Two weeks ago I was named Women's Bobsled Athlete of the Year and also received the Athlete's Choice Award. The first is pretty self-explanatory but the second was an award voted on by my teammates. Now I'm not one to dwell on awards, as soon as a race ends I start thinking about the next one, and as soon as a season ends I'm also focused forward. However, these two awards I am especially honored about, but I have to revisit because of why I won them. This season was a truly difficult season for me. I started off the season with 2 crashes in as many weeks and a dismal performance at team trials. Dejected, I went to Europe questioning whether or not I should even be driving. Through the help of my teammates and coaches, I persevered, overcame, and grew. This season was difficult but I made it through, had good results, and even some fun at the end of the day, and I feel that all these struggles were crucial to putting me where exactly I need to be come 2014. However, none of this season would have been possible without the wonderful teammates I have. I truly believe I have the best ones in the world. Because of that, I wanted to share a little bit about the behind the scenes stuff that went on this season to show how awesome my teammates truly are. Of course you know the obvious ones, the brakeman who raced with me- Katie Eberling, Emily Azevedo, Brittany Reinbolt, and Ingrid Marcum, but there's so much more to the story, so here we go...
Katie Eberling- Her support never wavered. From the moment after push championships, when she agreed to race team trials with me, she supported me and believed in me. That kind of unwavering support is rare, but she was continually supportive, even when she was racing against me on other sleds (not to the point that she still didn't want to beat me though lol). If she was ever anything less than confident in what we could do, she never showed it. Not only did she race a majority of the Europa Cup races with me to get me qualified to go to Sochi, including the crazy one to put us over to qualify, she also as a rookie took on the task of being the sole brakeman representative in Sochi and handled it like a champ. It put me at ease knowing that I didn't have to worry about anything, and she went the extra mile to make sure I didn't. Things like that just can't be quantified, but they are truly the intangibles that win championships.
Emily Azevedo- The thing that sticks out the most is her team work. She not only helped a team full of rookies adjust to the World Cup tour, she also took run after run when we were down an alternate, despite the fact that she was our only returning Olympic brakeman. She, like Katie, raced two days back to back in two different countries to help qualify for Sochi, a feat that is no easy task but they both handled it like champs.
Brittany Reinbolt- What can I say about the girl who continually keeps me laughing? She really does add something special to the team. First, despite a poor finish at push championships, she inspired us all by fighting her way onto the World Cup team. She took more runs than perhaps any other brakeman, and with two unseasoned drivers, that was quite a task (I crashed her twice this season, let alone the other crazy trips I took with her). Every week she was broken and black and blue, but she continued to slide and continued to train to get better and push as hard as she could. She was an alternate, but she worked every day to get better. I believe though the best example of Brittany's commitment to team excellence can be shown through the Sochi experience. Despite not getting an opportunity to race on the World Cup team, Brittany drove to and from Switzerland and Germany so that the drivers and competing brakeman could rest. Not only did she drive, but she also took trips in both countries to ensure that the competing brakeman could get some rest. I will never forget her willingness to step up and take so much for the team this season, and only hope I could be as good of a teammate to her as she was to all of us.
Hillary Werth- She fought her way onto World Cup as well and was fighting to get a racing spot when tragedy struck. After a bad crash, I rushed down to her to check on her, and all she could focus on was the state of her driver and when she could get back in a sled again. The girl had doctors sticking IVs into her and other EMTs trying to cut off her clothes to treat her, yet she was focused on her teammate and trying to get back in a sled to race with her teammates. She even was asking me about racing with me that weekend! She exemplified how teammates should care for each other.
Ingrid Marcum- She raced with me my final team trials race. Afterwards, I was pretty dejected and upset, but she encouraged me. She told me story after story of instances in bobsled that basically proved its not how you start, its how you finish. She helped me try to put my team trials experience behind me, and move on to the next race.
Ida Bernstein- After my team trials, I was determined to get better and fix things. My sled had shipped to Europe, but I was offered to slide in another sled to get more trips. Mind you, I had crashed twice in two weeks and was now driving a sled I hadn't been in in a long time, and she took trip after trip with me so I could get more trips. No questions asked, she just kept sliding, which allowed me to get in the state of mind I needed to be in before heading over to Europe.
Nicole Vogt- I honestly didn't have much interaction with this particular brakeman, but she was always there to help when she was around, and continually lent a helping hand.
Jamie Greubel, Jazmine Fenlator, Megan Hill, Katelyn Kelly, and Bree Schaaf- My fellow drivers and competitors are the people who continually push me to be better. Each of them have encouraged me in various ways, whether it was through words or through their continued fight to become the best in the world. Jamie through her continued hard work and fighting, Jazmine for her relentless encouragement and heart, Megan and Katelyn through their constant support, and Bree for the wealth of experience she shares and tradition she helps continue. I am constantly inspired by my driving teammates by their persistence and their perseverance past an assortment of obstacles. Getting to Sochi will be the battle of a lifetime, but I'm blessed to be able to battle it out against these great competitors.
And if these brief epithets aren't enough to show the I have the best of teammates in the world, I could go on...but perhaps I'll save that for another blog in the future...