DOWNEY -- Athletes from around the region and country recently gathered at 24 Hour Fitness, each with their eyes set on become Team USA’s next Olympic hopeful.
On June 2, the 24 Hour Fitness location at the Downey Promenade saw athletes of varying ages, backgrounds, sizes, and focuses attempt to pull, jump, and run their way into the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The weekend’s tryout was the first phase in a three-step process for an upcoming two-part broadcast called "Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful" which will air on NBC and NBCSN in November.
Participants were put through their paces in three physical tasks: pull-ups, vertical jumps, and 30m sprints. Similar tryouts to the one in Downey took place around the country in Dallas, Houston, Denver, Pearl City, Orlando, Miami, Seattle, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay area.
The pool of competitors ranged from lifelong aspiring Olympians, to hopeful celebrities, to those just looking to test themselves.
Erick Kendle II, general manager of 24 Hour Fitness Downey, described it as a “mixed batch.”
“We have a good portion really trying to make it to the Olympics, and we also have another portion that is looking to test themselves in a competitive environment.”
One of the people helping with the tryouts was 24-year-old Stephanie Grant of Bellflower, who participated in the tryouts last year and is now an Olympic hopeful.
Grant described what awaits those who are chosen to move on.
“From here if they do make it to the next round, they’re going to be going up against some of the greatest athletes that we have in the U.S. from different sports,” said Grant.
Out of all the tryout participants nationwide, around 100 athletes – 50 men and 50 women – will be selected to move on.
While a good showing at the tryout may help each athlete stand out above the rest, those who move on will need to be versatile overall. More than just having good numbers on a stat sheet, Grant says that those who are selected will need to be adaptable to succeed.
“A lot of these athletes are going to be potentially transfer-athletes,” said Grant. “In Colorado, they’ll find out what sport they’ll be placed in by the coaches after reviewing their marks and what their standards are…we just want to see how hard you can push yourself, and how you can adapt to a new sport…they don’t want to take an athlete that is amazing in their own sport, but to transfer over doesn’t adapt well.”
Grant was a track runner before being sent to the Olympic Training Center. Now she finds herself in Skeleton and Rugby.
Amongst the crowd of hopefuls was Phoenix Alazam, a 29-year-old from Chicago, Illinois.
“It’s always been my dream to be in the Olympics,” said Alazam. “When I found out about this opportunity, I had to jump on it.”
Alazam participated in a tryout that was held in Tennessee recently, and decided to try and improve her standing and “get better.”
Her aspirations to be an Olympian started around the age of 8.
“I just wanted to be an icon…I wanted to be a legend like Michael Jackson,” said Alazam. “He influenced me, he influenced so many other people. That’s kind of what I want to do as well, and what better way to do it than to represent the United States of America on the U.S. Olympic team.”
Alazam says she’s been a runner her entire life, however, she says she open for anything.
She trains six days a week.
“I do cardio in the morning…midday I get my weights in, and I usually separate it ‘bodybuilder style,’ said Alazam. “My friends, my family, they know I want this and they’re willing to support me in that and they don’t take any kind of personal effects to it; they know it’s my dream…it’s a little bit of isolation, but you know what, you’re setting the standards for all the next generation who want to be like you.”
Alazam says that being amongst the other talented and athletic individuals at the tryout could be perceived as intimidating, however, a team mentality takes over.
“If you look at it, sports are very team-orientated; if you want to go far, you have to go together,” said Alazam. “To be a part of the U.S. Olympic team, you have to be a team player. I don’t get intimidated by other people. I just let myself and those insecurities get put on the back shelf so I can go out and perform, and I build off of other people’s energy and it actually gives me more fuel.”