SAN ANTONIO, Texas – World Class Athlete Program Soldiers are gearing up for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as trials approach.
The program already has two Soldier-athletes qualified in modern pentathlon – Spc. Samantha Schultz, a unit supply specialist, and Sgt. Amro Elgeziry, a motor transport operator. 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. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t just win a medal, 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 fifth place in the men's individual event.
“Going to the Olympics never gets old. It’s always exciting,” said Elgeziry, who has competed three times at the world games. “Qualifying again 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 in the women’s 75kg weight class at the U.S. Boxing Olympic Trials in Lake Charles, La., Dec. 17.
“I feel amazing,” Graham said after the achievement. “I just accomplished something I had only dreamt about. I feel a rush of overwhelming happiness.”
Graham is in Bulgaria this week being evaluated by the U.S. Boxing Committee before they announce the official Olympic team.
Other sports in which troops are training to make the team include track and field, marathon, wrestling, taekwondo, Paralympic swimming and shooting. The marathon Olympic trials are set for Feb. 29 in Atlanta, Ga. Soldier-athletes wrestlers have their eyes focused on the qualification trials at Penn State University, Pa., April 4-5.
Sgt. Ellis Coleman, a member of the latter group, said it means a lot to represent 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,” Coleman observed.
Paralympic archery Soldier-athletes Staff Sgt. Michael Lukow and Staff Sgt. Ryan McIntosh hope to move another step closer to selection by placing at the Olympic trials in Chula Vista, Calif., June 10-14.
Soldiers also are vying for spots in the track and field Olympic trials to be held at the University of Oregon June 18-19. Staff Sgt. Hillary Bor has already qualified and this will be his second Olympic trial appearance. He said his goal is to train smart and stay relaxed.
“The expectations are high,” he pointed out. “The training and intensity has to be higher and consistent.”
Soldier-athletes competing in taekwondo do not have trials to attend but are competing at tournaments leading up to the Olympic Games to earn points that determine selections in each weight class. Similarly, the selection of Paralympic and Olympic shooting Soldier-athletes is based on points earned at competitions.
Paralympic swimmer Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Marks will be competing in her sport’s Olympic trials in Minneapolis, Minn., June 25-28.
As the Army athletes gear up for the Olympic year, their duties and commitments as “Soldiers first” remain the same, emphasized Capt. Bryce Livingston, WCAP commander.
“It is something I’ve emphasized ever since I took command, and it has always been a part of WCAP,” he said. “Their title as an elite warrior comes before everything else, and being a Soldier first emphasis the professionalism they take with them.”