COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – When Josh Williamson arrived at the now-U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center just over two years ago and was crowned one of the first-ever Next Olympic Hopefuls, he never would have guessed where the program would take him.
A DI lacrosse player before winning the show, Williamson is now a bobsledder with six international medals in the sport – two of which are gold.
“Two years ago, when I was here, I would have never even imagined being on the bobsled team,” Williamson told TeamUSA.org during the shooting of Season 3. “I didn’t think I would win the show, let alone actually make a career in the sport.”
“Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful” is the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s talent identification and transfer program. Season 3, which features 48 finalists vying for six spots in national team camps, will air Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
Season 3 includes bobsled, cycling, rowing, rugby, skeleton and weightlifting.
The first season featured four sports and there was one male and female winner per sport; Williamson won the men’s bobsled spot and quickly made his first national team.
He is one of three past Next Olympic Hopeful finalists who have been named to the bobsled national team and medaled internationally.
“Coming here, I had no expectations at all,” Williamson said. “My expectation was to come, enjoy a pretty crazy facility, meet some great athletes, meet some coaches at a high level, see if any of these sports were even an opportunity for me and maybe pursue them afterwards.”
That mindset set him up for success, as it turned out.
“I think those low expectations ultimately set me up to be better because I was just here to do my best and have fun,” Williamson said. “That ended up allowing me to perform better, instead of some people getting nervous because they felt like they could win.”
Williamson has since served as a mentor for the two seasons that followed his own.
As a mentor, he gets to relive his time competing by encouraging athletes, demonstrating the bobsled portion of the tests and meeting new faces.
“It’s pretty cool seeing other people pursuing [Next Olympic Hopeful] and trying to motivate them and let them know that no matter how this pans out, this is something that will change your life for the better, whether you move forward with a given sport or not,” he said.
Williamson’s favorite part of remaining involved with the program was meeting eight-time Olympic short track speedskating medalist Apolo Anton Ohno, who also served as a Season 3 mentor.
“He’s a legend, a hero, Williamson said. “If I didn’t get to do anything else but meet Apolo, I think it’d be worth it to fly to Colorado Springs.”
While meeting and encouraging new athletes is an exciting opportunity for Williamson, the opportunity to now instruct and evaluate them in bobsled is something unexpected.
Track and field athletes tend to catch his eye the most when it comes to tests such as sprints or pushing a mock bobsled.
“A big thing in bobsled is your efficiency, like sprinting mechanics, so track and field is obviously a big transfer there” Williamson said. “A lot of our [push] athletes are former sprinters because it’s essentially a sprint, you’re just taking the arms out of it.”
Williamson was excited to be back at Next Olympic Hopeful this past summer, and he invites future participants to focus on what’s most important: having fun and doing the best you can.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to make you better and that’s the biggest thing,” Williamson said. “It’s a short three days in an amazing facility. Enjoy that, be present, and that’s going to allow you to compete better.”