Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winner Season 9 is officially under way. The contestants have been wanting to get into this program and dreaming of what it will do for them, but now the reality is here. Now they start wondering: “What have I gotten myself into?”

The first weekend starts out with their mobility assessment on Saturday morning. This assessment is part of the before picture to help them see how much the program helps them improve.

These tests also help the staff know where there may need to take precautions taken to make sure no one gets injured. It is exciting as the contestants come to the assessment one team at a time. This is the first time they meet as a team. As they go through these tests they start developing a bond with the rest of their team. This year’s teams show great character and excitement. Each member opened up with the rest of their team and relationships started to grow. Commitments started to develop to help each other make it in the program.

After their half-hour assessment they were sent home to rest and prepare for a busy day. Sunday finally arrives and the contestants start coming at their assigned times. What a sight to walk into! As they entered Spiece Fitness they see the hallway filled with cutouts of former contestants as they looked when they started the program. They then were able to meet these alumni members and see how much they have changed.

No time to stop though, they are brought to the photo room to have their picture taken in their street clothes. Picture taken and now brought back to get their bag containing their notebook, shirt, and other goodies. Still no time to rest. Need to change into their Smallest Winner shirt and head back for more pictures in their official shirts and then when all their team is ready it is time for their team picture. Is this how celebrities feel with all the photographers around?

fwsw s9 group

Next, they are given a guided tour of Spiece, the place they will call home for 15 weeks. The final spot of the tour is the spin room which has been turned into the FWSW orientation room for the day. They are shown the row they are to sit in as they watch videos of last season’s Smallest Winner’s program. While waiting for all to get there they have time to meet some of the other contestants and alumni.

There is also an opportunity to grab a lunch from the Bistro if they didn’t bring anything and have some lunch to eat while they waited. The tables at the Bistro got filled as teams sit together talking and alumni joined them to help put them at ease.

Finally, orientation takes place. For the first time they find out how many people are involved in the program as the trainers, nutritionists, behaviorists, run coaches, and staff are introduced.

A list is shown of the many groups that support this program through their sponsorship. It becomes very clear that this program is no small, fly-by-night operation. As people share about the program, the contestants are encouraged to trust the staff for they know what they are doing. This program will be demanding but it will also produce results if the contestants give their all to it.

Many of the alumni are there and share their words of insight from their time in the program. So much comes at the contestants. They hear words of encouragement as well as words describing there is a lot waiting ahead for them.

fwsw s9-orientation

Finally, a special immunity idol is revealed. What is the purpose of this idol? How is it earned? What power does it have? They are told they will have to wait until the first weigh-in to find out the plans for this idol. Even the alumni do not know its secrets because this is the first year that an idol has existed.

Finally, orientation is over. Does that mean it is time to go home? No there are still more pictures to be taken. Pictures of the staff, of the alumni, of the teams with their nutritionists, and the big group pictures. Yes, a lot of pictures have been taken today, but there will be many more to be done. Their travel through these 15 weeks will be well documented to show what they went through and how far they have come. Anyone who hates their pictures taken will need to get over it. Candid shots will be taken as well as group shouts in serious and funny poses. Welcome to the world of FWSW and enjoy the camera.

Well the weekend is now over. The week ahead is a week of preparation. Need to go and have their initial blood work done. They also need to make their way to Three Rivers Running Company and get fitted for running shoes for the program. Running shoes, that’s right. Can’t forget that they end the program with a half marathon!

Reality is here. One week of preparation and then comes their initial weigh-in and their first week of training. Hopefully each one will get the rest they can this week, because for the next 15 weeks they will be busy working on changing their lives.

written by FWSW alum Richard Dickerman

“As a seasoned veteran, whether it’s running the roads through fresh-fallen snow or running the trails, I enjoy being on the team, racing, and sharing the passion of running with others. That has made my life special.”

Mark Furkis


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