Quick Chat with Next Olympic Hopeful Winner Stephanie Grant

Nov. 28, 2018, 11:02 a.m. (ET)

Over the weekend USA Boxing was featured on the two-part series of MilkLife Presents: Next Olympic Hopeful contest. Over the summer 90 athletes were invited to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. to put their bodies to the test to see if they have what it takes to be an elite athlete and become part of Team USA. After numerous testings, which included boxing specific testing, USA Boxing selected 24-year-old Stephanie Grant of Bellflower, Calif. After the announcement of her selection, USA Boxing caught up with her to see how the Next Olympic Hopeful process was for her, as well as how her training has gone since her selection.


What got you interested in trying out for the Next Olympic Hopeful, and what was your sports background before trying out?


What got me interested in trying out for the Next Olympic Hopeful was to have a chance to show not only the world, but also myself, that I have what it takes to become an Olympian. I have played various sports over the years. When I was seven, I started studying martial arts, and as I got older it became more of a passion that also helped shape me into the person I am today. While in high school I played numerous sports, including soccer, track and field, basketball and  wrestling. When I went to college, I was pursuing my dream of becoming an Olympic track athlete like Lolo Jones. However, like a lot of track athletes, my dream ended when I tore my MCL and dislocated my ankle.


When the Next Olympic Hopeful came on in 2017, my “gym dad,” who is the manager at the 24 Hour Fitness in Downey and now the manger at the 24 Hour Fitness in Hawaiian Gardens, immediately told me about it and said that no matter what I better show up to try out. So I skipped work and decided to put everything on the line and try out. However, during the show last year, I tore my hamstring, which put me out of contention, so I came back this year determined to give it my all and make sure I didn’t leave empty handed.


Of the sports participating in the Next Olympic Hopeful, where did boxing fall on your priority list of getting a shot at?

Boxing was number one on my list following skeleton. I wanted to go back to fighting and enjoying my passion freely again. When they announced what sports wanted a closer look at us and I saw my number on the board for boxing, I felt electrified! I was so happy!

During the tryouts, you got to work with two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Claressa Shields, as well as our coaching staff, and two boxers currently on our national team, Virginia Fuchs and Richard Torrez Jr. What was that experience like, getting first hand knowledge and hands on interaction with this group?

Being able to work out with such amazing and knowledgeable athletes and coaches, was a truly inspiring moment. Being able to talk to them and work with them one-on-one and really getting to know them was amazing and insightful. Whenever I had a question or wanted to fix something, they really tried to help break things down to help me better understand what I was doing and they were very motivating.


Following the testing and seeing the other contestants, going into the announcement where did you see your chances of being selected?


To be honest, I didn’t see myself getting picked at all. There were so many talented athletes and especially those who knew the sport much better than I. So when it came down to them picking who they wanted, I was content that I probably wouldn’t get picked and that’s okay. I got an amazing experience, gained knowledge and only bettered myself each day.

 

What emotions and thoughts were running through your head when you heard your number called out for being selected by USA Boxing?


When Matt went up to announce the winner for boxing and called out my number and looked at me, I was confused at first. It took a second for me to process it, and I looked down at my shirt and realized he called my number. I was just overwhelmed with so many emotions, it’s hard to say what I was feeling. When I got off the stage it just didn’t seem real, and once Matt told me everything that needed to get done in the next 3 months, that’s when it hit me.


After winning, you got the opportunity to come to a training camp at the OTC. What was that experience like for you? What were some of the main things you learned during that time?


Having the opportunity to come to the training camp was amazing. It was very difficult at first due to the vigorous training and my body wasn’t up to par yet, but I got through it in one piece and came out a stronger person and a better fighter. The main thing I learned is that boxing is more about learning about yourself and what you can take mentally and physically, and to find your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Boxing is mostly mental, if you can’t tell yourself to keep going when everything around you, even your body is telling you to stop, then that’s an instant loss.

 

Now back home in California, how is training in boxing going?


Being back home, training is going well. It’s a bit difficult to manage my work schedule and training, but I’m trying to do whatever it takes to make it happen.


*Stephanie is currently training at Jerry Ortiz Boxing Gym, home of two-time World Champion Heaven Garcia, under Carlos Rodriguez.*

You have had a few bouts now. What was that experience like for you in your first bout? When do you plan to box again?

My first bout, I didn’t really know what to expect. The last time I fought was before my father passed away, and since then I had a mental blockage. I told myself that whatever happens, win or lose, it will still be a victory in my book, because I walked away with a list of things I need to work on to make sure I become a better fighter. I’m currently training for the Western Qualifiers in March.

 

What are some of your goals leading into 2019 and beyond?

My goals for 2019 are to gain as much knowledge as I can, as well as strengthen myself to hopefully qualify to the Olympic Trials and make the Olympic team. Going forward I want to become the best 57 kg boxer that can fight both orthodox and south paw.


For someone wanting to chase their dream in sports, what would you tell them? Also, what would you tell someone about trying to get into boxing?


For someone chasing their dream, I would tell them to never give up. They will come across a time in their life when everything and everyone may seem against them or not supportive of what they want; but they need to chase after it, because the only person that can truly stop them from achieving their goal is themselves.


For those trying to get into boxing, cardio and a lot of sparring go a long way. If you’re ever sparring and you’re 110% exhausted, keep fighting until the bell rings, because pushing past your limits shows that wasn’t the real breaking point, and you can continue to keep going as long as you want.