Sunday, December 15, 2013

First Half of the Season Complete!

4th Place Finish with Jazmine Fenlator in both Park City, Utah and Lake Placid, New York


Monday, December 2, 2013

Lots to be thankful for

I slowly woke up, reached down to my left hip and felt a bulky brace down my leg.  I immediately started to cry.  Before going into surgery the doctors had told me that if I had the brace on they had to do more work on my hip than they had expected and my recovery time would be longer.   When you are an elite athlete every day counts, especially when you are recovering from an injury.   

After coming off a stressful and exciting Olympic season in 2010 I was struggling to maintain motivation training for the upcoming season.  I decided to enter in a local weightlifting meet.  It was exciting and allowed me to have something other than bobsled to train for.  I learned the lifts as best I could in the month leading up to the meet and managed to use my strength developed from years of bobsledding to complete a decent amount of weight.  It was exactly what I needed to find the competitive fire leading into the next season. 

Subsequently after the meet I started to feel pain in my left hip in the deep squat position.  I backed off on a few of my lifts hoping the pain was muscular and that it would go away with a treatment plan.  Unfortunately it did not.  I quietly limped my way through the following season hoping I could maintain my position and performance.  I managed to complete the season but knew if I wanted any chance of improving and having a chance at competing in Sochi a drastic measure was going to be needed. 

I was terrified this was going to be the end of my bobsled career.  I really did not tell anyone on my team but instead went under the knife four days after returning home from the season to repair a torn labrum in my hip.  Dr. Safran and his team at Stanford Medical took great care of me and managed to calm my nerves with their long history of success stories.   As I laid on the table choosing the music the medical team was going to listen to, I reiterated how important it was for my 'new hip' to be fast (I am sure that did not add any pressure!)

On this Thanksgiving I was able to reflect back on that difficult time in my life and remember how many things, especially my health, I have to be thankful for.  I am so thankful to everyone who helped me fully recover from surgery.  Dr. Safran and his team dutifully answered all my crazy post-operative questions including if I could do pull ups days after surgery.  The U.S. Olympic Committee Sports Medicine team pushed me in my rehab and held me back when I wanted to move forward too quickly.   And of course my family who has always 100 percent supported every decision I have made.  My father helped to comfort me with his orthopedic knowledge and confidence in my physicians.  My mother took her nursing role very seriously and no matter how stubborn I was she reminded me that I needed her help.  I am thankful every day that I am healthy and I am able to continue to compete for my country. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ice Queen

Halloween is a time when a mask can be put on and a different persona can be created and lived out.  Whatever costume or personality you can imagine, you can be.  I love being creative and constructing my own costumes on Halloween.  When I was a child I remember how exciting it was to pick out my outfit each year.  One year I was determined to be a cowboy, not a cowgirl but a cowboy.  My mother did not push me to be a cowgirl, but instead allowed me to be whatever I wanted to be that Halloween and in every part of my life.  In the past few years I have not been able to create an outfit because I am usually on the road competing. 

This year I just happened to have some time off to come back to Colorado Springs.  Of course I had to pop back into the Boys and Girls Club and see what the kids came up with for their Halloween costumes.  My favorite costume was a little girl who was a police officer.  She really embraced the identity of a police officer as she cruised through the club saving people and eliminating ‘crime.’  She dutifully made sure everyone waited patiently in line for snack and picked up any trash left behind. For that day she was able to pretend to be something different. 

Just like the young police officer, I morph into a different identity when I am competing.  I put on my costume; my speed suit, bobsled spikes and helmet and become the ‘Ice Queen’.  When I am the Ice Queen I am able to let go of any insecurities or doubt I may have.  I am able to be someone 100 percent confident in my abilities.  The Ice Queen does not care about anything, but pushing the bobsled as fast as she can.  When I am her, I am unbeatable.  Not only does putting on a uniform for a day allow a person to become more confident it also allows them to see what is possible.  Halloween is another opportunity for kids to dream to be something creative, unrealistic or even an Olympic athlete


Monday, October 21, 2013

Boys and Girls Club interview

1.You are an amazing mentor and leader to kids. Did you have a mentor when you were young? If so, who? Did he/she tell you anything that resonates with you to this day?

I am very lucky to have incredible parents.  Both of them have supported me with whatever I have wanted to do and have always pushed for me to create goals.  They have allowed me to dream big and to recognize that I can do or be whatever I want.  I hope this is something I can also instill in the kids at the Boys and Girls Club.  I want them to know that they can do whatever they set their minds on.

2.You're a very busy individual, and time is important to you. How has spending your time at BGCPPR provided value in your life?
My time at the Boys and Girls Club has helped to ground me and remind me that there are much bigger things in life than training and bobsled.  I spend a lot of time focusing on myself and the things I need to do to be a better athlete, so it is nice to step away from that and spend time helping other people.   I leave the club motivated to work harder in my training.  I want the kids to be proud of what I am doing and I want to show them that with hard work anything is possible.

3.You often talk about the need to "dig deep." What does this mean to you? How does one "dig deep"?
Digging deep is pushing yourself beyond the point you ever thought you could go.  For me, that often means pushing my body beyond its physical limitations and finding a way to convince my mind that my body can be pushed to that place.  This can be applied to any aspect of life.  It is about using your mind to dictate what in your life is possible and pushing yourself past any boundaries.    

4.You started your fundraising campaign with $5 from your sister. What advice can you give for those of us looking for support - not only financial - from our family, friends, and/or community?
I have learned that there are people out there that want to help and want to be a part of something that is important.  It is often hard to ask for help, but you will never receive it if you don’t ask.  My community has been incredibly supportive and is something I am thankful for every day.  It is also important to share your success with the people who have supported you.  I really want my community to feel they are as much a part of the Olympic movement as I am.  

5.What has been one of your biggest disappointments as an athlete? What can kids do to better deal with disappointment in life?
I always wanted to be a collegiate athlete and at the time my passion was soccer.   I did everything that I could do to make that soccer team.  I was one of the last people to be cut from the team.  At the time I was devastated, but I learned a lot from that experience and I believe that it happened for a reason.  I learned that once one path is closed it does not mean that you cannot still complete your goal.  I ended up trying out for the track team and had a successful track career.  It is easy to get discouraged when things don’t go the way you want, but there is always another way to make things happen.  I never would have thought I would be an Olympic Bobsledder, but I always wanted to be an Olympian, so I found a way to make it happen.

 6.What is the scariest thing you have had to do? Are you glad you did it?
 In 2006 I went out to Lake Placid, New York and had my first try out of the bobsled team.  I was terrified.  I had not even considered how the actual bobsled ride would be, but was instead scared of making a fool out of myself.  I was going to be face to face with some of the best bobsledders in the world and here I was attempting to insert myself with this elite group of athletes.  I knew if I did not take the risk and go out to the try out I would regret it my entire life.  I am glad I was able to put my fears at bay and complete the try out! 

Post Card sent on 10/15/2013!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Is it worth the cost?

I know many Olympian and Olympic hopefuls that have spent their entire life’s savings and are in significant debt because of the cost of their sport.  This year alone I will have spent thousands of dollars on Ice time, supplements, travel and coaching.  This of course does not include the other unexpected expenses like dental fees or basic vehicle necessity that life will slap you with.  I am one of the luckier athletes.  I may not have dental insurance, but I do have health insurance through the United States Olympic Committee that covers most of my basic health costs and I am fortunate enough to spend my summers training at an Olympic Training Center where my living expenses are covered. 

Not all Olympic hopefuls are as fortunate.  Skeleton Athlete Annie O’Shea just recently turned 26 years old and is now not only faced with paying for her housing to participate in Olympic trials along with her expenses for the season, but is also needing to find a way to cover basic insurance.  Can you imagine sliding head first on ice without health insurance? 

Teammate Katelyn Kelly an upcoming bobsled driver has been in and out of Olympic Training Center housing throughout the summer and has spent countless days staying at a friend’s house and has even been caught in town sleeping in her car.  Both she and Annie have spent their summer waitressing 40 hours a week to pay for necessities to allow them to compete at all this season.  How is an athlete supposed to perform at the highest level when they are not getting adequate training and recovery?
These are just two of the many similar stories of the financial sacrifices made by athletes in hope of earning that elusive spot at the Olympic Games.  As difficult as it may be to shell out the cash each year and how stressful it is to not know where you will sleep it  is comforting to know that each and every day no matter what you do anything you can to get closer to the dream. 

I used to tease my teammates of being frugal, but the reality is we can afford only what we need.  We learn to get scrappy and live on very little means.  I love this sport and that is why I do it.  I have never done it for the pay check or lack thereof.  Katelyn and Annie may have a tougher path because of their financial burden, but like me I hope they think the cost is worth the reward.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Guest blog by Wendy Azevedo

Olympians Don’t Just Happen, They Are Created

A guest blog by my mom, Wendy Azevedo

I’m terrified of roller coasters and ferris wheels; I hate heights.  I’ve never been on or desired to be a part of an athletic team.  I don’t like to exercise, don’t own any lycra, and my “appreciation” of the great outdoors can be summed up in three words…………..“NOT MY THING.”

How, then, can I truly claim to share a genetic code with a member of the USA Women’s Bobsled team?  Not just any member.  Emily is an Olympian.  She was one of six women that competed in the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, and has been a rank and file member of the USA team for seven years. She scales the tops of mountains only to ride in the back end of what appears to be the gut of a canoe that should be slowly making it’s way down a quiet stream instead of traveling at anywhere from 4-6 g’s at 80-90 mph.

 Having had four daughters who have all been successful in the sporting world, it is not unusual for me to be at a sporting event, or awards ceremony and get asked the question, “So, what sports have you been involved in?”  I try to smile when I say “none,” but the confused look that I get back often makes we wonder if I should have tried to lie instead.  Is it truly possible for an Olympic athlete to come from a home where the only trophies and medals that are displayed are a result of the hard work of the children in the family?

 As an only child, my exposure to the sporting world was limited.  I never experienced the joy of cheering on a sibling at a sporting event or the angst of competing with them to be the best.  Instead, I learned that to truly be the best that I could be, I needed to compete with myself.  And so I did; on a daily basis.

So what do I bring to the table when it comes to creating an Olympian?  I may not have the athletic background, the “sports gene,” or the body structure to contribute to the mix, but to go to the Olympics you must have confidence, believe in yourself, have learned discipline and an understanding that with a strong work ethic and determination you can be anything you want to be.  Combine that with passion and the understanding that if you go to bed at night feeling like you have given your all, you are number one no matter what the scoreboard says.  I gave her that, and she wears it well.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Never Ever Give Up!

I don’t know Diana Nyad nor had I followed her extreme dream before this her fifth and final attempt of swimming the 110 miles from Cuba to Florida.  I found myself glued to the television cheering the 64 year old on and tearing up as she limped her way up the Florida shore.   Swimming this far in open water is something that I would never have the desire to do, but it was something she dreamed of accomplishing for a solid chunk of her life.  She was determined to never ever give up on this dream.  The mind is a very powerful tool.   It is incredible what can be accomplished when you convince your mind the impossible is possible.  Diana had the courage and will to try and do something that many would say is super human.  There was not another athlete entered in her race but she was in her own race against her own body, fighting to complete the difficult swim before her body was fully depleted and shut down.   She convinced her mind that this was a task that she would be able to perform.

I can 100 percent relate to Diana Nyad and her message of never giving up.  Even after four previous failures and many doubters she believed deep in her heart that this was something she was going to accomplish.  This is a woman who never ever stopped believing in her dream.  She achieved her extreme dream.   I too have had what I thought to be an intangible dream.  My dream is not one that has me in the ocean face to face with sharks, but it does have me sliding down an icy track up to 90mph.  I grew up in Chico, California, which is known more for the brewery Sierra Nevada than it is for bobsledders.  Although my path may have been unorthodox I had my own extreme dream of becoming an Olympian.   

Diana Nyad had a major support team behind her not just to make sure she stayed healthy, but to support her and to believe in her dream with her.  In 2006 I left California and headed to New York terrified, but brave enough to chase something some thought impossible.  Before I left my mom gave me a small picture frame with a message on it.  To this day I carry this frame with me, which simply says, “Believe in yourself” and display it at each of our stops.  She had also written a note on the back that said, “I believe in you.”  My support team is just as important as each day of training is.  Diana Nyad would never have been able to accomplish this incredible feat alone.  She had huge team behind her that believed in her maybe more than she even believed in herself.  We cannot achieve the impossible alone, but we can do it.  As Diana Nyad said, “Never, ever give up.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Athlete Life

My life as an athlete has been a small amount of luck, a hell of a lot of hard work and an indefinite amount of sacrifice.  I wish I could say that an Olympic athlete’s life is as glamorous as society would assume, but our jobs are a bit unorthodox and often times leave us with no stability. When I started sliding I never expected this being a ‘career’ choice that was going to make me money, but instead I was lured in my the idea of competing for my country.  After my first season in the sport I had 12 cents in my bank account.  Thanks to the support of my hometown Chico, California I was able to raise money and train full time as an athlete.  This ultimately helped for me to get the training equipment and coaching I needed to make the 2010 Olympic Team.  I remember lying wide awake in bed after walking in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in 2010.  I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning.   This was the moment I concluded that every single sacrifice was worth it for that one moment.  I knew then that I wanted to work even harder to work towards earning a spot to Sochi, Russia in 2014. 

After the Vancouver Games I have grown physically and mentally and truly learned how to be an elite athlete.  It is equally important to focus on recovery and diet as it is the physical training.  Our sport is measured by hundredths, so maintaining a strict sports medicine regimen, food plan and sleep schedule can be what makes the difference between making an Olympic Team and not.  This routine can be cumbersome and usually takes precedence over nights out with friends and family.  At this point I have to be somewhat selfish so that I can perform at the highest level for each individual training session.  I have felt very fortunate over the years to have friends and family who are very understanding and supportive.  They are willing to be ‘part time friends’ while I go after my Olympic dreams. 

There are no words that can explain what it feels like to have U.S.A written on your back.   To me, every workout, every tear shed and every family event missed is worth it for those few seconds that I push the sled knowing I am not just doing it for myself, but for my entire country.  The dream is what pushes me every single day and is what helps me to make the hard decision to put my life on hold.  I now truly understand and have lived the concept ‘for the love of the game.’

To buy cool memorabilia or to make a donation to curb training costs check out my website.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Calling all Athletes!

Elite athletes are constantly under a media microscope and are considered role models in the eyes of society regardless if it is something they desire.  In a world where the tragic stories of Aaron Hernandez and Oscar Pistorious are what’s spread over the television or news of the performance enhancing drug scandals of Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and most recent Tyson Gay are the top stories, it is easy to question if athletes should be considered role models.  So often the media focuses their attention on the negatives of sport rather than the positive.  In a society that places importance on the number of twitter followers rather than performance, I think it is time that athletes step up and take being a role model more seriously.  Obviously, as we have seen all athletes are human and are not immune to making wrong life choices.  Because of this it is even more important for us to reach out to our communities and give kids something positive to emulate.

Many athletes have already worked towards making improvements in their society.  2012 Gold medalist and all around amazing person Tianna Bartoletta has created Club 360 which teaches young girls to live with three core principles; integrity, honor and self-respect.  I can attest to the fact that Tianna lives by the values she is instilling in these young girls and is helping to raise well rounded women.  It is clear that Tianna understands there is more to life than sport and uses her athlete platform wisely as an avenue to inspire and change the world one girl at a time.  Not only has she encouraged young girls to make improvements in their lives, she has also inspired me with her contagious passion for what she is doing. 
Tianna with girls from Club360
Tianna is just one example of many athletes who have already taken issues into their own hands.  KaraPatterson 2-time Olympian and American Record holder just recently selflessly took time away from knee rehab and training to spend countless hours coaching future Olympic throwers at the Iron Wood Camp.  She was not alone, alongside of her were many Olympians and World Team members sharing their passion for throwing with hundreds of young impressionable kids. 
Kara with IronWoodCamp Campers!

I have also witnessed the incredible change and impact athletes can have on youth in our communities with the Pen Pal Project my teammate Jamie Greubel and I have been running.  This program connected the Boys and Girls Club kids with athletes at the Olympic Training Center.  By writing a simple letter each week the athletes have given the kids someone positive that they can look up to and draw inspiration from for their futures.  The athletes have given these kids an outlet to express any issues they have in their lives and have given them an opportunity to have fun and just be kids.  It was refreshing to see the smiles on each and every one of the kids faces as they met their pen pals for lunch this past Friday.
Kids from the Boys & Girls Club  at the OTC

No matter if it is something as small as writing a letter or as time consuming as week at camp, athletes can make a huge impact with any community involvement they have.  Whenever athletes have an opportunity to touch a life regardless of what avenue it is they should take full advantage of it.  We are looked up to whether we like it or not so let’s choose the positive legacy we want to leave.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

To The Bride and Groom!

Because I did not thoroughly read the Chisam/Azevedo Wedding Itinerary I missed the portion under the rehearsal dinner that said ‘wedding party speeches.’  Better late than never?

After taking Biology class in junior high I began to tease Chelsea that she had all of the recessive genes in the family.  I had many reasons for this, (some were not so nice) but the main reason was that my entire family has dark hair and Chelsea as born with blonde hair.  I concluded that either she was the mail man’s kid or she must have all the weaker genes in my family.  Now reflecting back I have realized that I was in fact wrong.  I didn’t know it at the time that Chelsea actually gained the best combination of our parent’s most genuine qualities.
Throughout Chelsea’s High School years I watched her grow as a person and an athlete.  She was tactfully able to balance her time between school, gymnastics and track and field.  Throughout the spring time she spent hours upon hours training for her two sports and somehow managed to also excel in school.  She has always put 100 percent into everything she has done including her relationship with Chris.   After a successful high school track and field career Chelsea had many college opportunities.  I remember her coming to me asking me what my thoughts were and how I enjoyed my time at UCDavis.  I was nervous for Chelsea to follow my footsteps and select UCDavis, but also knew she would love Davis as much as I had.  Chelsea is four years younger than I am so she was just beginning college as I was exiting.  Fortunately, I decided to stay another year in Davis, which is really when I got to know the person my sister Chelsea had become.

I remember when Chelsea told me she had a ‘crush’ on a guy on her team.  She explained to me how much of a gentleman he was and how kind and caring he was to her.  I am obviously very protective of my sister so many questions followed.  After getting to know Chris I have seen that he is the ying to her yang.  He calms her down when things get tough and always supports her in any endeavor she chooses.  As Chelsea has grown older her hair became darker and heart became open to Chris.  She is one of the most caring and loving people I have ever met and now will be sharing this love with Chris and the rest of his family.  Cheers to Chris and Chelsea!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

With a happy soul comes great training

I find that I am at my physical best when I am happy and having fun training.  Part of this is having balance in my life.  Every day of every week I push my body to the absolute maximum.  This of course is followed up with countless cold tubs and massage to try and alleviate the sore muscles.  Some athletes take their recovery to the extremes by spending hours in front of a television or computer playing video games.  I often wonder if other athletes are creating balance in their lives and what kind of ‘recovery’ is done for the heart and soul?    

When I started working at the Boys and Girls Club in 2010 I did not fully grasp the impact these children were going to have on me.  I expected to go into the club a few hours a week, do what I could to help in ways that were needed and go home, unphased back to my self-centered training lifestyle.  This has not been the case. To me, my In The Arena project at the Boys and Girls Club has helped to keep me grounded and understand the impact I can have on just one person.  It is my recovery for my soul.  I feel good about what I do there and in turn I am able to keep in my mind the bigger picture in life.  I find when my heart and soul feel good my body and training follow suit. 

I wanted other athletes at the Olympic Training Center to have the opportunity to feel this way and to be uplifted and inspired by kids at the Boys and Girls Club.  Most athletes have very busy schedules and are unable to take time away from training to physical go to the club, so instead I have created an Olympic Athlete Pen Pal Program.  This is designed to connect kids at the Boys and Girls Club with Olympic athletes and Olympic hopefuls at the Olympic Training Center.  Each week the kids at the club learn how to write a different type of letter.  The first week they learned how to write a formal business letter and this week they learned a friendly letter format.  After turning in their letters each week the kids anxiously wait for their pen pal to respond. 

Many of the athletes have already told me that they have had great days of training the days they receive each of their letters.  My hope is as the program progresses the athletes will get just as much out of the letters as I know the kids do.  For the kids this is hope and proof that their dreams can come true and for the athletes it is way to give back to the community and to focus on recovering in a different way.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Train with the Best to be the Best

I have often been asked what my favorite Olympic moment is.  There are many moments that stick out in my head.  The first being Kerri Strug bravely vaulting her way into history and helping the 1996 ‘magnificent seven’ Women’s Gymnastics Team win gold.  Or the moment I sat in front of the television and watched Dan Jansen earn his first Olympic gold after previous failed attempts and overcoming many personal struggles.  These are just some of the many moments in Olympic history that stand out to me, but nothing can compare to the history I experienced at the 2010 Olympic Games.  Of course participating in an Olympic Games was incredible and something I had only dreamed of.  That is a moment I will never forget and is hard to surpass, but watching Team Night Train win a historic Gold on an incredibly publicized and difficult track was an experience I was honored to, in a small way, be a part of. 

After experiencing my training partner and close friends win Gold, I began to reflect back on my own journey and the team that helped me achieve my goals.  I thought back to when I first started the sport in 2006.  Back then I was a scared young girl and had not thought competing in the Vancouver Olympics was even a possibility.  I really did not know what I had gotten myself into.  I was very intimidated after meeting all the other athletes in the sport and hearing their resume of amazing accomplishments.  I knew I had a long road ahead of me in order to gain the physical abilities necessary to be an elite bobsled athlete.  After that season I began training with Coach Jon Carlock, who at that time was working with many of the US bobsled athletes and is someone who to this day I work with and credit a great amount of my success to.  Curt Tomaseviz was also one of the athletes that chose to train with Jon and had quickly become one of my friends on the bobsled team.  I was inspired by his ability to quietly work hard and his capability to lead the team through his daily actions.  I knew this was someone I wanted to learn from and to train with.   Over the years I have piggy backed off his work ethic and have become the bobsledder I am today in part because of his mentoring. 

This trainingship between male and females is not very common, but I have read stories of how Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair, two infamous and successful speed skaters of the late 80’s and early 90’s became friends and training partners over the years.  They pushed each other to be two prolific Olympic athletes.  My accomplishments in no way can compare to the success of Dan and Bonnie, but I can fully relate to the connection they had and the ability to push each other to be the best possible athletes.  I’ve often been asked how a male and female athlete are able to push each other in the weight room or on the track considering the difference in physical abilities.  To me, it is not the weight we lift or the speed we run that pushes us, it is both having a common goal and a mutual desire to win.  This desire fuels us to put our bodies through hell, together to make this happen.  We make each other better every day just as Dan and Bonnie did on the ice and off.   Many athletes are not fortunate enough to experience this kind of invaluable trainingship that I have had with Curt these past seven years.  I believe you have to train with the best to be the best and I’d be hard pressed to find better than an Olympic Champion.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Congrats Dr. Ben!

On January 16, 2010 I was selected for the 2010 Olympic Team. This was a dream I had often been afraid to dream. I quickly ran up the stairs to connect with my parents and my sisters back in the states.  I felt an incredible amount joy and relief all at the same time.  The tears were flowing as I told my parents the news and began to realize I would be walking in the Opening Ceremony. After talking to my immediate family the next person I told was my cousin, Ben. Ben and his family have always been very supportive and interested in my bobsled endeavours.  Ben had told me when I first started sliding that if I was to ever make an Olympic team he would be there. I guess at the time this was said I didn't believe either thing was possible.  Within hours of telling Ben that I had been selected for the Olympic team, he had sent me his flight intenary and dropped everything to come.  After Ben purchased his flight my other cousins quickly followed suit and I had a whole fan club supporting me! 

Tony, Ben and John Azevedo at the Olympic Games

This past weekend I had the opportunity to support Ben as he accomplished a dream by completing medicine school and becoming Doctor Ben Azevedo! This was his time to celebrate his victory and my family and I were fortunate to be able to experience it with him. As he walked across the stage I thought of the many sacrifices he has made to accomplish his goal of becoming a Doctor. I can definitely understand and appreciate these sacrifices. I know Ben worked just as hard to earn his M.D. as I did to earn the title of Olympian.  This was his big show, his Olympics and a memorable experience for us all!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo the kids at the Boys and Girls Club made homemade pinatas and sombreros!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Practice Courage

When I wake up every morning I look at a sign posted above my mirror.  This sign says ‘what if we practiced courage every single day?’  I like this quote because we often do not consider the courage it takes for some people to just live their daily lives.  As an elite athlete it takes courage to believe in a dream that only a select few will ever accomplish.  It takes courage to put your life on hold and risk not being delivered the result you desire.  It takes courage to overcome the fear of failing.  And as everyone cheering at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday learned, it also takes courage to jump into the fire when everyone is running out.   

As the runners of the Boston Marathon huddled up preparing to start their race many friends and family stood to celebrate the courage it took each of these athletes to set out to accomplish a goal.  I am sure they did not know that when they woke up that morning they would also be practicing courage. 

Carlos Arrendondo’s story, to me, is one of the more touching examples of humanity.  Carlos, a Costa Rican immigrant who himself fought for his own life 8 years ago, had the courage to overcome any fear he may have had for his own well-being and jumped into action.  He helped tear down fences and barricades at the Boston Marathon.  His efforts allowed emergency responders access to many of the victims and then he himself turned into a medical provider helping save the life of a perfect stranger.

This is just one many stories of people acting with valor and courage.  When a country and a community goes through a tragic event athletics is an avenue that brings people together and also brings hope and happiness.  This is why I love sports so much.  It is a way people can relate and hope can be brought to a community and nation when it is in need.  The Boston Red Soxs played more than just a game at Fenway Park on Friday night.  They courageously took the field and played for an entire town and country in mourning.  They played for every single person affected by the tragic events on Monday. 
Carlos and the Red Sox showed courage in their own ways, but for some people courage is simply getting out of bed in the morning.  It is not the magnitude of the event that determines a courageous person, but instead it is a matter of seizing an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and do the unexpected.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

This past week I visited Mrs. Weaver’s class in my hometown Chico, California.  I love having the opportunity to go to her class.  Her students are always very well behaved and interested in what I have to say to them.  This time we talked about setting goals and mapping out a plan to accomplish those goals.  Her students shared with me the goals they have and what they want to be when they grow up.  I urged them to write them down, so they can remind themselves of these goals each day as they work towards them.  This is something I have done each of my athletic seasons and will soon be something I will be do when I begin another career.  Thank you Mrs. Weaver!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Training for the Brain

Many times I speak to various schools and organizations.  My objective is to encourage the audience to dream big and find an avenue to execute any crazy goal they may have.  Based off my experience I recognize that some of these goals may be unorthodox, but this does not mean they are unreachable.  Last week I had the opportunity to visit my former teammate, Julie.  I was able to sit in on a few of her classes and see the incredible things her and her classmates are working to accomplish.  I found myself being the one to leave Elon Law inspired. 

There are many aspects of Law school students and Olympic Athletes that can be paralleled.  Both are working in a largely competitive environment and are doing what it takes to be the best in their respective fields.  An Olympic Athlete will make sure they are getting enough rest, eating the right foods and being smart about their training so that they may have an edge on their competition, which in many cases are their teammates.  In Law School it seems to be very similar.  Each student is working to push themselves and ultimately wish to out perform other students in their class.  Law school is not only competitive, but it is also requires time management and the ability to work as a team just as being a competitive athlete does. 

I was mostly impressed by Julie and her ability to manage caring for her 2 and ½ year old daughter while attending Law School.  Both of these tasks would be considered a full time job in itself, but combing the two seems merely impossible.  I watched as Julie had late nights and early mornings, so that she could be a combination of super mom and super student.  She has chosen this path so that she may be able to create a better life for her daughter.  It was inspirational to watch her work towards accomplishing both her goals of raising her daughter and becoming a lawyer.  The skills she learned as an elite athlete are skills that she is still using in her life today. 

Thank you to Julie and to Elon Law for inspiring me as I move into another intense competitive season.     
Julie, Jamia and Emily- 2007 season

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thank You Kings!

It was always a special treat going to a Sacramento Kings games when we were young. My family had 3 season tickets about six rows from the floor, which eventually grew to 4 tickets.  I remember during Christmas break being so proud and excited to go to the Kings game with my dad.  I loved to watch Mike Bibby and Chris Weber gracefully move across the floor and hear the crowd explode as they scored point after point.  And of course it was enjoyable watching Vlade Divac with his antics and his infamous “Vlade-flop.”  I even had a chance to watch Michael Jordan in one of his final games in the NBA. Many fond memories have been formed in this arena.

Tonight as I sit with my family watching the Kings once more I can't help but be thankful to the kings organization for allowing us a chance to create family memories. I do not know how long Sacramento will house the Kings, but I do know that Sacramento will always be home to this Kings fan.

Vlade Divac, Elana Meyers and I at the Olympics

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Friends in ALL places

As a reflect back on my many years of sport I constantly see one common theme; the creation of Life long friends.  I still have friends from the many years I did gymnastics.  Friends from high school athletics and of course the friends from my UC Davis Track and Field family.

Over the past few years I have utilized my international bobsled friends as an outlet and sound board throughout each season.  We compete directly against each other week in and week out, but a camaraderie between nations is created. I am confident I will still be connected with many of my friends all over the world once this era of my life comes to an end. 

After spending months on the road it was nice to spend time with my friends Emily, who is Canadian and Hanne, who is Swiss, outside of the sport.  My fathers cousin, Coreen, is the head of the American School in London and she was nice enough to allow us to stay with her and explore everything London has to offer.  We did all the typical tourist things that could be crammed into the five days we spent in London.  London is an incredible city and it would take months to adequately comb through.   

Ironically, two of my teammates from UC Davis, one who I also went to High School with, live in London.  They have traveled all over the world and I have had the opportunity to meet up with them in many different locations.  I was able to have a true English pub experience with them watching the England vs. France rugby game this past weekend.  This was quite an experience and one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.  I honestly can not even tell you what the end score of the game was, but it was so refreshing to be around people who I care for from all aspects of my life.  From High School to UC Davis to Bobsled each part of my life was represented with the people in that pub.  There is one thing for sure, I will have many interesting places to visit when I am done sliding and I more life long friends to add to my phone book.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sochi! DA!

After a long season and a World Championships that did not go as planned it is exciting to slide the track and explore the new Olympic venue in Sochi, Russia.  It is crazy to think that the games in Vancouver were already three years ago.  I still vividly remember walking in the Opening Ceremony and all the excitement that came with it.  Afterwards I remember lying in bed wide awake with adrenaline.  I thought about the physical pain, the mental angst and the pure grit that got me to that point.  Not one thing about making the Olympic Team in 2010 was easy for me.  I fought with every piece of my being to earn a spot on that team.  As a laid there I thought of all those times and how very worth it all was for that one moment to walk behind our countries flag.  That is when I decided I wanted to try to have those feelings and that experience one more time in Russia.  So, here I am one year out from the games preparing for the fight to earn a spot in Sochi.

When we first landed in Sochi for our World Cup test event there was group of English speaking volunteers that were very excited to have us here.  They were very helpful and I could just feel the pride bursting out of them.  It is very obvious they are ecstatic to have their country be the location of the next Olympic Games.  As we drove from Sochi up the mountains to the location of the bobsled and alpine venues we were shocked by all the construction.  It feels like a town is being created solely for the Olympics.  There is literally a new hotel or new restaurant sprouting up daily.  I can’t help but to think about what will happen to each of these new establishments once the Olympics have come and gone. 

We have now been sliding the 2014 Olympic track for almost a week and are using every run to learn a little more about each aspect of the track.  Sliding a brand new track anywhere is exhilarating.  It is a combination of utter fear and excitement.  You have no idea what each turn will feel like as put total trust in your drivers experience to get you down safely.  Once the run is complete it feels like something has been accomplished by conquering your fears.  It is probably one of the biggest rushes one can experience. 

Ending the season on this track will help to keep me hungry as I train this summer in hopes of accomplishing another one of my goals of walking behind our flag one more time.


Jamie and I at the finish
The movie Cool Runnings playing at the track

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Creating a True Champion

In the world of sports many lessons are learned that can be paralleled to many phases in ones life.  Some of these lessons are ones that you may not care to learn at the time, but when reflecting back you can see the huge affects they've had.

As a teen I had to make many choices and each would change the way my athletic path turned as I forged ahead.  I was faced with having to decide if I wanted to move forward and commit myself to competitive gymnastics or if I wanted to continue on with other sports and hobbies.  I remember being terrified. I enjoyed everything about training for gymnastics, but the thought of competing in front of a judge and a crowd was something that did not interest me. My coach told me I would have to compete in meets if I wanted to learn new skills and move up levels. I faced the same problem when I briefly joined the swim team.  I worked hard at every practice and did every workout I was suppose to, yet never had a desire to compete in a meet.  Once I was able to harness my fears I truly enjoyed the competitions.  I was always a head case before competing.  I questioned every piece of my routines and was worried about how I would perform, but the thrill of competing and the desire to win kept me coming back for more.

As I reflect back I see how I have grown as an athlete and I often see how at 29 years old I still have some qualities of that scared teenager. As far as I have come as an athlete and a person there are still many things I need to learn and to improve to be the absolute best I can be physically and mentally. The choices I have made in my life have led me to be an Olympian.   I have worked very hard to earn everything in my bobsled career, but it can often be hard to take a step back and appreciate those accomplishments during the disappointments. 

I have to learn to go back to basics and tap into all the things I love about competing and continue to search for ways to continue to fight to be the best I can possibly be.  My will to win can often overshadow the goals I have achieved.  As I move forward and face other challenges I am able to use the experiences I have had winning and losing to create my new path.  No one enjoys defeat, but I am convinced some of the most valuable lessons can be learned during those times.  In my opinion a true champion is shown not when they are on the podium, but how they pick themselves up and continue to fight to win after they’ve been beat.  I hope that as I move forward in athletics and in life I can dig deep and show that I portray the qualities of a true champion.