(L-R) Zach Reider, Ceara Gray, Deaira Jackson, Leah Fair, Jackson Capela and Alex Mustard pose for a photo at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The six winners from Season 3 of “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful” were announced on the USOPC Productions’ one-hour show Sunday on NBC. The talent-identification program was created by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee to increase and enhance the pipeline of world-class athletes pursuing Olympic sport.
The winning athletes from Season 3 are:
- Jackson Capela (Detroit, Mich.), cycling
- Leah Fair (Gaffney, S.C.), skeleton
- Ceara Gray (Birmingham, Ala.), weightlifting
- DeAira Jackson (Fontana, Calif.), rugby sevens
- Alex Mustard (Missoula, Mont.), bobsled
- Zach Reider (Dardenne Prairie, Mo.), rowing
One of the winners – Leah Fair – was selected from the in-person tryouts hosted by 24 Hour Fitness, an associate sponsor of Next Olympic Hopeful.
More than 4,800 athletes from across the country applied online or participated in tryouts hosted exclusively at 24 Hour Fitness clubs and regional tryout locations. From this pool of athletes, 50 were invited to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs July 25-28 to participate in the finalist phase of the program. Following the OPTC tryout, the six winners were invited to join national team camps for the six participating sports: bobsled, cycling, rowing, rugby sevens, skeleton and weightlifting. The six athletes are eligible to receive financial, training and medical support as they work toward representing Team USA and the opportunity of competing at the Olympic Games.
“We believed in the potential of Next Olympic Hopeful since day one, and it’s exciting to see the impact in real time as the world-class athletes identified through the program compete on mountaintops and playing fields across the globe,” USOPC Chief of Sport and NGB Resources Rick Adams said. “This Olympic pipeline program truly is a collaboration with our national governing bodies that strengthens Team USA across multiple sports and gives talented athletes opportunities they didn’t know were out there. We’re thrilled to announce the six winners of Season 3 and have no doubt that with the development and support of their NGBs, they’ll make a tremendous impact as members of Team USA on their sports’ largest stage.”
In addition to the six winners, 23 athletes from the pool of 50 were invited by the participating National Governing Bodies to continue their affiliation with their sport through training opportunities.
Bobsled winner Alex Mustard and finalist Boone Niederhofer (San Antonio, Texas) have already experienced rapid success in their sport. They were both in the four-man sled driven by three-time Olympian Nick Cunningham that earned three silver medals on the North American Cup circuit earlier this month; Niederhofer also earned a pair of two-man silver medals with Cunningham.
Weightlifting winner Ceara Gray is also quickly ascending the ranks within her new sport. After taping the finals in Colorado Springs in July, Gray trained for 12 weeks with the support of USA Weightlifting before entering her first qualifying competition, where she put up an impressive 189 kg. total in the 81 kg. weight category. Those results qualified her for the 2019 American Open Final, where she repeated her performance and secured a top-five result in the clean and jerk.
In addition, two Next Olympic Hopeful finalists from previous seasons were named to the 2019-20 U.S. bobsled national team earlier this fall: Season 1 winner Josh Williamson (Lake Mary, Fla.) and Season 2 finalist Sylvia Hoffman (Arlington, Texas). Next Olympic Hopeful finalists have earned a combined 19 international bobsled medals to date.
“Milk is proud to fuel Team USA athletes throughout their Olympic journeys – in fact, nine out of 10 U.S. Olympians grew up drinking milk*,” said Victor Zaborsky, Vice President of Marketing at MilkPEP, the group behind the Milk Life campaign. “These Next Olympic Hopefuls are an inspiration to kids growing up today, and we’re committed to supporting the next generation of U.S. Olympians, with their own dreams of competing on the world’s greatest stage.”
Season 4 Registration Now Open
The USOPC is now accepting applications for the fourth season of “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful,” which for the first time ever will focus exclusively on Olympic winter sports. Elite American athletes of all sporting backgrounds are invited to pursue their Olympic dreams by applying at TeamUSA.org/NextOlympicHopeful.
One winner will be invited to join national team camps for each of the five participating sports – biathlon, bobsled, luge, skeleton and speedskating. The winners will be eligible to receive financial, training and medical support as they prepare for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Winter Games.
Athletes are invited to apply through the online portal, where they will provide details about their sport experience and complete a pre-screen. Athletes can also attend the in-person screening sessions on Feb. 8 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at select 24 Hour Fitness locations across seven U.S. markets, including: Carrollton, Texas; Downey, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Miami, Florida; San Jose, California; South Richmond, Texas; and Winter Park, Florida. For more information about Next Olympic Hopeful in-person tryouts at 24 Hour Fitness clubs nationwide on Feb. 8, 2020, visit 24HourFitness.com/NextOlympicHopeful.
For more information on the winners of Season 3 and information on Season 4 of the Next Olympic Hopeful, visit TeamUSA.org/NOH.
National Governing Body leadership quotes:
Emilie Bydwell, USA Rugby high performance director – women:
“We are very excited about DeAira and her involvement with USA Rugby. We think that she has an incredible future in rugby and high potential to represent the USA in international competition.”
Reilly Dampeer, USRowing National High Performance Center head coach:
“I think it’s a fantastic program. It’s really developed over the last couple years, and it’s improving in terms of how we can actually understand the athletes and get a better impression of how they will be as full-time athletes going for the Olympic podium. I’m really excited about where this program continues to grow, and the more people get involved with it, the more athletes get interested in it, I think we’re going to see some top-level talent come out of the program. I’m really excited.”
Mike Dionne, USA Bobsled & Skeleton director of athletic development:
“We absolutely love this program. I mean, what a wonderful opportunity for an athlete that can come out of a collegiate sport or something like that. They still want to compete, they’re not done. The percentage that someone is going to go into a professional sport or run professionally or do any of that is just so small. But there’s so many athletes that want to compete, and through social media or walking up to a 24 Hour Fitness… they find out about this opportunity where you could eventually make an Olympic team. What an incredible program that is. We’re so proud to be a part of that.”
Suzy Sanchez, USA Weightlifting director of grassroots programs & scouting:
“The program's amazing. I love the comradery of being able to hang out with the other NGBs and learn what they’re doing on the recruiting side. It’s a great program that the USOPC offers for us to all work together to find our next Olympic hopeful. Being a part of it is just another step for us to improve our recruiting and outreach efforts.”
*9 out of 10 finding based on 675 responses received from survey invitations sent to all U.S. Olympic athletes.
About the USOPC
Founded in 1894 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee serves as both the National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee for the United States. The USOPC is focused on protecting, supporting and empowering America’s athletes, and is responsible for fielding U.S. teams for the Olympic, Paralympic, Youth Olympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games, and serving as the steward of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the U.S. For more information, visit TeamUSA.org.
MilkPEP, Washington, D.C., is funded by the nation's milk companies, who are committed to ensuring all children have access to nutrient-rich milk. The MilkPEP Board runs the national Milk Life campaign, a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers about the powerful nutritional benefits of milk – with essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, in each 8-ounce glass. For more information, go to milklife.com.
About 24 Hour Fitness
Celebrating 35 years as an industry leader, 24 Hour Fitness transforms lives every day through fitness. Conveniently located clubs, furnished with a wide variety of strength, cardio and functional training equipment, are the perfect environment for fitness professionals to deliver dynamic personal and group training programs. GX24® and cycle studios feature a popular array of live studio classes included with membership. A multitude of additional offerings engage and inspire every member to lead a full and healthy life both inside and outside of the club. Opening new clubs on average at the brisk pace of one every few weeks, 24 Hour Fitness is headquartered in San Ramon, California, and serves nearly 4 million members in over 440 clubs nationwide. To learn more about us and to find the club nearest you, visit 24hourfitness.com.