This Is What It's Really Like To Be An Olympian—And It's Not As Glamorous As You Think
8 months ago, 17 Jan 18:14
We root for them. We tear up for them. We fist-pump and yell at TVs for them. But before America's athletes compete on the world's biggest stage, there are realities not broadcast: They train far away from loved ones, hold down day jobs, and miss family events. This is the unvarnished, inspiring story of one such Olympian, bobsledder Jamie Greubel Poser. A large American flag serendipitously hangs at the midtown Manhattan gym where I'm to meet her. She's still shaking off the jet lag of a 17-hour flight from South Korea, but the fresh-faced blonde is gracious, all smiles, ready to go. If it weren't for the film crew around her, the New Jersey native would blend in with the 20 or so people moseying around the weight room on Halloween morning. A few stop to ask me who she is. "Jamie Greubel Poser," I tell them. "2014 Olympic bronze medalist and Team USA bobsled pilot." They snap a quick pic of her before returning to their workout. "She's going to be at the Olympics!" I hear one guy tell his buddy. Many of us share that sense of awe and excitement when we think about Olympians—a feeling Jamie understands well. "Growing up, I looked at Olympic athletes like movie stars," Jamie tells me. "You knew they were real people, but you didn't see yourself as one of them." And while we're dropping realisms, Jamie never saw herself as a bobsledder either. After graduating from college, she tried the sport at the suggestion of one of her former track teammates. At first, "it felt like a car accident, like I got put in a tin can and kicked off a cliff." The thrill of competing kept her in it, and over the past 10 years, the now-34-year-old has steered her way to winning World Cup golds and Olympic bronze. But being one of the best doesn't guarantee you a spot at the big O. You have to earn it, fight for it. For every athlete who's pulling in fat endorsement deals, there are scores more who hold down second jobs to simply stay in the game. For every exciting moment in the public eye, there are painful ones in private—missing husbands, friends, children. All to chase one singular dream. That's what it really means to live like an Olympian. What does it take for two women to get a 365-pound sled moving as fast as possible in 50 meters? Explosive power. A whole lot of it. When Jamie first tried out for the team in 2008, she had just finished an impressive collegiate career at Cornell University, setting school records in the heptathlon (that's seven events!) and being named the best female athlete in her graduating class. She weighed around 145 pounds. "When I did that first combine [a fitness test event], the coaches said it was great that I was fast, but if I wanted to be a contender for a spot on the team, I needed to gain 20 pounds," ...
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