Leah Fair resting prior to testing during Season 3 of the Next Olympic Hopeful on July 26, 2019 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Two-tenths of a second.
That’s how “far” behind in time Leah Fair was from qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field in the women’s 100- and 200-meter events.
“It was devastating,” Fair said. “You have to wait another four years.”
Fair was a track and field athlete all her life, having competed for the Colorado State Rams and being a four-time Mountain West Women’s Track Athlete of the Week.
Running was in her blood.
Fast-forward three years later and the 24-year-old is now hoping to bring her talents to Team USA through a completely different sport: weightlifting.
Fair was one of nearly 50 finalists invited to “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful,” the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s talent identification and transfer program, where athletes are tested to see if a variety of Olympic sports would suit them.
Season 3 of Next Olympic Hopeful has trialists competing for spots in six participating sports: bobsled, cycling, rowing, rugby, skeleton and weightlifting.
One winner selected for each sport goes on to attend national team training camps with the opportunity to advance in that sport. Watch Season 3 on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
Fair has an injury to thank for her transition from track to weightlifting.
She had a serious ankle injury toward the end of her collegiate career, and describes her new passion for weightlifting as “weird.”
“While I was injured, I was still doing upper body and arms in the weight room,” Fair said. “I found a passion for weightlifting.”
After recovering, Fair began deadlifting in the gym and was noticed by strength and conditioning coaches for hitting a 418-pound personal best when she weighed 120.
In the weightlifting world, this is extremely impressive due to her body-to-weight ratio. Fair was lifting almost three-and-a-half times her body weight.
Fair noted how track and field became crowded with more and more competitors, making her chances of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials even more difficult.
Therefore, she looked towards weightlifting.
“Track and field is a great sport; it’s a little flooded,” Fair said. “But I feel like just having that opportunity in weightlifting, it doesn’t matter. I would love to represent my country in any way.”
While weightlifting is the spot Fair hoped to be selected for, she is completely open-minded to trying for any of the other five available sports – especially.
“My No. 2 would probably be bobsled, just because of the speed,” Fair said. “I know a lot of track athletes have transferred over to bobsled, so that would be my No. 2 option if I even had options.”
Several past Next Olympic Hopeful participants have found success in bobsled. The 2018-19 national team included three former Next Olympic Hopeful finalists, all of whom now own medals in a sport that, not too long ago, was foreign to them.
Having the opportunity to train with any sport would be good enough for Fair.
“Only one out of every 400,000 people get to compete at the Olympics every four years,” Fair said. “It’s not about the money – everyone knows that.”
Now, it’s time for the next step.
“I’m just so eager to let the animal out of the cage already,” Fair said.