COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Jackson Capela, the youngest finalist at this year’s “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful,” entered the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center already knowing what sport he had his sights set on: track cycling.
Capela came to the elite training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado with an agenda.
He’s been cycling for several years and has had his eyes locked on the sole track cycling spot, which fits his particular set of skills quite comfortably.
“Track cycling is definitely [what I’m going for],” Capela said. “But if there’s another sport that coaches have in mind for me to do, I’d be down for sure.”
“I just know that rugby seems pretty fun,” Capela said. “I’ve never played rugby; it just looks fun.”
The third season of Next Olympic Hopeful features nearly 50 athletes competing for spots in each of the six participating sports: bobsled, cycling, rowing, rugby, skeleton and weightlifting. The winners attend national team camps and have the opportunity to advance in their sport.
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.
Watch Season 3 on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
Being the youngest contestant didn’t faze Capela.
“It actually makes me less nervous [being the youngest],” he told TeamUSA.org. “I think the expectations aren’t that high in comparison to being 22. I’m 17; I’m still young. So, there’s some stuff that I may not know how to do.”
Download the Team USA app today to keep up with Next Olympic Hopeful and all your favorite sports, plus access to videos, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, and more.
Capela finished second this summer in sprint at the 2019 USA Cycling Junior Track National Championships, an improvement from his 2018 performance at junior nationals, which saw him fall below half the competitors.
He felt that competing in events such as junior nationals over the summer helped prepare him for the testing events at Next Olympic Hopeful, which included high-performance cycling and endurance tests at the OPTC.
“I think [junior nationals] kept me in competitive shape for sure,” Capela said. “I did way better than last year.”
While the Detroit native is looking to earn one of the winning spots, he’s also looking to use this opportunity to promote cycling to a younger generation and to a new demographic.
“Right now, there’s a drought in young-aged children for cycling, especially for African Americans,” Capela said. “I’m just trying to be someone that people can look up to, so that eventually, I can bring more kids [into the sport].”
Empowering others has been an initiative for Capela since the start.
He has personally been a victim of bullying while growing up, and it only motivated him to be a better person and athlete going forward. Capela sees Next Olympic Hopeful as an opportunity to look towards a happier future.
“Yeah, [the bullies] push me harder,” he said. “It’s also a positive, too, because I can’t live my life just thinking about what they say. I’m going to live my life in the future and think about what I can become…
“I’m just trying to put my heart out there.”