LaDarren Landrum squats during a training session at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in July 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Registration is underway for the third season of “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful,” the United States Olympic Committee’s talent identification program aimed to discover American athletes with the potential for Olympic greatness. Finalists will be evaluated for their potential in one of six sports: bobsled, cycling, rowing, rugby sevens, skeleton and weightlifting. Click here to apply.
Simple enough, right? But there’s some things you may not know about the competition that may surprise – and impress – you.
1. You don’t need any experience in any of the sports. Seriously.
Since becoming a winner on Season 2 of The Next Olympic Hopeful back in July 2018, Lindsey Mayo has trained along with the U.S. rugby sevens national team in the hopes of earning a spot. What’s even more amazing is Mayo had never even held a rugby ball before, let alone played in a game. But her athleticism — she was a four-year member of the University of Arkansas soccer team — more than made up for a lack of rugby knowledge. Identifying potential is what The Next Olympic Hopeful is all about.
2. It can be the fast track to a world championship medal.
Jessica Davis was one of 90 finalists who competed in Season 2 last July, and by November she was competing in the women’s bobsled North American Cup and world cup, pushing for Brittany Reinbolt. Then in early March, she won her first world championship medal as she was on the U.S. team that placed third in the bobsled/skeleton team event. Davis had been a track star at USC, and tried bobsled at the suggestion of a coach.
3. You get Olympic-level mentors.
While Next Olympic Hopeful competitors are being evaluated by representatives of various national governing bodies, they also receive financial, medical and training support. But that’s not all. They also have access to Olympian mentors. In Season 1, competitors were mentored by Olympic gold medalist Lauryn Williams (bobsled, track and field), Olympic medalist Sarah Hammer (track cycling), Olympian Carlin Isles (rugby sevens) and Olympian John Daly (skeleton). In Season 2, Isles returned and was joined by two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (boxing).
4. If at first you don’t succeed…
Applicants are encouraged to apply as many times as they like. Twelve of the finalists from Season 1 applied again and made it to the finals of Season 2. One, LaDarren Landrum, even became a winner. Landrum was going for bobsled in Season 1, but ended up finding a home in rowing, and has since moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to train full-time.
5. It is never too early or too late.
Athletes are encouraged to apply no matter their sport or athletic background, which includes not having an athletic background. There is no minimum amount of experience or level achieved in a sport in order to apply. Young adults are also eligible, as the minimum age to apply is 14, and there is no maximum. Sophia Mirabella was 15 when she was a finalist on Season 2. The New Yorker has the goal of being the first woman to represent her state in the Olympic Games in the boxing ring.
Don’t forget, registration for Season 3 is open now, and optional in-person tryouts also available around the country in April and May.
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.