Who Wants to Be a Gold Medalist?

The Olympics has fact display auditions now, and so they appear to be running.

Fabian Griffith, 25, from Victorville, Calif., can’t swim however nonetheless attempted to paddle.Credit scoreBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Instances

COLORADO SPRINGS — Olympic canoe and kayak coaches have been intrigued via Athlete No. 214. After seeing his efficiency in pace, agility and staying power assessments, they requested him to get on a specialised rowing gadget and take a look at to move a high-tech kayak within the Olympic coaching pool.

There used to be just one factor: No. 214, a.ok.a. Fabian Griffith, didn’t understand how to kayak or canoe. He additionally didn’t understand how to swim. Nonetheless, he gamely strapped on a existence vest and jumped in.

Mr. Griffith used to be one in all 89 athletes on the U.S. Olympic Coaching Heart in Colorado Springs who had agreed to accomplish various sportive duties with the purpose of being known as an athlete having the ability to make an Olympic group. They’d additionally agreed to be on tv for a program that can air on NBCSN and NBC on Nov. 24 and 25.

Athletes from Staff USA listened to for the names decided on for the following spherical of tryouts.Credit scoreBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Instances
Jonathan Newsome, 18, of Waco, Tex., reached for the vanes of a vertec whilst trying out his vertical soar.Credit scoreBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Instances
Josh Williamson, right, one of the winners of last year’s competition and a member of the Team USA bobsled team, observed the rowing tests.CreditBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times
Malik Bryant, of North Port, Fla., reaches for the catch during the rugby tryouts.CreditBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times

The 89 competitors selected this year would compete for slots in one of eight sports, up from four sports in 2017: weight lifting, rowing, rugby, canoe/kayak, cycling, skeleton, bobsled and boxing.

Athletes were flown to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and shuffled through the Gold Room, where anthropometric measurements were taken. The physicality of the amateur athletes — wingspans reminiscent of Michael Phelps, quads that could rip inseams and never-ending abdominal muscles — had some of the staff bug-eyed.

If the reality of the fierce competition began in the measurement room, the reality TV began in full upon entering orientation, where bright production lights and dozens of cameras hovered over athletes every angle. There were speeches with multiple takes, directors instructing athletes to cheer like this and walk like that, and a reminder that producers were granted permission to film everything everywhere.

Off camera, contractual and brand obligations were laid bare. Each athlete was provided three numbered shirts for the three days of competition. That was the required uniform. No non-Nike gear of any kind was permitted, with the exception of shoes. No iPhones either. Want to call home? A Samsung phone would be provided, the crew said.

Sylvia Hoffman, 29, from Arlington, Tex. runs a sprint during day two of the event.CreditBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times
The story of Claressa Shields, a 16-year-old female boxer living in Flint, Mich.Published On

Furious nods followed. Many of the athletes expressed an unflappable conviction that they would one day win an Olympic medal, in a sport yet to be identified. At times, that confidence was so strong that a producer was overheard saying they were not capturing enough disappointment.

To their credit, most athletes, including Mr. Griffith and Ms. Hoffman, succeeded in advancing to the next level of testing where they would be asked to complete sport specific tests.

All but one sport in the program — bobsled, skeleton, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, rugby and weight lifting — wanted to see No. 319, Kayla Caldwell, test for their sport.

Kayla Caldwell swims to the edge of the pool after trying to paddle a kayak.CreditBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times

“I think I kayaked in a circle once,” she said as she attempted to fit as many tests as possible into her schedule, including riding a bike on a velodrome and getting in the boxing ring with Ms. Shields.

That’s the magic of the program, Mr. Skinner said. Level the playing field to identify existing talent, and put them through physical and mental tests to see who has the real drive.

But as the weekend winded down, reality sunk in: Becoming an Olympic athlete is neither glamorous nor lucrative, Jamie Staff, director of performance of BMX and sprint track, said.

Sindsey Mayo, 24, from Gallatin, Tenn., talks with Jamie Staff of USA Cycling as she learns to ride on a velodrome.CreditBenjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times

Of the nine athlete tested in track cycling, only three had bike shoes. Their faces expressed a mix of fear, excitement and a bit of anxiety.

“You have to put your life on hold and go in at 100 percent, that’s what it demands at this level,” Mr. Staff told athletes after they finished riding the velodrome — slowly, as it was their first time.

He paused and looked at each athlete, each in borrowed helmets. “The next Olympics is in two years,” he said. “The chances of any of you making it are very, very slim. After that, who knows.”


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