olympics with Michigan ties.

There’s one woman from mid-Michigan leaving her mark on the games, but this year she’s not there as a competitor. She’s a graphic design artist from Michigan State whose art is being featured prominently across Tokyo.

Kelly Salchow MacArthur retired as an athlete after competing in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympic games -- what she thought would be the peak of her life.

“Feeling like I had finally reached my potential, I felt like I was at the pinnacle of the sport and of my own possibilities,” Salchow MacArthur said.

But her time at the Olympics wouldn’t be over. Now, she’s used her time at MSU to perfect a different craft, providing her another opportunity to show off her talents.

“This year I was so thrilled to be invited as one of six artists in residence to create artwork and design for the Olympic Agora,” Salchow MacArthur said.

The Agora is the cultural and artistic hub of the Olympics in downtown Tokyo. Salchow MacArthur and the five other Olympians-turned-artists were asked to create traditional Japanese Noren curtains to be put on display there.

“I feel like it’s such a great way to be connected to the Olympics again. I really never thought I would be able to be so truly connected,” Salchow MacArthur said. “I thought my time in the Olympics was over.”

This opportunity in Tokyo wouldn’t have happened without coming to MSU back in 2006 to pursue her passion of graphic design.

“I think I was pretty well prepared for that because I had been continuing with my design work on a freelance basis and then teaching part time leading up to making the transition to full time,” Salchow MacArthur said.

Now to be a part of the world’s biggest stage once again? It’s all come full circle.

“I felt like rowing had always fueled my design and vice versa. The two really balance each other out very nicely and I’ve been able to connect the two in different ways,” Salchow MacArthur said. “This just feels so perfect to actually be able to connect my graphic design career to my sports interest and experience.”

Salchow MacArthur won’t be able to see her work on display as the Olympic Committee is not allowing non-essential visitors to the games. But, she says she’s proud of the fact her art was good enough to be featured.

CLICK HERE to see Kelly’s artwork being featured at the Olympics.

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