Fort Carlson, Colorado –
FORT CARSON, Colo. – Growing up with two older and larger brothers who routinely wrestled with her, this Colorado National Guard Solder turned around what was once teasing into a world-class career.
28-year old military policeman originally with the 220th Military Police Company, Sgt. Whitney Conder, will be representing the COARNG in the 2016 Olympic Games August 14-21 as the Women's free-style wrestling alternate in the 53 kilogram weight class.
"It's a great thing to be able to make the Olympic trials finals and to be able to come out number two," said Conder. It's definitely the best that I've done so far, so I'm happy with how I did this time."
She has been competing since she was 8 years old, but it all started way before that when her brothers, who were also wrestlers, began to pick on her and wrestle as soon as she could walk.
In elementary school in Washington, she saw early success wrestling against boys since her school didn't have enough girls to compete against. Loaded with that confidence, she continued training and winning throughout high school to the tune of three National Championships and the 2007 Junior World Championship.
Her accomplishments include a long list of championships and victories starting in 2006 when she came in second and third in the FILA Junior Nationals, to winning the 2014 US Open team trials, Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup Champion, the 2015 Pan Am games Championship and the US World Team Trials Championship.
Her foray into the military combined her love of the sport of wrestling and her call to serve her nation. Conder's interest in the World Class Athlete Program located at Fort Carson lead her to the Colorado Army National Guard as well.
"I had competed against some of the other wrestlers who were in the WCAP program and I had decided that I wanted to be a Soldier first, and then try to follow my Olympic dreams as well", said Conder. "I love being a part of the military, it's just an amazing thing for me".
As far as the challenges that come with being a Soldier and an Olympian, she says that her team has to learn to eat right, get the proper amount of sleep and train while on the go. She also said that she has visited 30 countries since she has been a part of WCAP.
"We really focus on those three things of being able to sleep, eat right and train right so when we go to competitions, it's just like it is when we are in the United States."
All the training she has received and overcoming challenges throughout her life will come into play next month as she will be facing her biggest challenge yet. Her biggest focus however, is not on being a tourist or the Zika virus in Rio, it is supporting the US athletic team.
"I'm just excited to get this opportunity to be the alternate and is an amazing spot for me because the last Olympic trials I took fourth so I did better this time around."
Her spirit is something that inspires the people she competes with and the Soldiers she serves alongside with. Her final thoughts are something we all can all take to heart.
"I'm grateful for this time in the Army and being able to serve my country and also be able to serve the US and show them what I can do. I'm just grateful for everything that I have."