A Year to Rio: San Diego Olympic Hopefuls Prepare

The milestone adds a little bit of stress to the Olympic dream.

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To the average person, August 5 might not mean much but for athletes hoping for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro it represents a goal years in the making.

While many spend the next year talking about polluted water, expensive construction projects, and the inevitable security concerns, Olympic hopefuls will focus their thoughts on one thing: getting to Rio.

"This kind of feels like my Olympics coming up. I feel in my prime. This past year is going well and hopefully I’ll come back from World Championships with a medal, but this is all just a rehearsal for next year,” said Joe Kovacs, an early medal stand front runner for Team USA in the shot put.

Kovacs finished a heartbreaking fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials and watched the three men above him represent the country.

Now, after three years of rigorous training, and an address change to the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center, Kovacs sits at the top of the world rankings ready to make the team and bring home a gold.

“Having the year out is kind of a sigh of relief, because these past few years I’ve been waiting for that moment” said Kovacs.

Hundreds of athletes with Olympic aspirations come through Chula Vista’s OTC every year, but the year before the Summer Games brings an added element of excitement and energy to the sprawling campus.

"The biggest thing about one year out is it moves so fast. So, you have to be prepared for everything that is involved," said Lex Gillette, a long and triple jumper hoping to make his fourth Paralympics. The Paralympics will start in September of 2016, a few weeks after the Olympics closing ceremony.

"These are the most important days. You make these days count. You have 365 days to go until the biggest competition of our careers," said Gillette, who is blind.

The 2016 Olympics will feature new sports including Golf and Sevens Rugby. The U.S. women’s rugby team trains in Chula Vista.

"Our sports psychologist Peter, he always tells us to be in the moment and be present and I think that applies to a lot of things we do," said Lorrie Clifford.

The U.S. women’s rugby team has already qualified for a spot in Rio, but the roster won’t be announced until a date closer to the games. Roughly 2 to 3 dozen women are fighting for 12 spots.

The milestone adds a little bit of stress to the Olympic dream.

"I think it makes everything a little more real. It’s really exciting for all of us I think, being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit," said Megan Bonny.
 

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