Sunday, February 21, 2016

2010 Olympian Bree Schaaf Announces Retirement

By: Emily Azevedo

Bree Schaaf can always be spotted by her infectious laugh and her witty sense of humor. Her teammates know her for her unconventional dorm room cooking and her passion and love for sliding.  When she was not sliding, she had an unorthodox way of exploring her musical and culinary side, traveling with her key board and harmonica.  After spending over a decade sliding down the ice, Schaaf is moving forward and taking on more of life’s challenges. 

Schaaf began her career after attending her first skeleton camp in December 2002, leaving her family on Christmas day to pursue a new dream.  Her older brother, Tim, was involved in skeleton and convinced Schaaf a standout volley player at Portland State University to give it a try.  She spent the next five seasons competing National and International on the skeleton circuit and had her break out season on the World Cup tour in 2006-2007.
Schaaf a self-proclaimed “head dragger” was tired of scarping her head along the ice and was determined to convince the bobsled coaching staff she had the skill and physique to transition into Bobsled.  In 2007, Schaaf attended her first bobsled driving school and immediately fell in love with the sport. 

“Sliding was all about extremes for me, exploring personal boundaries in all directions. Hysterical laughter, hysterical crying; strength and speed numbers I never thought possible, resilience I never knew existed” Schaaf Said.  Schaaf is extrememly grateful for “the opportunity to travel the world, learn languages, and play amongst my favorite international band of crazies.”
Winning the 2009 Bobsled National Championships proved to be a major turning point for Schaaf.  It gave Schaaf the opportunity to compete and gain valuable experience on the Olympic Track in Whistler where she and teammate Emily Azevedo surprised the world with a 6th place finish. 

Earning her Olympic berth was still going to prove to be a challenge for Schaaf.  Throughout the 2009-2010 season Schaaf not only had to learn to drive European tracks, she was also required to beat out other nations to earn a spot as the Americans third sled.  This was a challenge that Schaaf and Azevedo were up for.  “Bree and I believed in eachother and that is how we earned our spot in Vancouver” Azevedo said.  “We had many challenges along the way, but we always had a deep rooted belief that we could accomplish our goal”

In January of 2010 Schaaf and Azevedo were named to the Vancouver Olympic team where the pair placed an impressive 5th place.  After Vancouver Schaaf was determined to change the sport of bobsled becoming the first female to pilot a four women’s sled down the Lake Placid bobsled track.  She became a pioneer for the sport and paved the way for future female bobsledders. 
Now days Schaaf can often be heard calling Luge races or coaching Paralympic skeleton athletes.  Her goals have shifted from winning medals to merely appreciating the little things in life.

“For the future I hope to let go of the need to push things too far, and relax into the beauty that is everyday life,” Schaaf said.  “I want to have goals, but have satisfaction separate from them. I hope to explore my curiosities and do what I want to do, irrelevant to what I should do or what will bring prestige and attention.”

There is one thing that can be said, Schaaf had a huge impact on the sport of bobsled and on the many friends she has made all over the world.