By Scott McDonald | April 04, 2019, 2:15 p.m. (ET)

The winners from Season 2 pose for a photo at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in July 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colo. 

 

The first step for an everyday American Joe or Jane to become the next Olympic phenom could be filling out a form that takes only 15 minutes. This starts the process to becoming the Next Olympic Hopeful.

More sweat, time and determination would be required, though. 

The United States Olympic Committee has launched Season 3 of its search to find undiscovered American talent who might have potential in Olympic sports. Fifty selected contestants (25 men and 25 women) will undergo testing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while qualifying winners will attend camps and compete for the national team in a sport and, if they’re good enough, eventually contend for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

National governing bodies are seeking athletes to compete for spots in six sports. The summer sports are cycling, rowing, rugby sevens and weightlifting, and the two winter sports are bobsled and skeleton. There will be one winner per sport.

Don’t know of those sports or don’t think you’d qualify? No previous knowledge is required; you still might have what it takes.

“We’re confident there are a lot of people in sports who have skills that can make them successful in something they haven’t done before,” said Kelly Skinner, the USOC’s vice president of winter sport who also oversees the Next Olympic Hopeful program. “We’re looking for athletes who feel they may have pushed their cap in a sport.”

Here are some answers to questions that might arise before filling out your application.


How do I apply?
The website is TeamUSA.org/nextolympichopeful, and with testing results in hand the application takes approximately 15 minutes. Although, the USOC recommends testing through one of the optional in-person training sites to get a better feel of the training and fitness regimen. Test sites are listed on the registration site; there are four regional tryout sites and one day of testing (April 13) at over a dozen 24 Hour Fitness locations.


When is the deadline?
Wednesday, May 8, but the sooner you apply the better.


What’s involved in the application?
Basic personal information such as name, date of birth, height, weight, what sports you’ve participated in, what’s the highest level you’ve achieved and any other athletic achievements that make you stand out. The application also requires test results from the following: 30-meter sprint, maximum pull-up, vertical jump, back squat, and an optional one-mile run and 200-yard freestyle.

“We want to know what makes you tick, what makes you want to do what you do,” said Skinner, who added that the committee is sometimes trying to evaluate someone from more than just an online application.


Do I need to attend a training site listed?
No. But it helps to understand the scope of what the tests could entail if you’re eventually selected as a finalist and invited to the Olympic Training Center. Attending in person also provides you the benefit of having experts assist you with completing the tests.

“I would strongly encourage people to go visit (a tryout site at one of the 24 Hour Fitness or other regional tryouts),” said Skinner, who noted training at those sites will better prepare an applicant if they’re chosen for Colorado Springs.


Do I have a chance if I’ve never played any of the six sports? 
Yes. The national governing bodies (NGB) of the six sports evaluate the best talent — regardless of whether they’ve played that sport — and use those talents to best prepare them for each sport. The six participating sports often see athletes with backgrounds in different sports transfer their talents to Olympic sports. Olympic bobsledders, for example, have come from softball, track and field, football, volleyball and many others.


What is talent transfer?
Talent transfer is exactly how it sounds — it means an athlete can use his or her abilities, or talents, to transfer from one sport to another. Bobsled and skeleton coaches look for strong, fast runners. As such, track athletes often become prime targets. Those who played team sports with a ball — such as football, basketball or baseball — could perhaps compete to make the rugby sevens team. Coaches from the NGBs are constantly looking outside of their sports to bring in new, different talent.


Is Next Olympic Hopeful for able-bodied athletes only, or can Paralympic hopefuls apply?
Right now the program is limited to the six sports in the able-bodied capacity, but the USOC is looking to expand the scope of the program to accommodate more sports and more athletes, able-bodied and beyond. Click here for opportunities in Paralympic sport. 


What happens if I win?
After Next Olympic Hopeful, you go to team camps and train alongside athletes on the national team. At this point, NOH winners and existing athletes are on the same playing field, presenting an opportunity for the Next Olympic Hopeful to spark a movement through the upper ranks as an underdog.


Where do I stay if I make it as a finalist?
If you’re selected as a finalist, you would stay at the Olympic Training Center, where much of the testing is completed, with the other contestants and eat at the dining hall. All expenses are covered.


Where are the past winners now?
Many of the past winners – and participants – are still training in their respective sports, including several who have relocated to be closer to training sites. Josh Williamson, the Season 1 bobsled winner, won several North American Cup medals mere months after Next Olympic Hopeful. Season 2 participants Jessica Davis and Sylvia Hoffman also made the bobsled national team after competing on Next Olympic Hopeful, and Davis won world championship bronze in the bobsled/skeleton team event.


Is it televised?
Everything in Colorado Springs is filmed, but it’s not broadcast live. USOC Productions produces a documentary that will be televised this December on NBC. 

Have additional questions? Send an email to ScoutingCamp@usoc.org.

Scott McDonald is a writer from Houston who has covered sports for various outlets since 1998. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.