That guy or girl on the treadmill next to you could be a contender.
As we know them, Olympians are modern-day superheroes. How else do you explain their extraordinary feats? These best-of-the-best athletes have made training for their sport their full-time job, inhaling and exhaling the essence of competition, dedicating their days and nights to working out and fueling right even as they are traveling around the world.
But what if we were to tell you that the United States Olympic Committee gave the person standing next to you at the grocery store a chance to try out for Team USA?
Earlier this summer, athletes and non-athletes alike had the opportunity to tackle six different tests at 24 Hour Fitness clubs to compete for a shot at contention in one of four sports: skeleton, rugby, bobsled or track cycling. The 91 finalists selected were invited to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for further sport-specific evaluations and screenings. Following the tryout, eight athletes—one male and one female for each sport—will be selected to join the national team camps. The entire program was filmed and a two-hour documentary, “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful,” will premiere on NBCSN on August 25 at 9 p.m. (ET).
“Obviously there’s going to be some doubt in your mind,” says Nathan Young, a personal trainer at the 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport in Downey, California. “Someone can be completely confident in what they do because they’ve perfected their craft, or they could doubt themselves completely because they’re new to a sport or activity. When you’re focused on a goal, it’s easy to forget ‘Oh, I’m human.’ Mistakes happen. But it’s the ‘Oh, I’ve got this’ mentality that gets you to the top.”
For Stephanie Grant from Bellflower, California, showing up to try out for Team USA was a last-minute opportunity that made her feel like she’d received a second chance. The former track athlete tore her MCL and dislocated her ankle in college. This chance was her comeback moment.
“The last few days I did a lot of resistance band training, more bodyweight. I didn’t want to do anything that would make me sore,” said Grant. “Even if it doesn’t work out, I’m thankful that there was another chance for me. Before my injury, I felt like I had reached my peak. But today reminded me that there’s still more out there for me.”
Gary Overbey from Torrance, California, understands where Grant is coming from. “There’s plenty of people out there who have the mindset to be driven and push themselves, but injuries come at the wrong time,” he says. “This is a great opportunity to get a shot at something unimaginable for so many.”
Jeremy Valdes, also a team member at 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport in Downey, used the in-club tryout not just to shoot for an outstanding goal, but also learn about himself and what he might do with clients as he pursues a career in personal training. Of the day’s events, including broad jump, vertical jump, cycling and sprinting tests, he found the medicine ball toss the hardest.
“I never would’ve worked on that myself, and admittedly I did pretty bad,” Valdes said. “Now, I know that’s something that I can focus on myself, and then eventually teach my clients. It’s a different type of strength that’s involved in picking things up in that motion.”
For many of the participants, it was about trying something outside of their comfort zone that they’d only seen before on national broadcast television. “It was stunning, because these are the things you watch on television,” said Tyler Kolfschoten. “I realized ‘I get to actually try these things.’ Yeah, it was intimidating being one of the younger people out there, but it just pushed me to do better.”
Whether or not they snag one of the 100 spots, all of the participants in the tryouts shared the same sentiment for the experience: Their first chance at Olympic gold included a day of fun and games and pushing one another to do better, that would never be forgotten. And for staff? Well, the feeling’s mutual.
“I’m proud to be part of a team that’s helping some people progress to the next level, in this case, the Olympics,” says Young. “It’s humbling and inspiring all at once.”
Be sure to tune in to Team USA’s two-hour documentary “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful,” which airs on the NBCSN, August 25, 9 p.m. (ET).
Photo credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com