Editor’s Note: This piece by Brittany Nelson was originally published by the U.S. Army News Service on January 10
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Soldier-athletes in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program are gearing up for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as trials approach.
The program already has two Soldiers qualified in modern pentathlon, Spc. Samantha Schultz and Sgt. Amro Elgeziry. Schultz qualified for the women’s team after earning second place in the individual event at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
“I remember I was about to cross the finish line, and I got chills and smiled,” said Shultz, a five-time national champion. “In my mind I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t just win a medal but I qualified for the Olympics, wow I can’t believe I just did that.’ It was so surreal.”
Elgeziry also qualified at the Pan American Games by earning a fifth place in the men’s individual event.
“Going to the Olympics never gets old, it’s always exciting,” said Elgeziry, who has competed at three Olympic Games. “It was an amazing moment for me. It is always an honor just being in the Army but it is super special to know you represent Team USA and the U.S. Army.”
Staff Sgt. Naomi Graham is working her way to the Olympic team for boxing. She won the U.S. Boxing Olympic Trials for the women’s 75kg weight class in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Dec. 17.
“I feel amazing,” Graham said after winning. “I just accomplished something I had only dreamt about. I feel a rush of overwhelming happiness.”
Graham is headed to Bulgaria Jan. 17-26 where she will be evaluated before they announce the official Olympic team.
Other sports that are training to make the team include track and field, marathon runners, wrestling, taekwondo, Paralympic swimming and shooting.
The marathon Olympic trials in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 29, await qualifying Soldier-athletes.
The Soldier-athlete wrestlers that qualify will compete at the wrestling Olympic trials at Penn State University, Pennsylvania, April 4-5.
Sgt. Ellis Coleman, a wrestling Soldier athlete, said it means a lot to representing the U.S Army at the Olympic trials and potentially the Games.
“I am representing all these people who put their lives on the line every day for our country, the least I can do is represent us on the mat and do what I can to represent our Army in the best way possible,” said Coleman.
Paralympic archery Soldier-athletes Staff Sgt. Michael Lukow and Staff Sgt. Ryan McIntosh are in pursuit of the Paralympic archery trials in Chula Vista, California, June 10-14.
Soldier-athletes who qualify for the track and field Olympic trials will be competing at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, June 18-19.
Staff Sgt. Hillary Bor. Who will be competing at his second Olympic trials, said his goal is to train smart and relaxed.
“The expectations are high,” said Bor. “The training and intensity has to be higher and consistent.”
Soldier-athletes competing in the sport of taekwondo do not have trails to attend but are competing at tournaments leading up to the Olympic Games to earn points that determine selections in each weight class.
Paralympic and Olympic shooting Soldier-athletes also qualify for the Games based on points earned at competitions.
Paralympic swimmer Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Marks will be competing in the Paralympic swimming Olympic trials in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 25-28.
As the WCAP Soldier-athletes gear up for the Olympic year, their duties and commitments as ‘Soldiers first’ remain the same according to Cpt. Bryce Livingston, WCAP commander.
“‘Soldiers first’ is something that I have emphasized ever since I took command and it has always been a part of WCAP,” said Livingston. “Their title as an elite warrior comes before everything else and being a soldier first emphasis the professionalism they take with them.”
Feature photo by Tim Hipps, U.S. Army