Most rising college juniors are looking forward to spring break, interesting internships or studying abroad. Florida International University junior Malik Bryant has different goals in mind. The North Port, Florida, native is spending his time training to compete for a spot on Team USA.
Growing up, Bryant played football for 14 years and ran track for five. In his senior year of high school, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament. That’s when he went to Valencia College in Orlando, where he began to play rugby.
“I already had the speed and the aggression from football,” he said. “I think it carried over.”
Bryant eventually transferred to FIU where he continued to play rugby. The team ended up making it to the national tournament, and became the 11th best in the country.
“After that, I was confident,” said Bryant, 21. “Three days after nationals, our coach sent out a text about Olympic tryouts.”
Bryant was torn about whether to go, he said. “I was so unsure, but I ended up going.”
He worked out in Miramar at the 24 Hour Fitness Club, a company that has a 14-year partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee. “Through this exclusive partnership, 24 Hour Fitness hosted in-club tryouts to help the USOC find ‘The Next Olympic Hopeful’ and to build a pipeline of future Team USA athletes,” according to a news release.
At the tryouts, Bryant’s vertical jump was the highest at 10.5 feet.
“Again, this gave me confidence,” Bryant said. “I eventually got an email saying I was a finalist to be ‘The Next Olympic Hopeful.’”
Bryant traveled to Denver for the next round of tryouts on July 28, but the results cannot be shared just yet.
In the meantime, Bryant plans on continuing to train hard and focus on his game.
“I still practice with my rugby team even though we’re in the off season,” Bryant said. “I need to stay focused and prepare my body and mind. Then I should be set.”
The results of the Denver tryouts will be announced in November. If selected, Bryant could compete in any of these categories: bobsled, skeleton, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling, rowing, rugby or weightlifting.