MINDSET

The Next Olympic Hopefuls Won’t Let You Give Up

By 24Life

Office manager. Flight attendant. Veterinary technician. Amateur boxer. Personal trainer. High-school student. The next generation of U.S. Olympic hopefuls is not who you think it is. It’s a generation that might not have been training for a specific sport since learning to walk, but its members are no less accomplished, hardworking, aspiring and all the more inspiring because they have a dream and a spirit of discovery.

The United States Olympic Committee has partnered with 24 Hour Fitness again for “Scouting Camp: Next Olympic Hopeful,” the talent-identification program launched to build the pipeline of world-class athletes pursuing Olympic sport. Tryouts were held exclusively at 24 Hour Fitness clubs for athletes to try for a spot on Team USA and join the national team camps of eight sports: bobsled, skeleton, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, rowing, rugby and weightlifting.

24Life asked four contenders for their perspective on the staying power required to pursue a dream. Stephanie Grant (24) is a veterinary technician and former multi-sport athlete who missed the Next Olympic Hopeful finals in 2017 because of injury, but she was invited to train with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton teams. Fabian Griffith happens to be a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness and a lifelong competitive track athlete whose family experienced homelessness for a time. Cassandra “Cassie” Routsis is a 15-year-old competitive gymnast who sees potential in multiple Olympic sports, and Noelani Rachel Min (22) is a music student and multi-sport athlete who most recently has taken up boxing.

24Life: What does longevity mean to you?

Noelani Rachel Min: I personally believe many people have the capacity for longevity, but few truly take hold of it. It’s easy to simply equate longevity to duration, as going through the motions, just existing, but it’s so much more than that. Longevity encompasses everything in your life that gives you purpose. Through purpose, I find endurance, perseverance, strength and hope.

Stephanie Grant: For me, longevity is more mental. My life hasn’t been the easiest growing up, and most of it was me constantly pushing myself past a lot of mental boundaries. I’ve been doing sports since I was in middle school, and there were a lot of setbacks, whether it was an injury or having people tell me I wasn’t good enough or I wouldn’t make it. However, I took all that negativity and kept pushing until I proved I was healthy enough to continue to compete or coming back in the No. 1 spot.

24Life: Many people think that all U.S. Olympic athletes begin the path to that goal as children. Has your perspective about that changed? 

Fabian Griffith: There are people who work for this at a young age, but my experience [at the training camp was that] I saw people desire to be great, and that’s something they always have. They didn’t know their path, but they knew they wanted to be great.

Cassie Routsis: Growing up, the only sport on my mind was [Olympic] gymnastics. After a few years, reality set in and I realized that I was nowhere near the level I needed to be for that dream to come true. I continued to compete in gymnastics but mainly as a recreational competitive sport. … When I got to the [U.S. Olympic Training Center] and I saw athletes of all ages who were selected, it widened my viewpoint. There were athletes twice as old as me, competing for the same thing I was. … Some of those people might actually make it to the Olympic Games and be the best in the world at something they weren’t exposed to as a child.

24Life: How important is it to have a goal, even if you love training or doing what you do, and you do it every day?

Cassie Routsis: Having a goal is arguably the most important part of making a dream come true. By setting goals, you can create steppingstones that with hard work can make almost anything possible. That said, becoming a U.S. Olympian has to be more than just accomplishing a goal or checking a box. You can have all the goals you want, but until you add in the drive and passion, those goals will take you nowhere.

Stephanie Grant: If I’m not consistently training, then that is a workout session that someone else who has the same goal as me is doing and is now a step ahead of me. I train because I want to become the best. I tell myself every morning when I wake up, and especially on days that I feel I have no energy to train or I don’t feel good: I will become the best because I want nothing less than the best for myself.

24Life: How important is it to train for the love of your sport or training in general?

Noelani Rachel Min: I’ve found that through loving sports, I’ve come to love myself more. I struggled with a lot of self-hate in the past and went through a season where I felt no love. But training has helped me overcome that. I love making myself stronger, faster and more resilient. I love feeling the passion and pain knowing there is a purpose.

Fabian Griffith: Training puts me at a stage of peace. It’s something that makes me forget my problems and clears my head.

Cassie Routsis: My training instills a certain discipline that benefits me not only as an athlete but in life in general. It allows me to balance my lifestyle and learn and understand more about my body.

24Life: How do you handle setbacks?

Fabian Griffith: As an athlete, you want to get back out there. I hurt myself multiple times, and what got me back into the groove of things was working on the things I never worked on—watching and learning my craft so I can learn what I need to do to come back. When it comes to not making a team, you have to go back to your goals. When you fall off, you look at those to get back in.

Cassie Routsis: As a gymnast, I have had my fair share of setbacks. The most important thing is to never lose the initial love for your sport. If you can remember whatever it was that first sparked your dream, you can also find the determination to push through and overcome your roadblock, coming back mentally stronger than before.

24Life: What gets or keeps you motivated?

Fabian Griffith: My parents motivate me every day! My nickname is “The Champ.” My dad has been calling me that for years. We have an inspirational board [my dad] updates every day for me. I also have a necklace that my mom bought for me before my first college track meet, a bracelet that my parents bought for me that I never take off, and a blanket that my grandma gave me 20 years ago that I carry with me everywhere I go. These are the things that help remind me why I’m doing this; this is what helps me stay focused. I know that I will always have them with me no matter what.

Stephanie Grant: What motivates me day in and day out is my dad—his not being able to be with me and watch me grow not only as an athlete but as person. This is what pushes me to not give up.

24Life: What do you hope your future self, or your kids, know?

Stephanie Grant: I would want myself and my kids to understand the true meaning of being humble and having humility. Being able to truly appreciate the struggles one goes through in your life or sports career really shapes a person and can affect your performance.

Cassie Routsis: Sports have always been a significant part of my life. The love and passion I have to constantly improve is something I can only hope for my children to have also. It’s not necessarily a learned or taught value; the drive has to come from within.

Noelani Rachel Min: I believe dreams are a powerful thing. … I want to encourage my future kids and this world that dreams are important and we should never be afraid to pursue what scares us. A million voices can say one thing, but it doesn’t mean it’s true. I never want to see anyone limit their potential because of fear.

24Life: Best advice you’ve ever given or gotten?

Stephanie Grant: [When you’re frustrated at a situation or person], take a minute and look at the clock. Watch the clock until it has been one minute. Now ask yourself, What changed in that one minute? Nothing, right? Sometimes things don’t change in a minute, a day or even a year. Don’t waste time disciplining yourself or others. If you want a change, be the change. Be the positive that you need in your life.

Fabian Griffith: What do you do when you have a million other people trying to get what you want? You have to outwork them.


Photo credit: Courtesy USOC; Courtesy Cassandra Routsis; Courtesy Noelani Min

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