Four trainers on meeting a U.S. Paralympian, riding a float and cheering on Team USA at the Olympic Winter Games.

Clockwise from back left: Kawan Karadaghi; Connor Kostman; Roger De La Cruz; Rico Roman; Renee McPhail; Nader Girgis; Jennifer Robertson

Did you catch the 129th annual Rose Parade® at the beginning of this month? If so, you may have spotted 24 Hour Fitness’ flower-strewn, Team USA-themed float making its way along the parade path, as six personal trainers and U.S. Paralympian Rico Roman waved to the crowds.

In anticipation of the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, 24Life asked a few of the personal trainers selected to ride the float for their favorite moment from the Rose Parade, what it was like to meet Rico Roman and what their favorite Olympic sports are. Here are their answers.

Nader Girgis

How long have you been a personal trainer? I have been training for 22 years, starting in 1996 in my home city of Cairo, Egypt. I have been with 24 Hour Fitness since 2006. I train at the Altadena Sport location.

Favorite Summer Olympic sport: Hands down, track and field is my favorite Summer Olympic sport.

Favorite Winter Olympic sport: Bobsled.

What was it like riding on the float and representing 24 Hour Fitness? Riding in this parade was personally significant to me because I have been training and working with the members of the Pasadena community for more than a decade. This city is my home and I love my Pasadena community. Riding the float and hearing my name called out from the stands by clients and members of 24 Hour Fitness and my friends and neighbors was amazing. I couldn’t be more proud to represent and honor my company.

What was it like to meet U.S. Paralympian Rico Roman and stand beside him on the float? Meeting Rico Roman was very inspiring on so many levels. Rico is not only a U.S. Paralympian, but a symbol of freedom and perseverance for our country. 24 Hour Fitness could not have chosen a better representative in Rico Roman to embody all of our organization’s core values.

What are you looking forward to most about watching Team USA compete at the Olympic Winter Games? I can’t wait to watch Rico compete. I am also looking forward to cheering on Team USA as they collect gold medals!

Jennifer Robertson

How long have you been a personal trainer? Sixteen and a half years, and I will have worked for 24 Hour Fitness for 18 years this year. I am a Master Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor at Simi Valley Sport.

Favorite Summer Olympic sport: Gymnastics.

Favorite Winter Olympic Sport: Ice skating.

What was it like riding on the float and representing 24 Hour Fitness? There are not enough words to express how wonderful my experience was. It will be with me for a lifetime! I am still feeling the “high” and energy from that amazing weekend. The connection with my 24 Hour Fitness team and the spectators along the five-mile Rose Parade touched my heart…and confirmed why I do what I do!

I am extremely honored, proud and blessed to have been a part of this amazing event and to have been chosen to represent 24 Hour Fitness.

What was it like to meet U.S. Paralympian Rico Roman and stand beside him on the float? I first met Rico on Saturday before the parade, when I helped decorate our float. To learn about his story and accomplishments was inspiring. He let me hold his gold medal! Then, to stand right beside Rico on the float was amazing! We had a blast! We cheered, laugh and danced. The connection we made with the spectators was exciting and fun!

What are you looking forward to most about watching Team USA compete at the Olympic Winter Games? I always enjoy watching the Olympic Games! It truly is an inspiration to watch the athletes! The hard work that the athletes endure in their sport is amazing and motivating! I try to coach that to 24 Hour Fitness members when I am teaching our Team USA Boot Camp!

Kawan Karadaghi

How long have you been a personal trainer? I’ve been a personal trainer for four years. I’ve been with 24 Hour Fitness for three years and seven months; I work at 24 Hour Fitness North Hollywood.

Favorite Summer Olympic sport: I think the triathlon is one of the biggest feats there is and an overall test of fitness.

Favorite Winter Olympic sport: Snowboarding.

What was it like riding on the float and representing 24 Hour Fitness? My favorite moment was being surrounded by the amazing staff from 24 Hour Fitness! I thought to myself, “What an amazing moment this is!” I knew that I had worked so hard to be there and that I was surrounded by others like myself who have dedicated themselves to improving lives through fitness and making a difference in the world.

Riding on the float was one of the most memorable moments of my life—waving at thousands of people nonstop and realizing that these wonderful people all came out, slept overnight and waited for hours upon hours to see this float and others! The enormous outpouring of love from the crowd as they waved and shouted “Happy New Year!”—to feel that love from such a big crowd of people for three hours straight was beyond words. I can’t describe the feeling of looking at all of those people and seeing the joy on their faces as we drove by. Amazing!

What was it like to meet U.S. Paralympian Rico Roman and stand beside him on the float? What an awesome, humble, fit, humorous and overall outstanding person Rico is. We talked about his workouts, career, the demands of his sport and winning a gold medal. I’ve never met someone who has achieved so much and yet still remains humble and easy to talk to. It goes to show you what the human spirit is truly capable of: greatness. Rico Roman embodies that, day in and day out, like the champion that he is. Riding the float with Rico was an experience I’ll never forget.

What are you looking forward to most about watching Team USA compete at the Olympic Winter Games? I’m excited to support Rico on his journey and to check out the snowboarding and skiing events! Nothing exemplifies athleticism like the Olympic Games! I’m excited to watch Team USA and I’m looking forward to them achieving multiple wins! Good luck, Team USA!

Roger De La Cruz

How long have you been a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness? Three years. I work at the West Hollywood, Calif. club.

What does it mean to you to be one of the first 24 Hour Fitness Team USA Certified Trainers? Earning a spot to represent the United States of America as an Olympian is the goal for many athletes. I must admit, when I was a kid, I stood on an ottoman in my living room and pretended to accept my gold medal as the National Anthem played on TV. The opportunity to garner the knowledge and improve my skills to coach potential U.S. Olympic athletes and the athlete in all of us is an opportunity I will not take for granted. I am grateful and will use this certification to continue making a difference and changing lives.

Favorite Summer Olympic Sport: Gymnastics, track and field.

Favorite Winter Olympic Sport: Figure skating.

What was it like riding on the float and representing 24 Hour Fitness? My most memorable moment of the Rose Parade was when our float reached “TV Corner.” The five-and-a-half-mile route travels down Orange Grove and turns on to Colorado Boulevard. Right before the turn are a set of grandstands that seem to reach up to heaven. This is also where the broadcast booths and the TV cameras are staged. We were told as we approached the turn onto Colorado Boulevard to wave and smile to the cameras. At that moment I took an opportunity to honor my father who passed away in June and my mother who died when I was 22. It was a proud moment for me and I’m certain it would’ve been a proud moment for them.

Before the parade, I joked with my friends that I knew what it was like when an Academy Award nominee would say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” That’s exactly how I felt when I heard that I was nominated to ride on the Rose Parade float. To ride on the float with Rico Roman and five of my fellow personal trainers was exhilarating, and seeing the hundreds of thousands of people enjoying the parade and our float was heartwarming.

The theme of the parade was “Making A Difference” and the theme of our float was “Proud Sponsors of Everyday Athletes.” As a personal trainer for 24 Hour Fitness, I get an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of everyday athletes who are training for various victories like weight loss and muscle gain. Riding on the float was a celebration of the job I get to do and the relationships I get to build with my clients.

What was it like to meet U.S. Paralympian Rico Roman and stand beside him on the float? I met Rico in the warehouse where our float was being decorated. It was a surreal moment standing under a giant flower-covered version of Rico and posing for a picture with him and his hard-earned gold medal. He asked me if I wanted to wear it for the picture. I was beyond thrilled to be able to wear the medal knowing his story. I can’t imagine the sacrifices he made to even have the opportunity to win this gold medal.

The morning of the parade as we waited for the float to take off down Orange Grove, I saw the excitement of my teammates, and other men, women and children as they met Rico and posed for pictures. Rico was so kind to everyone and willing to let each person have their gold medal moment.

What are you looking forward most to about watching Team USA compete at the Olympic Winter Games? I love the pageantry of the opening ceremony and the American fans chanting, “USA, USA,” at different events. I am most looking forward to the figure skating competition.

Photo credit: Michelle Archuleta