This weekend on the networks of NBC, America watched as 90 athletes trained in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the goal of getting one giant step closer to pursuing their Olympic dreams through Season 2 of "Milk Life presents, Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful."
The talent-identification program is aimed at finding athletes with a background in any sport whose skills could transfer to various Olympic sports. The sports for Season 2 are bobsled, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, rowing, rugby, skeleton and weightlifting. One winner was selected for each sport, and the winners will attend camps with their sport in hopes of making the national team.
This year's winners are comprised of five women and three men between the ages of 19-27 from all across the country. Their backgrounds range from high school sports to junior college to college athletics. Many of them didn't know much about their sports before the camp, while others have been training for this specific moment for nearly their entire lives.
Each of the winners receives financial, medical and training support as they strive to make the national teams. During the five-day combine at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the athletes competed in a number of tests selected by the sports that they felt most directly applied to competition.
Season 1 saw a fair amount of success, headlined by Josh Williamson, the winner for men's bobsled. In the last year, Williamson has already won five international medals for Team USA. He has his sites set on the Olympics Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Let's get to know the eight winners from this season:
Kayla Caldwell, Weightlifting
Hometown: Tuscarawas, Ohio
Past Sport Experience: I did 12 years of gymnastics and 12 years of pole vaulting. I competed in gymnastics until Level 10 and I pole vaulted at the collegiate level.
What it means to be selected as the Next Olympic Hopeful: It means everything. It’s everything I’ve been training for my whole entire life. It’s just a stepping stone to get to the Olympic Games.
On being selected for weightlifting: This is the exact reason why I came. I did try a set of seven sports while I was here, but it brought me back to weightlifting so it just shows me that this is what I need to do.
On her passion for weightlifting: I just love being a woman in weightlifting and showing your strength. Being out on that platform, and just being strong, makes you think of all those times in your life where you have to be strong.
On the challenges that lie ahead: I think the biggest learning curve for me is going to be utilize the different help and support we get as a winner. Also, there is little technique stuff that I still need to learn being so new in this sport.
Shaye Hatchette, Canoe/Kayak
Hometown: Fort Gibson, Okla.
Past Sport Experience: I did gymnastics growing up for about eight years and then transferred into soccer. I did cheerleading for a time in high school; also in high school I did track. In swimming I was a state champion. Then, in college, I played three different sports, which were rowing, soccer and cheer.
On being named the Next Olympic Hopeful: It’s a dream. It’s a dream come true. I’ve dreamt about this since I was 8 years old. To be given the opportunity is amazing, and I’m just going to take it humbly and hopefully become an athlete of influence as well as a role model for younger kids.
I think it’s one of the biggest platforms you can represent people in.
On being selected for canoe/kayak: I’ve been looking up YouTube videos of canoe and kayak because I was thinking I just want an Olympic sport. Then thankfully, I got in the kayak and felt kind of natural in it. But, I was open to anything. I was just trying to get every good score that I possibly could, so that I could get chosen by a sport.
On her greatest challenge in canoe/kayak: Honestly, just getting the balance down in the kayak, getting the form correctly and increasing my pace, so I can start decreasing my time.
Stephanie Grant, Boxing
Hometown: Bellflower, Calif.
Past Sport Experience: My past sports experience is track and field and soccer. Then I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 7 years old. I turned 7, decided I wanted to do martial arts. My dad laughed at me and said, 'Fine, we’ll put you in it.' I did martial arts up until he died, which was in 2011. I had a little bit of a mental block after that, and came back from it and decided to try something new. I wanted to get back into Muay Thai and boxing.
On being named the Next Olympic Hopeful: To me it means everything. I get to go home and tell the athletes that I coach, let alone the people that I know, that I made my dream come true. I’m here to become the next Olympian and I’m going to show them that I came from nothing to become something.
On being selected for boxing: It was the sport I was shooting for, but I was just shocked that I even won. I was content with knowing that I may not get it, and that’s perfectly fine. I told myself I’m just going to keep pushing, getting my work done and go from there.
I’m a very determined person. I don’t give up easy. They can keep knocking me down and I’m just going to keep going and keep pushing back. I’m a quick learner and I adapt quickly.
On her biggest learning curve: To be honest, since I come from Muay Thai I’m very feet motivated and I want to use my feet more than my hands. I think just learning how to ground myself, get my feet right, and honing in and having better endurance will help me a lot.
Fabian Griffith, Skeleton
Hometown: Victorville, Calif.
Past Sport Experience: In high school, I played basketball, football and track and field. In college, I ran track at Cal State Los Angeles.
On being chosen as the Next Olympic Hopeful: It means a lot. I’m so happy. This means the world to me, and I’m about to start training right when I get home.
On being selected for skeleton: I actually thought I would be picked for bobsled or rugby just because I had a background in track and football. But skeleton involves a lot of speed plus you’re going face first going 60-70 mph. I could see how my track background correlates to skeleton.
On his thoughts of skeleton: You’re going face first down ice, and it's extreme. Seems like it’s going to be amazing, and going to be so fun. I’m going to meet so many incredible people, and I’m really happy about that.
On his biggest learning curve: Learning more about skeleton, the history of skeleton, and the people who have competed in the sport before me. I think the biggest learning curve for me will be staying relaxed going down the track.
LaDarren Landrum, Rowing
Hometown: Spartanburg, S.C.
What it means to be selected as the Next Olympic Hopeful: It’s not even about me. It’s a platform to show that teenager or even that adult or kid that hard work pays off. Training with the mindset of ‘all grind, no glory.’ Don’t look for glory. Appreciate the process. It’ll pay off. It won’t be tomorrow, it might not be a week, or even a year, but it’ll pay off so grinding.
On being selected for rowing: I guess the coaches saw the open mind. I treated every event here like it was the one that was going to make me the Next Olympic Hopeful and that’s what it did. I really don’t know what they saw, we didn’t really speak on it too much. But he saw something and I did something right, and that’s all that matters.
On his excitement for rowing This is absolutely something I can see myself doing. I’m not a guy that is going to cry about someone giving me the opportunity in something I’ve never done before. Every opportunity is a good opportunity. I’m going to take it seriously. It’s really special to have someone believe in you, and I don’t take it for granted.
I’ve always been someone who likes water, so I guess that’s kind of exciting. It seems like a rhythmic sport, and I’m big on rhythm and power. I love that aspect of it.
On the greatest learning curve: Everything going forward because I don’t know anything about the sport. My next step is going to Oklahoma City because that’s where the team trains.
Deena Manitu, Track Cycling
Hometown: Charleston, W.V.
Past Sport Experience: I’m an All-American wrestler. I’ve been wrestling since I was 6. Last March, I felt like I outgrew wrestling, but I still wanted my athletics to take me somewhere. I continued to work out really hard every day and see where it took me.
On being selected as the Next Olympic Hopeful: It means the world to me, but now I think I can be a part of something that is bigger than myself. The Olympics are on the world stage, I think every athlete there, despite all the nation’s conflicts, the Olympics is the one time that we can come together in the name of sports.
Ultimately, it’s all about love. Every athlete is there for the sake of what they love and for the sake of what they are doing. The whole world is a part of the Olympic movement, and being selected means that I have a chance to be a part of it.
On being chosen for track cycling: It was definitely a surprise. When I was called back for sport-specific testing for cycling I was blown away. I actually came here to do something with my upper body like rowing, kayaking, boxing or even weightlifting. Now that I’ve been chosen for it, I think it’s perfect. Thinking about it, I don’t think I would want anything else.
On her excitement for track cycling: Getting out there and pedaling as fast as I can and seeing if that’s faster than the person next to me or behind me. I’m also excited because it’s an individual sport. I didn’t really want to be chosen for a team sport just because I depend so much on myself for things. I think this is a fantastic opportunity to get out there and push and push and push.
On the sport's biggest learning curve: Learning to handle the bike. I think there is going to have to be some crashing and burning in order to fully understand the things about the bike. When I was riding it, it was pretty twitchy. It was hard to control. It’s not like a normal bike. You lean into instead of steering. So learning complete control of the bike is something that is going to be hard to learn, but I’m excited about it.
Lindsey Mayo, Rugby
Hometown: Gallatin, Tenn.
Past Sport Experience: Growing up I played a lot of different sports. At some point or another, I played basketball, swam, ran track, did martial arts but played soccer all throughout. As I got older, that was the one I ended up committing to. So, I played all through high school and went to play at the University of Arkansas and played four seasons there. My last season was the 2016 season, so about two years ago.
On being named the Net Olympic Hopeful: It means everything. It’s a huge pat on the back and validation for every single one of us who has worked so hard to get where we are and to see that recognized by the [National Governing Bodies] who have obviously seen a lot and know what they’re talking about and think that we have what it takes to be successful in their sport. It’s absolutely amazing.
On the sport for which she was chosen: I kind of suspected, but I was still surprised. I was hopeful but didn’t think it would actually happen, so when it did, I was still pretty shocked.
On the learning curves coming her way: I think the biggest learning curve will just be getting used to how the game is played and the little nuances of it because those are things you don’t learn until you’ve played it, you’ve been there, you’ve been on the field, you’ve been there with your teammates. So, I think learning all the little things that come along with time and experience.
Rodriquez Russell, Bobsled
Hometown: Danville, Va.
Past Sport Experience: I played football for four years in high school, two years in [junior college] at Hargrave Military Academy, ran track for them and ran track for Platinum Sports Academy.
On being named the Next Olympic Hopeful: As a kid, I dreamed about being an Olympian, so to have this happen is awesome. I couldn’t be any happier.
On his excitement for bobsled: I have a family history in bobsled. My dad did bobsled, my brother [Adrian Adams] is on the team now, so just trying to fill those shoes. Hopefully I can make them proud, make myself proud, make my country proud.
On the biggest learning curve in learning bobsled: I think the biggest learning curve will be transferring everything I did on the track to ice. I’ve never slid on ice, so that’ll be a big, big, big learning curve.