LaDarren Landrum had never pictured himself setting foot on the grounds of a U.S. Olympic Training Center.
With little to no sports background, Landrum had little reason to believe he could ever become an Olympian – or even a hopeful.
“I’m probably one of the only people that didn’t play a sport in high school or college,” Landrum said of his fellow contestants at “Milk Life presents, Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful.”
“I was never given the opportunity.”
Growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Landrum didn’t have much. He was even homeless for a period of time.
In order to get himself off the streets, Landrum enrolled in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I was homeless. They said, ‘Hey man, you get three meals a day,’ and I said, ‘okay, I’m in.’” he explained.
This is where Landrum truly discovered his passion for fitness and athletics.
Landrum, 24, was selected as a finalist last year, and again this year, for Next Olympic Hopeful, a talent-identification program aimed at finding athletes with a background in any sport whose skills could transfer to eight 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.
Watch the journey in a two-part broadcast airing Nov. 24 from 9-10 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Nov. 25 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
Ladrum was one of the 89 finalists who spent five days at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in June in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Over 3,500 athletes applied.
Even though Landrum wasn’t a winner last year, he was determined to return and prove himself.
“What was beating on my head all year was, did the people that deserved to win actually win,” said Landrum. “Did I deserve to lose? I came back to show that I did not deserve to lose.”
Landrum said training has helped him make progress, and hopes it will set him apart from other athletes.
“All the events we did last year, I did them over and over and over again,” said Landrum. “Last year (before Season 1), I didn’t train at all. I was training, but not for this. This year, I have been training to come back for this specifically.”
Landrum has been an active duty member of the U.S. Marine Corps for four years, and is currently stationed in Johnson City, Tennessee. He says that military training has helped him prepare for his Season 2 return.
“It gave me a lot of natural strength and mental strength, too,” said Landrum. “I’ve been through worse than what they can put me through here.”
Landrum is confident in his ability to win, and has come back wanting to become the Next Olympic Hopeful and a member of Team USA more than ever before.
“It’s a platform to let people know that you don’t have to have a sports background, and you don’t have to train for this sport your whole life or play the sport your whole life to come here and actually become an Olympic athlete,” said Landrum. “It’s intimidating. When you see Team USA, you put them on a pedestal. You just have to remember they are just people, too. You just have to keep working hard.”
Through Next Olympic Hopeful, the Marine hopes to represent the United States in more ways than one.
“Right now, my story might inspire a few people, but as an Olympian it can inspire the world.”