Chevon Dortch during the back squat testing at Season 3 of the Next Olympic Hopeful on July 25, 2019 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
It was only a few years ago that U.S. Army veteran Chevon Dortch had nothing to his name but his car and a few personal possessions.
Dortch, 26, is now employed and on track to graduate from Robert Morris University next spring. He also competed in Season 3 of “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful” this year.
“It’s hard to put [being selected for the final stage] into words because I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Dortch said. “I found this off a Facebook ad.”
Next Olympic Hopeful is the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s talent identification and transfer program, where athletes from all sports and experiences apply to see if an Olympic sport might suit them.
This season of Next Olympic Hopeful features nearly 50 athletes competing for one spot in each of the six participating sports: bobsled, cycling, rowing, rugby, skeleton and weightlifting.
The winners attend national team camps with sights set on advancing in that sport. Watch Season 3 of Next Olympic Hopeful on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
At a young age, Dortch was adopted by his great-grandfather, who served as an important father figure to him.
“[My great-grandfather] was an inspiration,” Dortch said. “As a kid, I didn’t take him passing very well. I did a bunch of bad stuff.”
He decided to join the U.S. Army following high school in hopes of finding something worth representing – in this case, his country.
While serving improved his leadership skills, Dortch found himself in yet another slump after he concluded his military service.
Dortch relied on living in homeless shelters and his truck for quite some time. Thanks to help from friends, life started looking up and he found himself in a more comfortable living situation.
“I found good people; having my car helped me out, too,” Dortch said. “Staying determined, a lot of hard work and a lot of hours at work [helped me rebound].”
Dortch was eventually accepted into RMU, where he became a member of the Eagles cheerleading and League of Legends esports teams.
Just as he did with the army, Dortch found that being part of a group and representing something larger than himself helped his morale and motivation.
“[What I did in college] constantly kept me focused on something,” Dortch said. “The work was never really a problem. It was always having all this free time and what to do with it, like getting in trouble and stuff like that. I was constantly helping people.”
Dortch has now taken up a full-time job as a bodybuilding coach in Chicago, where he currently works with clients in the gym on a daily basis in hopes of not only improving their livelihoods but his as well.
“I feel like if I’m not doing something or not representing something, I’m not doing anything at all,” Dortch said. “That’s why I’m a personal trainer because I’m constantly helping people every day.”
Earlier this year, he saw an ad on Facebook for Next Olympic Hopeful, which he hopes leads to the next chapter of his life.
“I just want to do my best,” Dortch said. “I just want to get out there and do my best.”