Atlanta, GA–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–August 23, 2004–The Home Depot(R), the world’s largest home improvement retailer, employs a record 71 associates who have qualified to compete in the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Among those athletes is Steven Lopez, who will be defending his gold medal in taekwondo won during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Lopez will compete in Athens from August 26 – 29.
Through the Olympic Job Opportunities Program (OJOP), The Home Depot allows Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls to work part-time to accommodate their busy training and competition schedules while receiving full-time compensation and benefits to help offset their living and training expenses.
The Home Depot’s representation at the 2004 Olympic Games will include 46 U.S. and two Canadian athletes, as well as one Puerto Rican athlete, competing in 17 different sports ranging from rowing to taekwondo, weightlifting and water polo. Currently, there are 177 U.S., 23 Canadian and 10 Puerto Rican Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls participating in employment programs with The Home Depot.
Lopez credits The Home Depot’s support of OJOP for helping him achieve his goal. Like most Olympians, he has to work to support the cost of training for the games. Lopez splits his time, working twenty hours per week in the hardware department at The Home Depot in Houston and practicing taekwondo.
“Since athletes have such demanding training and competition schedules, it is difficult to maintain a job to help cover living expenses,” said Lopez. “Without the support I receive from The Home Depot, I would not be able to pursue my Olympic dreams.”
Lopez’s parents moved to New York City from Nicaragua in 1972. Lopez’s father thought it would be wise to teach his four children martial arts because they lived in a tough neighborhood in New York City. Now, taekwondo is a family affair in the Lopez household. He learned the sport in his garage at the age of five from his father and his older brother, Jean, and was one of three Lopez siblings who competed at the 2000 Olympic Trials. Lopez became the first official Olympic gold medalist in the sport of taekwondo at the 2000 Olympic Games. In 2003, Lopez earned the rank of taekwondo world champion in his weight class.
Since 1992, The Home Depot has employed more than 450 athletes through OJOP and similar programs in Canada and Puerto Rico. To date, 235 athlete-associates have competed in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, earning a total of 130 medals, including 54 gold, 47 silver and 29 bronze.
“We are proud to help empower so many associates to realize their dream of competing in the Olympics,” said John Costello, executive vice president, Merchandising and Marketing, The Home Depot. “The commitment and dedication of these talented men and women participating in OJOP give added meaning to our company’s brand message: You can do it. We can help.”
In November 2003, The Home Depot announced that it would continue its sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams through 2008. The Home Depot also will continue its sponsorship of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Teams and the Puerto Rican Olympic Team, which the company has sponsored since 1994 and 1998, respectively.
About The Home Depot
Founded in 1978, The Home Depot(R) is the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer and the second largest retailer in the United States, with fiscal 2003 sales of $64.8 billion. The company employs approximately 300,000 associates and has 1,795 stores in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, eight Canadian provinces and Mexico. Its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: HD) and is included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
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