Shaye Hatchette moved to Gainesville in September with one suitcase, two backpacks and dreams of qualifying for the next Summer Olympics.
Fresh off being selected from a field of 90 hopefuls who appeared on a two-part reality show “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful”, which aired Nov. 24-25 on NBC Sports, the vivacious 22-year-old from Fort Gibson, Oklahoma dove head first into training at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park as a sprint kayak hopeful for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
The kicker to the whole story? Hatchette has no background in paddling.
Her closest experience on the water was rowing at the University of Central Oklahoma, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2018.
However, it’s been a lifelong dream to make it to the Olympics.
“As a kid, I loved watching the Olympics and how it was a way of bringing people together,” said Hatchette, who as a child idolized Team USA gold medal gymnasts Shawn Johnson, Shannon Miller and Aly Raisman.
However, her path to the Olympics is going to be in a boat not on the balance beam.
And she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
So, if it meant moving 800-miles east to a town where she only knew her training coach, Morgan House, so be it.
“This entire experience is a dream come true,” said Hatchette, who plans to remain in Gainesville until 2020 and train with the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club.
From the jump, Hatchette knew she made the right decision moving to Georgia. The new friends she’s met have made the transition much easier.
“I love the sunrises and sunsets you have in Georgia,” said Hatchette. “All the colors in the sky are just beautiful.”
A three-sport athlete in college, Hatchette compiled a last-minute video in May for the show, after seeing an ad on Facebook the final day for applicants to send in a five-minute clip highlighting their qualifications. She never expected to make the cut, despite having a wide-ranging athletic background in swimming, track and field, soccer and gymnastics.
But she did.
And in the final week of July, she took part in training and conditioning at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, she was hand picked by
Gainesville’s House, who serves as the American Canoe Association’s director of high performance and competition, and was also on hand in Colorado to represent the US Olympic Committee to pick the most qualified athlete for the paddle sports.
According to Hatchette, the evaluation was intense in Colorado. She ran sprints. Completed timed races on an indoor-rowing machine. Did lots of agility work. Hatchette even tested her merit in the ring with boxing.
When it was all said and done, Hatchette had proved she was an elite athlete.
Before going to Colorado, Hatchette worked to fine-tune her conditioning for six weeks with the high school track coach of her mother, Cherita, in Oklahoma.
On the final day, House took to the stage and announced Hatchette as his selection for the sprint kayak spot to train with Team USA, which was all part of the final episode of the show that aired last Sunday. Once her name was called, Hatchette took to the stage and was gifted a Team USA jacket.
“She was a really good competitor, but it was her mental attitude that tipped my decision in her favor,” said House. “I could tell she wanted it.”
Once filming and training was complete, Hatchette had to keep from telling anyone that she was picked, due to television disclosure rules.
When the show aired, she was able to share in her success with everyone.
“It (was) a big secret for a couple months now,” Hatchette said. “It’s a relief to have that over.”
Once House made his decision, it set the wheels in motion for the reality show winner to move to Gainesville. First, they talked and hammered out the details of their coach-athlete partnership.
Hatchette decided on her own that she wanted to relocate to Gainesville, where she trains on the water twice daily and works a part-time job to offset living expenses with a host family.
Teaching Hatchette how to paddle started with the basics of learning how to balance in a boat, which is extremely unstable for a novice, she said.
House started his pupil in a boat with a wider base to get used to the strokes and body positioning.
Once she got the hang of that, she moved into a boat similar to one she will compete in.
Right now, Hatchette does training with the Masters program, comprised of 50-and-over paddlers with the LCKC.
“The good thing is that she’s had no bad habits to break,” House said. “Shaye’s a great person who is really dedicated to being the best she can be.
“She’s come so far.”
Making the move easier for Shaye has been having such a close family back at home.
“My parents have been so supportive,” she said.