Fabian Griffith poses for a photo after being named the Next Olympic Hopeful for the sport of skeleton on July 30, 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Working as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, Fabian Griffith heard about the open tryouts the gym was scheduled to host for Next Olympic Hopeful.
Though the 25-year-old from Victorville, California, ran the 100- and 200-meter at Cal State LA and had dreamed of winning Olympic gold on the track, he didn’t think much about the tryouts.
Then a coworker said he should go to the tryout. Then another. Then a manager brought it up, too, so he signed up for the show that helped identify new talent for eight Olympic sports: bobsled, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, rowing, rugby sevens, skeleton and weightlifting.
“Each step was really shocking,” he said. “When I did the initial tryout, I did pretty well, but I was like OK. They’re probably not going to call me. They’re going to lose my results or something. I’m not going to hear from them. Then they emailed me and said you made it. I was like oh man! I made it. I did the competition, and when they finally called my name at the end, I was so surprised.”
Cameras followed Griffith and 89 other finalists through three days of intense testing in July at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Afterward, officials selected Griffith as one of eight winners, IDing him as the sole skeleton winner and an Olympic hopeful in that sport.
That experience was broadcast Thanksgiving weekend in Season 2 of “Milk Life presents, Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful.”
Yet, these days Griffith is already on a new type of sled.
Upon arriving for camp in Lake Placid, New York, the California native found he was a better fit in the bobsled. He’s now a part of Hunter Church’s four-man team, potentially competing at the North American Cup in early January.
Griffith follows in a long line of track athletes who have switched to bobsled.
Fabian Griffith trains at Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful on July 30, 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“We have a lot in common, coming from a track background,” he said. “Not only that, but I’ve seen Elana (Meyers Taylor), I’ve seen Lauren Gibbs, all these people who went to the Olympics and competed. It’s invigorating to be around them and motivated.”
Bobsled requires precision teamwork, which Griffith learned is one of his favorite parts of his new sport.
“With track, you go through hard workouts,” he said. “You put your body through so much pain, because you have a goal in mind to actually be the best. It’s basically the same concept. I’m doing more of a team sport doing this, but also, I want to help my team succeed. I want to help my team win. It’s that aspect.
“I think of it like the 4x100 in track. Each person has a role, and we can’t win without the other person.”
His teammates became even more important when he suffered something commonplace but still scary: a crash. Hearing afterward from not just the people in his sled, but also the best people in his sport, made him want to stick with it.
“Even after the crash, just seeing them, they’re saying, ‘It will be ok. You’ll be OK. It happens. You can get back in it, and it happens all the time,’” he said. “It motivates me to keep going, keep doing what I want to do.”
Even as he finds a home in the bobsled, Griffith still loves sprinting and has no plans to give it up.
“Track was one of my first loves,” Griffith said. “I want to go to the Olympics for track. In the back of my head, I still believe I can go to the 2020 Olympics for track, and the 2022 Olympics for bobsled. That’s still a goal of mine to do both.”
While training for bobsled, Griffith had to take time off from his job at 24 Hour Fitness. Balancing the two jobs isn’t easy.
“It’s really tough, but luckily I have really supportive coworkers and managers,” he said. “My family is supportive. I’m not working right now, but I’m getting so much support from my family. When I’m here, they help support me, and when I go back home, I’m a personal trainer. My clients stay with me, they like to hear about my stories and bobsled.”
When he was named one of the Next Olympic Hopefuls, his clients shared word of his success on social media. He had not planned on it, but in following his dreams, he was encouraging his clients to do the same.
“When I train them, I tell them how I went through things and how it’s possible for them to do whatever they want to do. Now I get to show them,” Griffith said. “I’m just an average person, and by being on the show, and I won, it’s great to be able to show them. I’m a regular person like you guys are. You can go for your goals like I went for mine.”
Maggie Hendricks is based in Chicago and has covered Olympic sports for more than 10 years for USA Today and Yahoo Sports. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.