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'Not really much politics': Olympic sports take center stage

Posted at 5:38 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 18:38:03-04

DE PERE — The Summer Olympic Games thrust swimming, gymnastics and track and field into the spotlight every four years — but for many youth athletes in Northeast Wisconsin, these sports are part of their everyday life.

  • We spoke with a handful of local Olympic sports stars in our neighborhood of De Pere: Starz Academy gymnast Addison Fritsch, state champion swimmer Carly Larson, dynamic track and field athletes Andrew and Aiden Cartier and distance runner Grady Lenn
  • The athletes cited objectivity of results, camaraderie, and a mix of individual and team components as reasons they were drawn to their sports
  • Each mentioned the mental aspect of their sports as its biggest challenge, as the individual nature of each necessitates internal motivation and focus
  • The US Olympic Trials in swimming, track and gymnastics will all air live on NBC 26 in June
  • Video shows each athlete training at facilities in De Pere and Ashwaubenon

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast script)

Olympic sports like track, swimming and gymnastics are not always the first choice for a youth athlete — but they can teach unique life lessons.

We're in De Pere reporting on the unique challenges facing young athletes in Olympic sports.

"You're trying to overcome your fear, when it's something that's challenging or it's new," Addison Fritsch said.

They might still practice with coaches and teammates — but in competition, it's just them and the hurdles. Them and the lane. Them and the beam.

Like gymnast Addison Fritsch.

"You gotta put yourself in," Fritsch said. "You have to have the confidence and the right mindset to do the skill."

Addison practices gymnastics at Starz Academy 16 hours per week. She likes having a team behind her.

"I feel more confident with them," she said.

And winning banners — but knows her motivation has to come from within.

"Everything is mental," Fritsch said. "Because if you always have a good mindset throughout the practice, it's gonna go great."

Addison's sport will take center stage this summer at the Paris Olympics.

So will state champion swimmer Carly Larson's sport.

"Olympics is unlike any other thing on a world stage," Larson said. "So I think it's definitely important that swimming gets its time in the spotlight."

Carly says she hated swimming when she first tried it — but eventually fell in love with it.

"There is always fear involved, like, 'oh, what if it doesn't go as I planned?'" Larson said. "But in the end, it's always just you. And whatever you decide to put in, whatever you put in, you get out."

These young athletes, like star De Pere distance runner Grady Lenn, say they like what they do — and know it falls on them to do their best.

"You can't blame coaches," Lenn said. "There's not really much politics to it. It's really, 'can you run the time and can you beat this person?' There's not really much excuse to it."

The same goes Grady's teammate — the second-ranked triple jumper in the state of Wisconsin, Andrew Cartier.

"If you're in like a tough situation where you have one more jump to make it to state or something like that, it's definitely hard mentally," Cartier said. "But you have to block out all your bad jumps, and just take one jump at a time."

Track and field has the second-highest amount of participants nationwide on the boys side, trailing only football, and most participants on the girls side, according to NCAA statistics — meaning the sport's popularity is strong, but it's also more difficult to compete at the college or Olympic level.

The reality is, most athletes don't get close to making it to the Olympic Games.

Carly, a Liberty commit, is part of the 9% of high school swimmers that will make it to the NCAA — but even if every Olympic swimmer was an NCAA product, only 4% of them would make it to the Olympics.

"If I say like, 'Oh, I'm aiming for an Olympic Trials cut this year,' they're like, 'Oh, so you're going to the Olympics,'" Larson said. "I'm like, 'No, not quite.'"

But that doesn't stop these young athletes like Addison from dreaming.

"I really want to try to get to the Olympics, if I'm doing really good at college," Fritsch said. "If I keep pushing myself forward, it will help me get to the higher levels."

The Summer Olympic games in Paris start in July, but before that, the US Olympic Trials in track, swimming and gymnastics are all coming up in June — and all the action will be right here on NBC 26.