the alternates

Words: Tim Struby

Illustrations: Eric Petersen

On a late July morning, Alison Williams, Mariya Koroleva, and Anita Alvarez board a plane in San Juan, Puerto Rico, bound for Brazil. The three women are the lone athletes of USA Synchro, America’s national synchronized swim team, and are heading south for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. Rio 2016 features over 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries competing in 309 events. Two hundred and ninety-seven medals are awarded. Over a billion people will tune in. No one needs to remind the synchro teammates that the Olympics are the greatest sporting event on Earth.

At 26, Williams is the oldest of the trio. Ali, as her friends call her, began synchronized swimming at age 10, made the national team at 16, and likes to joke that she’s “part mermaid.” For the past two years the Golden State native has logged six hours a day submersed in a Campolindo, California, high school pool, chasing her podium dreams. Her dedication has paid off, with medals at the 2015 Pan Am Games, China Open, and National Championships. Often training alone without so much as a coach to check her progress, she fought the inner skeptic that kept whispering, you’re too old, you don’t have it in you. Through it all she had one goal in mind: Rio.

In March, she got the call: she was going to the Games. Yet Williams’sOlympics—her first and realistically her last—will be anything but ordinary. Upon landing, the USA Synchro team will drive an hour southwest to the Rio 2016 Olympic Park. At the Welcome Center, Williams’ two teammates will check in and get their official credentials. They’ll pick up their Team USA swag bags and go their Olympic Village apartments. They’ll head to the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center and start prepping for the biggest competition of their lives. Williams, however, will not get a credential, and she won’t stay in the Village. She will not get the Team USA gear. Unless Koroleva or Alvarez get hurt, disqualified, or quit, Williams’ podium dreams will never materialize. She is an Olympic alternate.

While there is no official definition of an Olympic alternate, what it means is that Williams is one of the best in her sport. USA Synchro has sent her to Rio to serve as an athletic understudy, which still demands practicing every day. “I have a duty to my country to be ready,” she says. “If I have to step in, the success of USA Synchro is up to me.” She won’t be alone. Twenty seven US alternates—sometimes called replacement athletes, reserves, or spares—are headed to the 2016 Games. The overachievers who never expected to make it this far will be thrilled, but most are not. Describing the Olympic alternate experience, they use words like “painful,” “frustrating,” “humbling,” and “incredibly difficult.” Williams has resolved to look at the glass as half full. “If all I can think about is that I don’t get the gear, that I’m not walking in the opening ceremony, I might miss something right in front of me,” she says. “I have every right to feel how I feel. But at the end of the day what kind of experience do I want to have?”

ericPetersen_airplane1000x1000_hiResYet there in the Welcome Center it will be hard to remain chipper in the face of disappointment. If Williams doesn’t compete, neither the United States Olympic Committee nor the International Olympic Committee will recognize her as a member of Team USA. Her name will not appear in the record books as a 2016 Olympic athlete. 

It’s almost as if she never went to Rio at all.

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“It was probably one of the most anxious days of my life,” says Jaclyn Kintzer, goalkeeper for USA Field Hockey. “I just felt sick to my stomach.” On an afternoon in June 2012, at the University of Maryland sports complex, Kintzer sat in a large meeting room with the rest of the women’s national field hockey team. They spoke in whispers. Fidgeted nervously in their chairs. This was the day. Eighteen players would be heading to London, though only 16 would take the field.

The Olympic team selection process varies by sport. Athletes from individual sports like fencing, equestrian, and gymnastics earn spots based mainly on tournament results and trials. Team sports like soccer and field hockey are wholly subjective, with roster decisions made solely at the coaches’ discretion.

Kintzer liked her chances. She’d won a pair of NCAA titles at the University of North Carolina, and made the US national team in 2010. Although originally left off the roster for the 2011 Pan American Games, she got a call the day before the tournament kicked off: “Pack your bags for Mexico.” She was told that starting goalie Amy Swenson had torn her ACL. With the former Tar Heel in net, Team USA upset Argentina en route to winning the tournament for the first time in history. More importantly, the victory meant automatic qualification for London 2012. At 24, the Reading, Pennsylvania, native didn’t have much big-game exposure. But with Swenson only recently back from knee replacement surgery and her own Pan Am performance to prove her worth, Kintzer didn’t feel like an underdog.

One by one, the field hockey players’ names were called. “Everyone went in one door and then out a separate door,” says Kintzer. “That way the people who got bad news didn’t have to be seen by anyone.” Finally Kintzer heard her own name. In a small office, head coach Lee Bodimeade, alongside an assistant, broke the news. She’d been playing really well, Bodimeade told her. But they were going to go with someone who had Olympic experience. Kintzer would be the alternate.

She was shell-shocked, and struggled to navigate a swirling combination of surprise, disappointment, and anger. “I felt like I deserved a chance,” she says. “I’d done everything I could possibly do but they wanted experience and that’s something I couldn’t make up. You either have it or don’t. So it didn’t matter how well I was playing or what I was doing, they weren’t picking me regardless. I wanted them to tell me I wasn’t good enough.” For two years she’d dedicated her entire existence to making it to London. She respected her coaches. Loved her teammates. But like all Olympic hopefuls, Kintzer has competitiveness in her DNA. “It was really hard for me to digest.”

Kintzer walked out of the Terrapin sports complex and into the arms of her parents, Dean and Roxanne. On the ride home to Pennsylvania, the newly named Team USA alternate ranted and raved. They stopped at a restaurant, where Kintzer vented a bit more. Why shouldn’t she? She was a pro athlete who lived and breathed field hockey. There’d be something wrong with her if she didn’t lose her shit. Yet by the time they got back home, she had moved on. All alternates eventually do. “I switched my focus,” says Kintzer. “It’s hard. And it’s not what I want do. But you have to tell yourself to suck it up.”

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Since the start of the modern Olympics in 1896, the Summer Games opening ceremonies have offered up some of the most memorable moments in organized athletics. The introduction of the official Olympic flame at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. Muhammad Ali lighting the 1996 torch. The 2008 Games in Beijing where 2,000 drummers pounded out a welcome on illuminated drums at the Bird’s Nest stadium. London 2012’s Danny Boyle–curated “Isles of Wonder,” that featured Sir Paul McCartney, James Bond, the Queen, and 70,000 LED panels that lit up the entire stadium. For the 10,000 plus Olympians who take part, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the alternates, it’s a lifelong letdown.

This wasn’t always the case. Alternates used to be able to participate in the opening ceremonies. “I was so psyched to be there,” recalls Mike Teti, a rowing alternate in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. “Walking alongside MJ, John Thompson, Pam Shriver.” But a reversal in IOC rules for the 1996 Summer Games slammed shut the door on that privilege.

Once in a while a Team USA staffer will score a ticket or two for athletes to sit in the stands. On rare occasions an alternate has even snuck in to the ceremonies. But for the most part, alternates watch on television, at a restaurant, or in their hotel rooms. Or, as was the case in 2004, at a toga party at the American College of Greece in Athens. “They had a viewing party for us in the dorms about a block from the USA training facility,” says Tim Morehouse, a 2004 fencing alternate. Team USA provided large screen TVs, mounds of food, and music for the group, which also included support staff and coaches. Yet no matter where alternates watch the ceremonies, the reaction is universal. “Athletes say that the moment they feel like Olympians is the moment they walk through the stadium tunnel of the opening ceremony,” says Morehouse. “That’s the moment I really felt not part of the Olympics.”

Coaches and staff do their best to prepare them, and former alternates often give them advice. They’ve heard the stories: autograph seekers pulling their pens away when they hear the word “alternate”; security guards barring them from locker rooms, fields, and athlete lounges. Then there’s the tale of the 2008 women’s gymnastics alternates who not only weren’t allowed to stay in the Beijing Olympic Village, they didn’t even stay in China, but instead found themselves in Tokyo due to visa complications. “We knew we had a really important role,” says gymnast Anna Li. “But we weren’t going to be treated the same.” Yet until they live it, they can’t really understand it.

It starts with smaller pills to swallow, like the swag. While less than half of the 2012 Olympians won medals, all 529 US athletes took home duffel bags full of corporate freebies that included an O.C. Tanner gold ring, Omega watch, and custom gear from Nike, Oakley, and Ralph Lauren. For most athletes, the booty isn’t about dollar value (though it’s a serious haul), but what it symbolizes. It is proof of how far they’ve come and what they’ve accomplished. Most Olympic athletes don’t have deep-pocketed sponsor deals. Their faces won’t be on Wheaties boxes. They don’t have a professional career waiting for them in synchronized swimming or rowing. This is the end goal, and a few bags full of swag means a lot. “We were actually told we were going to get the gear,” says Kintzer. “But when we got to the Village and all our teammates were getting ready to pick theirs up, one of the coaches came up to the alternates and said, ‘Oh, we made a mistake.’ I know it sounds materialistic but it’s not. We were just so excited.”

Then there’s the not-so-little issue of accommodations. The general rule? No alternates in the Olympic Village. That means Williams and all the Rio 2016 alternates will miss out on the 3,600 luxury apartments, rec rooms, spas, swimming pools, state-of-the-art gyms, private sections on Barra da Tijuca beach, buffets, friendships, and the festive sense of belonging that comes with an Olympic credential. “The Olympic Village was like Neverland compared to where we stayed,” says Morehouse. “I didn’t want to leave when I got there.” Yet he had to. Only able to visit on a guest pass, Morehouse had to relish his five hours in the Village.

STANDS

There are exceptions. Kintzer lucked out and found herself sharing a Village apartment with two US divers and a whitewater rafter. Others, like soccer player Meghan Klingenberg, took matters into their own hands. “I was supposed to stay at some dorm somewhere,” she says. “I couldn’t do it. I lasted one night. So I called my teammate Becky and asked, ‘Do you have a couch?’ She did.”

Most, however, remain on the outside looking in, staying in places they call “the almost Olympic Village” or “my building of shame.” In 2012, the women’s gymnastic alternates resided and trained in Birmingham, 125 miles from London. “We only saw our teammates during their competition,” says Li. “And we never went to the Olympic Village at all.” The exclusion doesn’t only apply to two-legged alternates. In Athens, equestrian eventing alternate Will Faudree’s horse, Antigua, was permitted to board at the Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre but instead was housed in temporary stabling at a nearby farm.

Occasionally the second-class-citizen treatment comes from unexpected sources. “There was definitely a different vibe between the team and the alternates,” says Li. “It was difficult to deal with some girls who’d made the team. They didn’t understand how much it meant to me to go to London and that I was actually proud to be an alternate.”

The sharpest daggers don’t always stem from the obvious slights. Sometimes it’s the smaller moments that appear innocuous but resonate long after the closing ceremonies. “The thing that hurt the most,” says Morehouse, is that “they took a team picture and didn’t allow us in it. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I trained four years and fell $30,000 in debt to make it there and they made a concerted effort not to have us in the picture. We understood we were separate and different, but removing us was a refusal to acknowledge how hard we’d worked.”

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As an alternate, Williams could spend her time in Rio at the Copacabana Beach nightclub, but she won’t. She’s going to spend hours every day in the Maria Lenk pool, standing an arm’s length from teammates Koroleva and Alvarez. She’ll rehearse and master every second of their routine. She’s going to eat properly, get eight-plus hours of sleep, and keep a smile on her face. “Spares can’t have negative attitudes,” explains Teti. He’s witnessed how the wrong demeanor can create distractions for the team. “In ’96 one of the alternates kept talking to the press: ‘I should have been in the boat. I got screwed.’”

Some alternates are used to helping their respective teams. When coaching at the Olympics, Teti would put alternates in boats every practice to give other rowers much-needed extra recovery. Klingenberg and her fellow alternates would pretend they were Japan or France during practices so the starting squad could prepare for their opponents’ specific styles of play. “Overall it felt like a business trip until the games began,” says Li.

“We had to help scout all the other field hockey games,” says Kintzer. That meant waking up at 6am, wolfing down breakfast and getting to the field. One alternate sat in the tower shooting video while the other parked themselves in the stands and punched an iPad to record every pass, turnover, shot, and score. That meant finding time for team meetings, team practice, more scouting, eating lunch, working out, even more scouting, downloading scouting reports, and eating dinner. “We wouldn’t get to bed until 11pm. Every night.”

Not to say alternates don't enjoy themselves. They do. “My goal was to have so much fun I’d rather be an alternate than in the boat,” says Teti. In Sydney, the US delegation took gymnast Tasha Schwikert and her fellow alternates on a trip that included parasailing, jet skiing, and swimming with dolphins. On a visit to Old Trafford soccer stadium, Klingenberg met Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand and played ping pong with Brazilian phenom Neymar. Kintzer had the best moment of all when her boyfriend Michael Briggs flew over from the States, dropped down on one knee, and proposed. “I went to the Olympic Village and told all my teammates,” she says.

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Unlike the countless books that have been written about the Olympic Games and athletes alike, no such tomes exist about alternates. There is no list of names of Americans who have served as Olympic alternates (one notable exception: the organization Friends of Rowing History has compiled a list on their website of every oarsman—including alternates—who has gone to the Olympics). No estimated number. No real history at all. The only crumb resembling anything official came from Bill Mallon, founder of sportsreference.com and OlyMADmen, a group dedicated to chronicling Olympic history. “Alternates were at the first modern Olympics in 1896,” says Mallon.

Individual stories, however, exist. There have been alternates old and young. Thirty-six years after winning gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter sprints at the 1912 Stockholm Games, Ralph Craig, at age 59, was named an alternate to the US yachting team. Tasha Schwikert was a mere 15 years old at the 2000 Games. Many went on to fight for freedom, including Forester Clark, who was decorated nine times for valor in World War II, and received the Bronze Star from General Patton himself. Some, like Ute Gaehler, dared to find freedom. As an East German toboggan alternate at the 1964 Innsbruck Austria Games, Gaehler snuck out one night while her teammates were celebrating and fled to West Germany.

There have been alternate twins: rowers Ann and Marie Jonik at the 1976 Montreal Games. Lou Gellerman, an alternate rower in the 1960 Rome Olympics, went on to become the public address announcer for the Washington Huskies. Former equestrian alternate (1952 Games) turned restaurant executive Norman Brinker is credited with inventing the salad bar.

A handful of alternates went on to fame and varying degrees of fortune. One of the first was Hawaiian-born Duke Kahanamoku, who was named a water polo alternate at age 42. Kahanamoku was a surfing legend, famed waterman, five-time Olympic-medal winner in swimming (between 1912 and 1922), and movie star who appeared in 15 feature films, including Mr. Roberts opposite Jack Lemmon and Henry Fonda.

Boxer Joe Frazier, 1964 alternate, wound up with gold around his neck in Tokyo after Buster Mathis broke his thumb in training. By 1970, Smokin' Joe had become the heavyweight champion of the world—the following year he beat Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Century. Two-time Greco-Roman wrestling alternate Randy Couture found superstardom in MMA. ‘The Natural’ has claimed three UFC heavyweight and two light-heavyweight titles, beating the likes of Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, and Vitor Belfort.

And then there is Erland Van Lidth De Jeude, the 1976 US wrestling alternate. The 6’6” 400-pounder with the bald, bullet-shaped head graduated from MIT, had a 160 IQ, and studied to be an opera singer. But Van Lidth De Jeude cemented his iconic status after going to Hollywood. Roles he played included Terror, the leader of the Fordham Baldies, the ’60s street gang in The Wanderers; the illuminated villain Dynamo in the Schwarzenegger pic Running Man; and Grossberger, the most notorious inmate of the Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder comedy classic Stir Crazy.

“[Being] an alternate is as close as you can get to the Olympic Games without being an Olympian. You’re honored to make it that far. It’s lots of work. You’re there to support your teammates and help bring home the medal for your country, but you don’t get to contribute. And that’s hard for any athlete. You want to compete. You know you could do well. But you can’t. If you weren’t upset you wouldn’t be a competitor. People ask me, ‘Are you an Olympian?’ I tell them no. But I’ve been to the Olympics and not competed.”
—Will Faudree, 2004 alternate, equestrian

“I always believed that I was going to race. That I was part of the team.”
—Mike Teti, 1984 alternate, 1988 and 1992 Olympic team, rowing

“As an alternate you’re like a maybe. You’re not going to be part of it but you are. You’re there with the team but not really part of the team. It’s such a weird thing. Your teammates try to make you feel included but you hardly see them. It’s a feeling of otherness. That’s my team out there. I’m not with them. I can’t connect with them. You always have to explain to people, ‘Oh, I’m just an alternate in case someone gets hurt.’ It’s not a failure, but it’s not what I wanted to achieve. You need a strong person to be in that role.”
—Jaclyn Kintzer, 2012 alternate, 2016 Olympic team, women’s field hockey

“At the end of the day I’m not part of their unit. I tell people I’m training for the Olympics and going to Rio. That’s true. I leave it at that unless conversation develops. Only then do I tell them I’m the alternate. I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve grown a lot. Am I an Olympian or not? My answer is yes. I’m an Olympian in every way that matters. In character. In training. And the fact I probably won’t compete doesn’t matter.”
—Alison Williams, 2016 alternate, synchro

“In many ways it’s the best of times and the worst of times—you’re on the team but not. You don’t really have a purpose. It’s a little bit like being a second-class citizen. It’s not so much people treat you badly; you impose it upon yourself. You want to be competing but feel useless. As a two-time alternate its very much harder the second time. I certainly considered not accepting it. Does it build more character? Hard to say. Is it a good experience? It’s not easy, psychologically. In some ways it’s more difficult than racing. Staying positive. Trying to be helpful. The day-to-day. None of it is easy.”
—Christopher Wood, 1976 and 1984 alternate, rowing

“Everything about being an alternate feels different. Everywhere you go you’re in this nether place. Not an athlete, but also not a spectator, fan, or coach. I went to three Olympic Games. I say I was a three-time Olympic team member but only a two-time Olympian. I have to correct people. ‘Well I’m actually...’.Did I feel like I made it to the Olympics when I was an alternate? I’m almost still not sure. Even after all these years.”
—Tim Morehouse, 2004 alternate, 2008 and 2012 Olympic team, fencing

Every day, every hour, it’s in the back of every alternate’s mind. Someone could get hurt. People get sick. Strange shit occurs. “You say to yourself, it can happen,” says two-time alternate rower Christopher Wood. There was the 1972 Swiss spare that won a silver medal after one of the rowers in a pair broke his collarbone in a bike accident, and the epidemic of stomach sickness at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

Then there was the case of Canadian speed skaters Gilmore Junio and Denny Morrison. During the trials, former world champion Morrison fell in the 1000 meter event, and only qualified as an alternate. In Sochi, Junio gave Morrison his spot in the 1000 meter. Morrison won silver.

It doesn’t happen often, but there is not a single alternate in history who hasn’t hoped for it. Some, perhaps, have prayed for divine intervention to help make it happen. It’s the most memorable moment of their Olympic lives: they are going to compete.

Tasha Schwikert vividly remembers that Sydney 2000 night. “It was late, five days before competition,” she recalls. Schwikert’s teammate Morgan White had been battling an injury throughout training. Unable to put weight on her foot, White was deemed unable to perform. Her Olympics were over, but Schwikert’s were just beginning. “My coach Cassie Rice came into my room and said, ‘I want to talk to you.’” Rice told the then-15-year-old gymnast that the US coaches had voted and decided to put her on the team.

Her first reaction was shock. “It was a crazy feeling,” says Schwikert. “I said, ‘Are you joking?’” But that shock was mixed with sadness. For every alternate called up to compete, an Olympic team member’s dream ends. White and Schwikert, the two youngest on the USA Gymnastics national team, were good friends. “My heart hurt for her,” says Schwikert. “She’d worked her whole life for it. I never thought she’d not be able to compete.”

But alternates can’t dwell on the past. They have to get ready to perform. “I had a mental switch go off,” says Schwikert. “From ‘I’m here to be an alternate’ to ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in the Olympics!’” It’s a whirlwind, at times a blur. Schwikert quickly realized that serving as an alternate to that point had been an advantage. “I didn’t have any pressure on me so I’d been training really well. Hitting all my routines.” Nor did she flinch when the pressure was on. The 10th grader was the most consistent of the American female gymnasts. She was the only one not to fall. In two weeks time, she morphed from a relatively unknown understudy to a household name.

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If you’re an Olympic alternate you don’t get a credential. If you don’t get a credential you don’t get access. If you don’t get access you’re not allowed in the locker room for pregame speeches. You don’t sit alongside your teammates during competition. You don’t get to congratulate them as they bow their heads and receive their medals. You are not part of the US national team. “That part sucked,” says Klingenberg. “Because you want to cheer on your team. Even if you’re just on the bench you want to be there giving them high fives, encouragement. If you see something on the pitch that might help you can tell them.”

Take the 2012 women’s soccer semifinals at Old Trafford. Canada versus the United States. Fans witnessed a hat trick. It was a stunning come-from-behind 4–3 victory when Alex Morgan scored in the 122nd minute. The match is considered one of the most memorable in women’s soccer history. Where was Klingenberg? Forty rows back at midfield. “I must have aged a few years,” she jokes. “It was incredible to watch but different when they’re your teammates and there's so much on the line. For spectators it’s great. But sitting up there was painful for me.”

It’s a pain that can lead to some dark places. Rower Amanda Polk knows—in 2010 and 2011 she’d won gold medals at the World Championships in the women’s eight, but lost her spot in the 2012 Olympic boat. Named an alternate, she watched from a London pub as her teammates won gold. It was her birthday. “It was surreal,” describes Polk. “I felt like I was in a black hole. Questioning myself. What had I done wrong? What could I have done better? Do I want to row anymore? Should I?”

When the women’s soccer team beat Japan in the finals it didn’t get any easier for Klingenberg. She and her three fellow alternates slipped down to the benches but were forbidden to go on the pitch. They were only 50 yards away but it felt like miles as Hope Solo and Abby Wambach and the rest of Team USA in their black Nike sweatsuits clenched hands and stepped up onto a long podium. “Gold medalists!” proclaimed the announcer, as the players bowed their heads to receive their medals. “That was really humbling. Grounding,” says Klingenberg. “I was so proud of them, had such joy for them. But I also had a twinge of jealousy. That’s something I’ve trained for my whole life. I couldn’t have been happier for them. I didn’t want to switch one of them out for me. I wanted to be with them.”

On August 21, the closing ceremonies will be held at Macaranã Stadium, home of the Brazil national soccer team. The 27 United States alternates will not take part. Some will have returned stateside. Others will be traveling in more exotic Brazilian outposts, such as Florianópolis in the south and Manaus to the north. The rest will likely end their Olympics as it began: watching the pageantry on TV. Yet none of the alternates will leave Brazil empty-handed.

Many bring back with them a deep, primordial urgency. A need that will compel them to commit and train and compete harder than they ever have. “I had to leave Athens thinking that this might be as close as I’ll ever come to the Olympics,” says Morehouse. “I’d have to tell the story my whole life of how I was almost an Olympian. I think I was unbelievably motivated for four years.” Kintzer agrees. “The Games lit a fire under me,” she explains. “I’ve never been so determined to achieve. I told myself, ‘I’m coming back to the Olympics and playing!’”

Some return home with questions of confidence, self-worth, and purpose. “It used to bother me a lot in my 20s,” says Faudree, now 36. “But I worked with enough sports psychologists over the years who taught me that if I’m not good enough without the Olympic Games, I’ll never be good enough with them. It’s something I really focus on every day, in training and competing. I want to better myself and my horses every time out, and if one day I can be Olympian then I can be Olympian. But if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t. There’s nothing I can do about it. You either get bitter or get better. I want to get better.”

Alternates never seem to bring home regret. Not a single athlete says they shouldn’t have done it, or that they’d be better off today having refused the offer. Because whether they know it or not, the experience has made each and every one of them a stronger person. Serving as an Olympic alternate might even build more character than winning an Olympic medal.

“I recently spoke to an alternate from the 1984 Games,” says Kintzer. “She told me that it’s a very small group of athletes who compete in the Olympics but it’s an even smaller number who are alternates. Not many people have the will, character, and strength to do it. So that makes us all part of a cool club that nobody understands unless they go through it themselves.”


Will Faudree is still competing full time and hopes to make the 2020 Olympic eventing squad.

Jaclyn Kintzer Briggs was named as the goalkeeper for the 2016 women’s field hockey Olympic squad.

Megan Klingenberg plays for the Portland Thorns FC and was named to the 2016 women’s soccer Olympic squad.

Anna Li is a full time coach at Legacy Elite Gymnastics in Illinois.

Tim Morehouse competed in the men’s sabre event at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. He won a silver medal in 2008. He’s the founder of the NYC-based Tim Morehouse Fencing Club and Fencing in Schools, a nonprofit organization that introduces fencing to high schools around the country.

Amanda Polk is a member of the women’s US rowing team and was named to the women’s eight for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Tasha Schwikert is a judicial law clerk in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Nevada.

Mike Teti competed in two Olympic Games (1988 and 1992) and won a bronze medal in the men’s eight in 1992. He coached the men’s US national rowing team from 1997 to 2008 and is currently the head coach at University of California, Berkeley.

Christopher Wood is an actuary and resides in Portland, Oregon.


This story was made possible by the support of Dick’s Sporting Goods, who employ hundreds of US Olympic and Paralympic Contenders, including three alternates in Rio, in pursuit of their Team USA dreams.