Women In Motion: Sneak peak at impressive new video

The following is an excerpt from a thestar.com blog post:

This is a preview of a view called Women in Motion featuring skeleton racer Mellisa Hollingsworth, Olympic women’s bobsleigh champ Kaillie Humphries, world champion speed skater Kristina Groves, luger Alex Gough and Carla Macleod of the Olympic champion women’s hockey team.

Click here to read more and to see more video.

Vancouver Olympians back in winter mode

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at TeamUSA.org:

Members of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team dedicated their lives to training and preparing for the Games last February in Vancouver. They rejoiced with their coaches and families after they qualified for the team.

The Opening Ceremony, competition and Closing Ceremony went by in a blur, and then the Olympic Winter Games are over.

The athletes are left with a lot of decisions to make. Should they continue training for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which will take place in Sochi, Russia? Is it time to retire? Or is it best to take a break for a bit and then come back?

The answers are as individual as the athletes themselves. Here’s a look at what some of the stars of the Vancouver Games are up to now that the winter sports season is back in full swing:

Steve Holcomb, gold medalist, pilot of the “Night Train” bobsled team: Holcomb became one of the biggest stars of the Vancouver Games, thanks to his easy-going personality and passion for his sport — not to mention leading “Night Train” to Team USA’s first four-man bobsled gold medal since 1948.

Holcomb has been busy, enjoying life in many ways. He has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” getting to read the show’s signature “Top 10 List.” He’s thrown out first pitches at a Cleveland Indians game and at a San Francisco Giants game. Holcomb played golf with colorful former NBA star Charles Barkley. He flew around a NASCAR racetrack, getting to experience a different type of speed and banking than bobsled.

Getting back to training, and real life, has required a bit of adjustment for Holcomb. He’s looking toward competing in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, wanting to defend his team’s gold medal.

“It seems like things moved very fast but now it’s so slow,” Holcomb, 30, said in a telephone interview during a training break in Lake Placid, N.Y. “I’m realizing that high is not going to come back for three and a half more years and right now it seems like three and a half years is forever.”

Bobsled and skeleton teams open their World Cup season at the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, on Nov. 22-28.

Click here to read the entire article.

Last Dance: Bobsledder Holcomb eyeing new season

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at usatoday.com:

After winning an Olympic gold medal, American bobsled driver Steven Holcomb wondered why people kept saying it would change his life.
He wonders no more.

Here’s a taste of what Holcomb experienced in the last 7 months: He met President Barack Obama, played golf with Charles Barkley, hung out with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, spent time with guys who make the Xbox games he spends countless hours mastering, visited the New York Stock Exchange, threw the ceremonial first pitch at a Cleveland Indians game, went to the Indianapolis 500, became a Microsoft Certified Professional and, oh, posed nude.

“I needed to, you know, try to live it up for as long as I can,” Holcomb said.

Now its time to get back to work.

The U.S. bobsled team opens on-ice training Friday at the sliding track in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the luge and skeleton teams will begin preparations for the 2010-11 season and the buildup to the 2014 Sochi Games.

In February, Holcomb drove the U.S. bobsled program to a four-man Olympic gold, the first by Americans since 1948. And he’s been celebrating in earnest ever since.

“The concern, if the team has one for Steve, is maybe they think this whirlwind’s not going to stop,” U.S. bobsled coach Brian Shimer said. “But I think when we get back on the ice it’ll settle down, we’ll all come together and get back on the same page again.”

The three men who’ll push Holcomb and the famed “Night Train” sled this season include returning teammates Curt Tomasevicz of Shelby, Neb., and Justin Olsen of San Antonio, along with Steve Langton of Melrose, Mass., who’ll take the spot of retired push athlete Steve Mesler. They have been working out for months to get ready for the challenges that lie ahead, starting with a return to the Olympic track in Whistler for the World Cup opener in November.

Holcomb hasn’t been working out, at least not at the level he has in past offseasons.

“I was on the road since March,” Holcomb said. “I’ve been training when I can, where I can, however I can. It’s been really tough. Whenever I get a chance, I can work out and do what I can … but I’ve been on the road, basically, well, I’ve had a couple weeks total at home this whole time.”

Hard to blame him for taking advantage of what might be once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The life of most Olympic athletes isn’t exactly glamorous or high-paying. Holcomb was $40,000 in debt at the end of last season, which he’s since managed to pay off thanks to bonuses ($25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee for winning gold) and appearance fees that have been coming in since he stood atop the medal podium in British Columbia.

And Holcomb isn’t far removed from thinking his career was over, either. He was going blind, actually down to 20-500 vision before surgery to embed a contact lens behind his iris corrected a degenerative condition. That allowed him to see clearly, which comes in handy while driving a sled down icy mountainside chutes at 90 mph.

So this spring and summer became a victory tour. Thousands of people, he estimates, have worn his gold medal. More than once he woke up in a hotel, not knowing what city he was in. The “Holcy Dance” an inside joke that went viral after teammates loaded it onto YouTube got performed in more places than he cares to count. Air miles traveled? Probably somewhere around 100,000.

“How many times are you going to play a round of golf with Charles Barkley? Not many,” Holcomb said. “But I’m better than him.”

Click here to read the entire article.

USOC study: US Olympic athletes project best image

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at USAToday.com:

The U.S. Olympic Committee has released a study showing Olympic athletes most positively represent the U.S., followed by Major League Baseball players.
The USOC released the poll Tuesday, saying the numbers prove the federation’s sponsors get good value for their money.

The survey, conducted by a research partner of the USOC’s, was conducted in April, less than two months after America’s record-setting performance of 37 medals for a Winter Olympics at the Vancouver Games.

One of the questions asked to more than 3,000 respondents was which athletes most positively represent the United States to the world: 90 percent said USOC athletes.

Click here to read the entire article.

Study: Olympic Curlers More Likely Than Luge Racers to Be Hurt

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at wsj.com:

You could probably expect that when the world’s best bobsledders, skiers, figure skaters and other winter Olympic athletes gather to compete, some end up getting hurt. Exactly how often that happens, however, hasn’t been well studied.

A research project undertaken at the Vancouver Games surveyed National Olympic Committee head doctors to come up with some stats, finding that at least 11% of athletes were injured and 7% fell ill during the Olympics. The collected data cover 2,567 athletes from the 82 participating committees and are published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The authors say a 10% injury rate was seen at the 2008 Beijing Games, but that there is much less information available on injury risk for Olympic winter sports. (So we don’t know whether these rates are higher or lower than at previous Winter Games.)

As you could probably tell from the on-camera mishap rate during the Games, bobsled, ice hockey, short-track speed skating, freestyle skiing and snowboard cross had the highest rates of injury — as high as 35% for snowboard cross.

And would you believe a larger proportion of curling competitors (4%) than luge racers (2%) were injured? (That stat, of course, belies the fact that a luge competitor from Georgia died during a training run and may underestimate actual risk, the authors say.) Among the curlers, injuries were to the lower back, wrist, finger and thigh, and included strains, tendon problems and muscle spasms.

Click here to read the entire article.

Clukey giving back to her community

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at onlinesentinel.com:

After a little down time this past spring, Julia Clukey is ready to jump into her luge training for the upcoming World Cup season, and down the road, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

But first, the 25-year-old from Augusta wanted to do something for her home state.

“I’m pretty passionate about the community I grew up in, and I wanted to reconnect,” Clukey said, minutes before speaking to Gardiner Area High School athletes at their fall sports meeting.

Clukey’s speech was sponsored by the Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association, and was the first of a series of talks Clukey will give at high schools around the state. Clukey will speak in Sanford tonight and at Cony on Aug. 26th. An appearance at Maranacook is in the works, Nick Alberding, who helped organize Clukey’s speech for the Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association, said.

Clukey’s appearance included a short video, highlighting her training regimen and competition at the Olympics last February in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“She’s obviously a great role model,” Alberding said. “We’re community members and parents and committed to tell young people, stay away from alcohol. We’ll wait for you business.”

While Clukey never specifically mentioned alcohol in her short speech, she stressed to the Gardiner students to make good choices in their lives.

“My life has been about making decisions,” Clukey said. “Make those decisions that will help you get to where you want to be.”

After the Olympics, Clukey took some time off to rest a neck injury and take stock of her life.

“I was dealing with a lot of health issues. Mentally, did I want to continue? I’m 25 now, I have other things I want to do in life,” Clukey said. “I realized I wanted to continue training. It took about a month to feel like an athlete again.”

The post-Olympic year is kind of a relaxed year, Clukey said, and she spent the summer training at home in Augusta. She’ll return to Lake Placid, N.Y. in September to train with the national team.

Click here to read the entire article.

The world is Meyers’ classroom

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at TeamUSA.org:

Elana Meyers is an athlete through and through. In addition to winning a bronze medal in bobsleigh at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, she also played NCAA Division I softball at George Washington University and went on to play professionally for the Mid-Michigan Ice. However, despite her athletic prowess, she has one thing non-sport related that she has remained passionate about: education.

“You know, lives are long and athletics are only a small fraction of that, so you have to have something else,” Meyers said, “So, I think as athletes and Olympians in particular, we can serve as role models in that area…I think I’ll always be involved in education.”

Meyers’ path to involvement in education was unique. After graduating from college and devoting herself to bobsleigh, she was looking for a job. A friend mentioned the local school district was looking for substitute teachers, so she applied. Before long, Meyers was in front of the classroom, teaching children a variety of subjects ranging from literature to math. Science, though, is where her passion lies.

“Sciences…are my favorite because I was an exercise science major and I love science,” Meyers explained, “There’s a lot of crossover and a lot of applications [to bobsleigh] because we’re very physics-based.”
In addition to studying exercise science in college, Meyers spent a lot of her time working with children. Over the years, she coached both high school softball – drawing on her experience playing in college and professionally – and soccer. Although she had not considered teaching as her major, she found herself fitting naturally into the substitute teaching role.

Even more, she found that her time as an athlete helps her make concepts in the classroom come alive for her students.

“I tried to explain to them how miles per hour works,” she said, “So, I’ll explain to them how fast we go in a bobsled and I’ll also explain to them how the fraction [works]: if you have one hour over X amount of miles you’re covering, that’s how you calculate miles per hour…I’ll also use the dimensions of our sled, the conversion from kilograms to pounds, and things that we have to do everyday in bobsled to help them learn their math skills.”

Even before her substitute teaching gig, Meyers had plenty of opportunities to practice relating athletics and academics. Her sister, a sixth grade math teacher, would invite her into the classroom on multiple occasions to be a guest lecturer, using bobsleigh as a teaching tool.

Having an Olympian in the classroom, however, is not always a smooth ride.

“Usually they end up coming up to my desk and, instead of asking for help, they start asking me questions,” she says, “They’ll ask me a question about the Olympics or about bobsled…but I try and make the focus on getting the work done first and then we can talk.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Park City bobsledder enjoying whirlwind tour

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at SLTrib.com:

The best part had to be attending the Indianapolis 500.

Or, wait.

Maybe it was pretending to be a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Then again, meeting Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at a Lakers game was pretty cool — never mind visiting President Obama at the White House — and so was playing golf with Charles Barkley and Ray Romano. Hard to look down your nose at a few days on the beach in St. Lucia, either, or reading the “Top 10 List” on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

“It’s hard to say what really was the coolest,” bobsled driver Steve Holcomb said. “Everything has been cool.”

That’s just what happens when you win a gold medal in one of the premier events at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, breaking a 62-year American medal drought in the process. Suddenly, you’re a big deal — and Holcomb has taken full advantage of his new-found celebrity in the five months since winning the four-man bobsled at the Whistler Sliding Center.

By his agent’s accounting, the 30-year-old Park City native has traveled nearly 60,000 miles since his historic victory, from sea to shining sea and back again in pursuit of promotional and celebratory appearances, sponsorship deals and good old-fashioned fun times.

Along the way, he has thrown out first pitches and watched big-time ballgames, lectured to high-powered executives, met countless actors and politicians, and enjoyed a taste of life behind the celebrity curtain. Much of it, Holcomb has chronicled in hundreds of photos on his Facebook page.

“It has been insane,” Holcomb said. “Non-stop. Crazy. It’s been a lot of fun, though.”

Holcomb took a break to recall his adventures last weekend, during a one-day stop in Utah, where he appeared at a summer ski jumping competition at the Utah Olympic Park near Park City.

It was only the third time he had been back home since the Olympics — he has had only 11 days off since leaving Vancouver — and headed out again the next morning in order to return to a life of full-time training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Unfortunately, I was born and raised in Park City, but I can’t afford to live here,” he said.

Even now, in the warm glow of his triumph, Holcomb said he’s only just barely back to even, financially. He used his assorted victory bonuses — including the $25,000 he received from the U.S. Olympic Committee — to pay off a $40,000 debt, but is faced with the prospect of another four years of scrabbling to finance the defense of his title at the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia.

“I’m just getting a little bit ahead,” he said. “I’m not going out and buying houses and cars. Basically, every penny I get, it’s going back into savings.”

Which is part of the reason he has been on the road so much.

Aside from enjoying the high life as a dignitary and ambassador at special events, Holcomb also has been trying to scare up new sponsors, “to make enough money to survive the next four years.” But so far, he has not found a single new long-term sponsor since the Olympics ended, amid the lagging global economy.

Click here to read the entire article.

Cook hasn’t lost fire for sport

The following is an excerpt from an article published at sltrib.com:

Emily Cook never distanced herself from aerial skiing throughout her 15-year career and does not see herself parting ways with the sport any time soon — although she is taking a break from training until the fall.

Five months after skiing off jumps and twisting into the air at Cypress Mountain en route to an 11th-place finish at the Vancouver Olympic Games, Cook is spending the summer coaching for the FLY program at Utah Olympic Park and taking courses at the University of Utah. One of two aerial skiing Olympic Development Programs in the nation, FLY, or “Freestyle Lives Year Round,” allows athletes ages 7 to 18 to build their proficiency in the sport and provides opportunity to move up into the U.S. Ski Team.

Despite switching from athlete to coach, her enthusiasm for the sport is no different from her earlier years as a young Olympian watching from her nearby Park City house.

“The days I’m not on the pool deck, I’m wondering what’s going on at the pool deck,” she said with a laugh. “When I was injured, I would sit at my window with my binoculars. When they finished prepping the hill, I would come up. It was perfect.”

Cook and fellow FLY coach Tim Preston trained in Lake Placid and remember growing up in the sport with guidance from elite athletes. FLY builds the next generation of athletes and ultimately the next U.S. Olympic team. Cook is especially valuable in that process.

“There’s actually not very many female coaches in aerials right now,” Preston said. “Emily’s a huge asset for the sport.”

After the summer, she resumes training in preparation for the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Championships in February at Deer Valley where she hopes to be on the podium.

Deer Valley hosted the championships in 2003, one year after Cook watched the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in the stands from a wheelchair after breaking both feet in a training crash at Lake Placid. She had secured her spot on the 2002 Olympic team two weeks earlier. Cook hoped to compete in 2003, but her total recovery process took three years.

“I actually remember going up there with my dad thinking I was totally fine and I got to the site and just broke down,” she said.

The tears were temporary, however, and watching her teammates compete gave her newfound determination for her Olympic dream.

“It definitely lit a fire in me,” Cook said. “That’s actually one of the other things I’m most proud of in my career was getting through those three years and coming back strong and having the chance to represent my country at not just one Olympics, but two.”

Cook spent those three years sitting in the judge’s tower of the Olympic Park pool deck at every training session. Not everyone understood how she watched her teammates train without her.

“People were like, ‘How could you do it? Didn’t it break your heart?’ ” Cook said. “No. It would’ve broken my heart to sit at home and think about it.”

The biggest source of inspiration through her injury and entire career has been her father, Don Cook, who gave her skis, boots and a visit to the slopes for Christmas at age 4. Years of enthusiasm and proud moments grew from what began as a shared hobby.

Click here to read the entire article.

The Night Train Bobsled arrives at Utah Olympic Park

Driving the bobsled nicknamed Night Train, USA-1 pilot Steve Holcomb of Park City, Utah along with his team captured the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada for the first US win in 62 years. The Night Train bobsled with state-of-the art engineering was designed and built by Bob Cuneo as part of the non-profit Bo-Dyn Project, founded by former NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine.

In response to the great interest in the Night Train, Utah Olympic Park Track Manager, David Dinger, had a four-man bobsled designed to replicate that of the original Olympic Gold Medal sled so guests at Utah Olympic Park can have the opportunity to see, touch, hop-in and take photos.

The USA-1 victory also sparked a demand for merchandise with the Night Train logo. To meet the desire of sporting this unique design, Utah Olympic Park gift shop has stocked up on Night Train t-shirts, hoodies, baseball hats, and beanies. Night Train whistles are on the way. Proceeds from all merchandise sold at Utah Olympic Park will benefit athlete development programs and proceeds from Night Train merchandise also goes toward the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project in the construction of sleds for members of the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

In addition, the success of the US Bobsled and Skeleton teams has drawn increased attention to the sports. Pat Brown, Utah Olympic Park Bobsled and Skeleton Head Coach, said “”The season after an Olympics is always a rebuilding year. This is the best time for athletes to get involved in the sport. The odds for making the U.S. National Team are much higher. The first step to making the team is participation in a free skills evaluation session. Based on the evaluation, you may invited to participate in the U.S. National Team Trials in September 2010.”

Unlike many sports, bobsled and skeleton athletes are able to start at an older age and progress fairly quickly to a highly competitive level. Athletes who are 14 years or older have the opportunity to try their skills at sprinting, jumping and lifting to see if bobsled or skeleton would be a good fit for them. Times scheduled for this free opportunity are July 17 at Park City High School in Park City, Utah at 9 a.m. and August 21 and September 18 at Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah at 9 a.m. A camp is also scheduled for 18 – 26 year olds who are interested in learning more about the sport s. More information about these programs can be found at http://www.olyparks.com , email pat.brown@olyparks.com or by calling (435) 658-4252.