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About This Episode

Her father was a professional baseball player and her mother a ski instructor; Katie grew up with sports all around her. Her strongest memories as a kid weren’t of learning how to swing a bat or carve a perfect trail down the slope, but of how her attitude and effort mattered far more than her ability ever would. She remembers sports being about integrity, work ethic, and teamwork. After she graduated from high school she became friends with a bobsledder that she had approached in the weight room who invited her to give skeleton a try. Just four weeks later Katie found herself at the top of the track at the Junior National competition. In her eighth week ever sliding she was ranked sixth in the nation and on her way to the Junior World Championships. It was a whirlwind, but Katie is a self-proclaimed “go big” kind of person and would have had it no other way. She walked away from her conservationist aspirations in order to chase her Olympic dreams.

Much like the luge or bobsled, skeleton racers slide down an ice track, but do so face first on their stomachs, hitting average speeds of 70-80 mph. For some this might sound terrifying, but Katie describes it as similar to the feeling of flying in a dream. Rather than the fear of injury or error, it’s weightlessness and freedom that stick with her the most. Her natural level of comfort with the sport, coupled with her impressive physical ability, easily landed her a spot on the team for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. She remembers those games as “magical”; she took sixth place, was surrounded by family and friends, and even had the opportunity to travel around Europe afterwards.

Katie was a rising star in the international arena and at the cusp of an incredible career, snagging medals at the next two World Championships and boasting a 75% podium rate in the international circuit. However, in 2008 her father was diagnosed with cancer and her focused shifted from times and training to the health of her father, her family, and her self. She was abroad racing when she received the news that he was ill and her requests to return home to be with her family were denied. Katie found herself torn between her desire to represent her nation and the urge to abandon it all to be with her family. Pressure mounted from the Olympic Federation for her to compete; her record was just too good and with each win came more and more funding for the next Winter Olympic Games. She stayed in close contact with her family during this time, but her performance began to suffer. “I just didn’t want to be there,” says Katie. Her coaches and the Olympic Federation encouraged her to just make it through the end of the season which culminated with the World Cup in Utah. She agreed to stay, but the worries about her father’s condition only further clouded her emotional landscape, leaving little room for thinking about skeleton. Unfortunately, the worst case scenario came true; her father passed away while she competed in her final race of the World Cup. She got the news of his death when she stepped of the track that afternoon.  

Katie flew home as quickly as possible feeling devastated by his death and infuriated at the position she was put in by the sport. Her time at home was short lived, however, as she was expected to return to her team just four days later for the World Championships. She hardly even wanted to race, much less face the media storm that was brewing. “I felt like the story was getting exploited for sponsors and for the media,” says Katie, “In that moment I felt like I had to swallow all of who I was in order to say the right things that they wanted me to say.” There wasn’t space to grieve his loss, there was only the track, her performance, the funding, and the medal count. In order to just survive it all, she stuffed down all of her feelings about her father, became numb to the pain, and buried herself in the sport. The “win at all cost” culture of elite sports had demanded of her something more precious than time or effort; it had stolen final moments with her family that could never be replaced. In retrospect, Katie felt incredibly underserved during that season. She recalls no offers for grief counseling or encouragement for a sabbatical, and felt that in order to hold on to her dreams of competing, she had to consent to the negative culture around her. “I bought into the lie that my performance mattered more than anything else,” she says.

Following the World Championships she carried on racing through two broken knee caps, several surgeries, and without ever giving herself the space that she needed. Despite her traditionally competitive times, she only finished 11th at the following 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, something she still feels was a strong indicator of how her emotional health was affecting her athletic performance. In 2013 she suffered a severe concussion that required 18 months of recovery. She was sent to a military facility for traumatic brain injuries and claims that her time there really put things in perspective for her. “Recovering with them really revived my courage,” says Katie. She went into the 2014 Olympics with fresh energy, but narrowly missed the podium by only .04 seconds. The saga of that medal standing would drag on, though, as evidence of a state-wide doping scheme by the Russian Federation came to light. Katie was beat out by a Russian woman who was known to have participated, so for a brief time she was awarded the bronze medal. Unfortunately, months later an international court rendered the medal returned, and Katie walked away unfairly empty handed. It wasn’t the loss of the medal that really bothered her, but the greater glaring issue of individual athlete rights. She lamented with athletes being put it situations to do things that they would prefer not to, but feeling like they didn’t have a choice; it was a situation that hit close to home. Katie has continued to be an advocate for anti-doping regulation that will protect athletes in the future. She testified in front of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on the subject of doping and in support of the Rodchenkov Act that would further tighten down on how cases such as this are handled.

Not long after, Katie experienced another emotional blow when she discovered her best friend, Steve Holcomb, dead in his room at the Olympic Training Center. Steve was an Olympic bobsledder and had been a friend, confidant, and rock for her; the events surrounding his death were traumatic. The experience, however, jolted her from the shell that she had created around herself. For the first time since her father’s death, she gave herself permission to grieve, she reached out to friends, she rediscovered her faith. She began asking herself what she needed and wanted, and began standing up for herself again. “The only one who knows if you’re OK is you,” says Katie. It was an uphill climb to the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang as she battled PTSD, panic attacks, and night terrors. The Games were steeped in emotion; the sadness over missing Steve, a surprise reunion with her estranged mother, and a richness in exercising her own agency again. She credits good friends and her faith for carrying her through those two years, but was again struck by the ways she was persuaded to put her emotional health second to her performance.

All of her frustrations in regards to the treatment of athletes were only further catalyzed when over 250 women came forward with claims against USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. “Athletes have no one to mediate for them,” says Katie. When an athlete feels threatened, exploited, or unheard, the only place to go is often to those who are either committing the abuse or directly benefiting from it. Athletes are forced to swallow their concerns and intimidated into competing as a duty to their country. Their dreams are held ransom in exchange for their silence and their medals. The injustice of these situations moved Katie to support the development of the Athlete Advisory Counsel that would be recognized by the Olympic Federation. This would provide a space for athletes to be heard, advocated for, and represented by other athletes when they have a concern with the way they are being treated. “Athletes have no one to ensure that this culture is changing,” says Katie. The first meeting of this board was in February of 2019 and she hopes to see it develop into a fully functioning element of the Olympic culture.

Katie continues to train for skeleton and looks forward to the 2020 Olympics, but says, “if I go to another Olympics it will be for myself and for completely different reasons.” She remembers one of the final pieces of advice from Steve before he passed away, “Remember who you are. Be the Kate your dad said you are.” She is on a journey of setting boundaries, redefining her identity, and exercising her voice. “I am remembering what it’s like to do something for myself,” she says. In addition to the skeleton track, Katie can be found on another track - a velodome. In 2018 she picked up team track cycling and won gold at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships and hopes to make back to back summer and winter Olympic appearances. But no matter where or how she races, she is confident that she is doing it for herself and for the right reasons and will continue to fight for the rights of other athletes to do the same. Be sure to follow her on Instagram and Twitter and cheer her on as she trains for the next two Olympics.  


[/et_pb_text][et_pb_toggle title="Read Episode Transcript" admin_label="Transcript" _builder_version="3.22.7" saved_tabs="all"]


[00:00:06] Welcome to the Hope Sports Podcast where we believe the best way for you to unlock your full potential is by living into your purpose. We believe discovering your purpose is the only way for you to live a meaningful life. I'm your host Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. Each week I have the privilege of connecting with a different elite athlete to discuss how they win big in and out of their sport. We want you to compete better and live into your purpose as well. So stick around to hear about an amazing opportunity that we have for you. But first, let's talk about today's episode. We are so honored that Katie Uhlaender on our show today. I personally remember her for that flaming red hair she squirted at the last Winter Olympic Games. My daughter and I both agreed that she must be totally awesome because of that hair. And we were right. Katie is not only an incredibly decorated skeleton athlete but she's also doing important work advocating for athletes rights and cheerleading others to find confidence in their own identity. Her story is filled with some seriously painful seasons but her vulnerability with us on today's show it's truly impactful. So thanks for joining us and let's dive on in. Katie Uhlaender thank you so much for coming on the Hope Sports Podcast. We're excited to have you on.



[00:01:18] Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I feel honored. Really appreciate it.



[00:01:21] So for our audience who may not be familiar with your background. Tell us a little bit about how you got into sports and how that led you into the skeleton.



[00:01:28] My father was a major league baseball player named Ted Uhlaender. My mother was also very active. That's how they met actually. My mother taught my father how to ski.



[00:01:38] Wow!



[00:01:39] So yeah. I'm like the perfect blend of the throwback traditional cowboy and then hippie ski bug from Colorado. But I got a good mixture like I grew up in Texas and my dad was very supportive of me as an athlete. I think he helped create my identity as a person how I approach life and sport. He was very clear on his expectations of me and was very adamant that I hold integrity above all else. Of course, I want to go out to do my best and win and try to win. But he was more concerned about my effort and what I learned throughout that process of putting my best foot forward than he was about my results. And I think I feel so grateful and blessed to that especially now at 34. Because it gave me a really solid foundation and I think especially now it's coming in and big-time youth. It's given me a whole new perspective. It's something I didn't really realize that’s the kick.



[00:02:43] Right. What wisdom. That's really cool. So how did you get into the whole skeleton field?



[00:02:50] Oh sorry I forgot that part.



[00:02:53] No problem.



[00:02:55] I was graduating high school and I walked up to this girl. She had shaved head, tattoo, piercings like I just to everyone else she looks scary but I just saw an athlete. And I was like oh you're squatting a lot of weight which would probably mean you're a fast sprinter. So I walked upturn as hey you sprint? And she's like yeah. And I, you wanna race? And she goes who the blank are you? I was like oh sorry yeah I’m Katie. I was kidding as a be was just like I would love. You know trying to be an athlete although not there yet. But I haven't gotten the sprint in a while and I just I thought would be fun. And she was like you're a nut. So we automatically became friends. And she had to be a bobsledder and she talked to me into trying skeleton. Four weeks later I won junior nationals went to junior world championships. My 8 week ever sliding I won Senior Nationals and ended up ranked 6th in the nation within 8 weeks of starting the sport.



[00:03:51] What?!



[00:03:51] Yeah. So the federation was like I was 18 or 19 at the time. And they're like hey if you want to do this sport well we'll give you free housing, free food, and a scholarship for school. All you have to do is work out and go sledding. And I was like I thought about it. I was hmm do I wanna go get my Ph.D. and be the next Dian Fossey? And for all of the millennials out there google her and watch Gorillas In The Mist? She's awesome. Or do I wanna go to the Olympics? And I chose to pursue the Olympics thinking I could go back to college. Well, 4 Olympics later I am now studying for my essay piece.



[00:04:29] Nice. Hey! Better late than never. That's cool. Oh my goodness. OK, so that's awesome. That's just crazy awesome. I love your story. So most of us have never tried skeleton. So tell us what exactly it's like to go face first down the track of ice at 90 miles an hour?



[00:04:47] You know I don't know the speed. I think the record for women is like 92. I think the average is like 70-80. But we have some tracks that you go hecka fast. So have you ever had those dreams where you're flying?



[00:05:01] Yeah?



[00:05:02] And you feel free and your stomach kind of goes into your throat and it's just awesome fun.



[00:05:11] Yeah.



[00:05:12] Goldens like that but a little bit more restricted. So you start going down and you get a little scared at first because you don't have brakes. And you can't stop but then you realize that you get a little scared at first. But if you're able to embrace it you find yourself chasing the speed and going with gravity dancing down the track and craving more of it. And it's something I definitely love very much.



[00:05:38] Oh wow. So cool. So like from four weeks in your nationally ranked. Was it getting you to the Olympics like kind of your first goal? Like was that immediately something you saw you could do?



[00:05:55] of course. I mean that was basically I didn't think of anything small. It was either go and get Ph.D., be the next Dian Fossey and study gorillas in the jungle or go to the Olympics. Like that's how I looked at it. There was no in between. And I was excited to discover how to do those things and figure out how to become my best self. So yeah I mean I wouldn't like start something and be like Well I don't know what I want to do you just care cause it's cool. No. I'm definitely gonna attack awkward. Yeah.



[00:06:29] I love it. All or nothing. So what was it like then making that first Olympic team in 2006?



Oh my gosh. I remember seeing Pavarotti sing. And Ferrari's doing doughnuts to create the Olympic rings. You know crying and holding hands with someone I didn't know that was experiencing the same thing. Jeremy Bloom causing the Olympians to get roped in because he kept climbing outside a little circle they put us in. I mean it was such a great experience. My father was there my family my boyfriend and then as soon as we traveled to Europe because you could go anywhere in 4 hours in Paris-Milan. Where else do we go? Carina Venice it was like the most amazing experience ever. I think it's one of those moments in life that you're just like did that really happen? Because it is really cool.



[00:07:26] So awesome. Now OK. You mentioned your dad Ted was a major league baseball player. And that he was very supportive and it just sounds like he gave you so much wisdom which is beautiful. But was it ever an issue of pressure like when media started to get involved? Because I'm sure it was always like Katie daughter of you know Dadada. Like was that ever difficult to handle?



[00:07:49] It wasn't until he passed away. I think that moment is when the Olympic environment swallowed me whole. It's really difficult. I had asked to go home to see him when he was diagnosed with cancer. Well, we're on tour and the federation said no. I was not allowed to leave because they needed me to perform so they could get funding for the Olympic year the following year. The U.S. is the only funds' federations that have medal shot and I was a huge portion of their performance plan. So I had to stay and compete. And he passed away while I was competing. It devastated me. I have no words. I mean I could go into the details that season but it was psychologically damaging and man it just hurt a lot. And when he passed away they finally let me fly home for the funeral. And I had to return four days later and compete in the world championships. And I just I remember I didn't want to go because the media and the federation insisted. So I did and the first question out of the gate was how does it feel to lose your father. What do you think you would think? How do you think you would feel about your performance. And I just remember at that moment I felt like I had to swallow all of who I was to say the right things that they wanted me to say. You know the whole reason they put me in front of the media was that they were going to exploit this story to get publicity and sponsors. And it's big for NBC, right?


[00:09:21] It was a year out from the Olympics and I was ranked 3rd in the world. Despite all the trouble they had competing on while he was sick. And I didn't get to say the things I want to do. I didn't get the process degrees. It was pretty much from that moment on I had cameras in my face talking to me about my father who said what it meant. They even asked to come. We had a memorial service after the funeral like in November the following year. And spread more of his ashes. And NBC tried to insist that I have cameras there to film it. And I just like never got to deal with my grief for what happened because it would have been one thing if I had chosen to stay and compete and not been forced to stay. Or I guess worst in any word coerce. You know I asked three times to go home and the first time I thought they couldn't do it because they needed me. The second time he just said we can't. And then I think the third time I realized that you know they said they couldn't because winning so coming in 4th every week. I don't think it was like consciously on purpose but subconsciously. I think I was doing it because I was bitter I was mad. I did not want to be there. And then they said you know your performance must be important to you. You know your dad would want you to keep competing and you can’t make it if you are weak. So I said and then he died. And I remember like it was the last World Cup so I thought I'd meet it. I talked to him that morning and I remember him just telling me about the cattle we'd brought together and the ranch. But he would see me next week and how much he loved me like he said he loved me I think. A usual amount of time. And I won my first medal of the season because I was relieved that I had made it. I thought I was going to see him again. And when I finished the race they told me he had passed away.



[00:11:26] Oh man.



[00:11:27] So. sorry.



[00:11:29] No. I can't even imagine.



[00:11:32] That kind of puts it into context like. But the coaching staff in the federation they didn't really ask if I was OK. They didn't know there was no I could use a grief counselor or something. And I think it was really apparent that you know throughout the season that I wasn't okay because I had been winning everything up until that point. And then I just thinking back I was just like man you know making me talk to the media go to NBC do all the stuff that they didn't offer. They didn't ask how I felt and my true feelings were that I was kind of mad at the sport. I blamed it for taking because I didn't value winning or performing over my family over my well-being. And I got to the point where I think that is what's expected of you to perform. To perform at all costs. Win at all costs. And that was not who I was that was not my identity. That's not what brought me to the sport. So there was a good period of time where cancer question that some I did remember it. My identity and who I was was challenged significantly. And it was mostly influenced by the generalized other. Or in other words the expectations of what the federation wanted me to tell the public of what was what people wanted to hear versus how I felt and what was really going on. I kind of lost the humanity that I think I need personally need to be able to perform well.



[00:13:00] Oh yeah. I can't. I mean you said you had to compete like four days after the funeral? Like at what point did you grieve?



[00:13:10] I am not sure that I ever was given that opportunity really. And I remember I spoke out at the Olympics about how upset I was. They'd find me, took away my stipend, my housing and told me I had no OPEC privileges or trading privileges. Until after I made the team again the following year. I no longer had like my sounding board I was pretty lost. And I didn't know how to let go of the sport and start something new. Because I've been in this weird place that was like Oh I love skills and I want to do skeleton but I love my father. And I want to be with my father and my father was gone. And then I was like I was left with this lingering feeling while I was supposed to win an Olympic medal and I didn’t. And if I want to do that I have to be OK with doing these things they're putting in front of me. And it was like a state of cognitive dissonance that I didn't become aware of. I think honestly until after Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. So. Yeah. Lives live am I right?



[00:14:16] Wow. Like you know I'm just trying to process what all you went through. I just can't even fathom that. I mean he's not even long after you lost your dad you broke your kneecap twice and you had 4 surgeries on it. And you still came back and competed the next year at the 2010 Olympic Games. I mean at some point did you just disconnect or is that when you really dove into it? How did you get yourself together to do that?



[00:14:46] I never did. I don't think I understand. I still am working on it. Like I was winning 50% of the time statistically. 75% of the time when I went to a race. 75% physically I was going to I was gonna win a medal. There was only a 25% chance that I'd walk away from a race without a medal. So for me to go to the Olympics like it wasn't even a question in my mind. Of course I was going to make it but when I get the medal. And I ended up like 7th I don’t know 11th I think.



[00:15:22] So you just go and went through the motions. Is that kind of?



[00:15:25] Yeah. That sort of thing. Like I was top 3 in the world. I had 22 World Cup medals, 11 gold, 6 World Championship. That it's like the most medals of anyone in the history of the sport up to that point. And I think that it was a huge indicator that something went wrong. I don't think I snapped out of it truly until after this past Olympics because something similar happened with my best friend passing away. So now I'm left at this point where I'm like OK well now I'm regaining my own agency. Like I'm remembering what it's like to do things for myself for me. Like who I am what I'm about and I can start saying no. I can start creating boundaries. And if I do go to another Olympics it'll be more for myself and for completely different reasons. Like I feel invigorated again. But yeah. I mean like I think that shattering my kneecap 6 weeks after my father passed. It was a symptom. Another symptom of what I was going through mentally. I crashed a snowmobile I think I was just kind of lost and numb and died. And I didn't have anybody. I was alone. So I don't really know how to describe it. That was like.



[00:16:42] No. I think that was a very good description. Yeah, I think it just goes to show us that like you can't just block things out then perform like you know things in your life have to be together and it's important you know who's in your life and what else is going on behind the scenes. Like sometimes we just forget that we think oh I can block it out and I can just do this thing. But it's no. It's your whole person right? I mean that's kind of what you keep saying. It's like everything has to kind of be together to make it all work.



[00:17:07] For me. I mean there are some people and that's what I think that's the difference. Like some athletes begin as children, right? And they become taught that performing is part of who they are like winning it defines them. That was never me. What I loved was discovering more of myself more of the world. And like I felt like God was taking me on a journey that I was meant to do you know. And that integrity like those things is all more important. And I somehow I think I got trick. I don't know. I got sucked into the other aspect of it. It swallowed my identity and I became an Olympic product. A commodity. And I think for me it's telling like for me personally. Because if I'm not true to myself and what I believe and what my essence is. Then I think it results in injury. Results in poor performance. Results in just a state of cognitive dissonance numbness. And I think it was like over this past season a good friend of mine was like I feel so bad for him. He was just there for me when I was like sorting through all this mentally poor Giddeon. I don't know if you know Giddeon Massie a two time Olympian for cycling. And I texted him all season long. I found my relationship with God again. But I didn't even really explain to him everything I was going through because it's pretty emotional and pretty dramatic. And I even talking to you about it I feel like this is a comfortable setting because people are gonna know. They're listening to like hear something. Significant something. Deep something. That’s to take you to the core.


[00:18:51] But in real life it's really difficult to find people that are willing to listen or engage because it shows vulnerability. Like for you to show your emotions they’ll talk about the way you're processing life. I don't think wade you're focused are the things you're facing. I think it's really rare to find the right people to do that with. And it's important for me personally to have a relationship with God. And I think that whole process I'm so thankful to have had a friend like that. But you know I'm coming back to realizing and this is really important guys. This is an important part of the lesson that the only one who knows if you're OK is you. And it truly comes down to being honest with yourself about what you're OK doing and what you're not. And the thing I forgot was in that moment when I said I didn't want to speak to the media I should have just stuck to that and said no. When I said I wanted to go home I should have stuck to that and pushed and not moved on my ground on that. I started to buy into thinking that it was my duty to go to compete for to make sure that the team could get money. I thought it was my duty to win a medal for my country and sort of go home to see my family and for some people that might be the right choice.


[00:20:11] I'm not saying that there is a right or wrong. But if you do something that you truly don't feel in your heart is the way for you then you're putting yourself in a state of conflict. And if you're in a state of conflict it's really difficult to hear the Holy Spirit. It's really difficult to hear God guide you the way he wants you to go. And I think that was the biggest epiphany I had. Was like whoa if I'm more honest with myself if I'm more true to myself about what I want to do my mistakes and make my commitment to my choices then I'm much more at peace than I can see clearly in my path forward.



[00:20:50] At Hope Sports we know that you want to be the best athlete that you can be. And in order to do that, you train hard and dedicate yourself to performing at your peak. But sometimes it can feel monotonous. Every day has a similar routine and when you win well no victory feels as good as a loss feels bad. It doesn't have to be this way. We believe athletes can compete at their full potential and reach their dreams while feeling lasting satisfaction from their accomplishments. We understand what it's like when you've dedicated your life to something. But you feel like you're never living up to people's expectations and you don't feel satisfied with your achievements. Hundreds of athletes have told us that they've discovered how to compete at their best while finding lasting fulfillment in their achievements during our interactive international service trips. Our next trip is coming up June 7th-10th in Rosarito Mexico and we want you to be there. It's so easy to get involved. Just go to HopeSports.org sign up for the June 7th-10th home build and build hope for a family and win like never before. So sign up today. It could be the key you need to find success in your career.


[00:21:57] Well I'm guessing so the next four years you made your third Olympic team in 2014 in Sochi. And it appears that you were kind of doing a little bit better emotionally, mentally because you did amazing there. And you just missed the podium by a fraction of a second for 100th of a second. I love how you put that in perspective and you say it's faster than you can even blink. Walk us through that experience.



[00:22:20] Sochi. [00:22:21] Oh my gosh. Well obviously that into athlete right? Because that's where that goes. I got a concussion and I spent some time with some combat veterans at a TBI clinic which is a traumatic brain injury clinic in Dallas. And I was like getting down on myself like here I am injured again this always happens like blah blah blah. And those guys told me their stories. Marcus Luttrell was there about how they'd been blown up. Crawled on their hands on their elbows for 7 miles to get to safety. And some of them were blown up and continued fighting. And I was over there with a head injury like still going to the Olympics acting like my life was over. And I was like OK So that just put everything in perspective. I'm still going to the Olympics and I'm capable of putting my best on the line. So my mentality shifted because I had men that served their country and put their lives on the line. To show me that I was serving my country but I wasn't putting my life on the line. And if they could do that I could definitely go with a new sense of courage and fortitude and just bring everything I had and let that be that. And that was the lesson my father had originally taught me. It kind of just revives that for a moment. Unfortunately, there was a Sochi doping scandal which was if you all could go watch it that will explain it in depth.



[00:23:46] That’s a powerful documentary. Yeah.



[00:23:45] But the Red Corn Russian KGB and the sports minister of Russia conspired to cheat. So they helped the athletes take this Austrian and different performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics. And then they switched out the doping samples with clean ones and destroyed the dirty samples so they could ensure they won medals. Now the girl who beat me was named in the investigative report as one of the athletes who is doping.



[00:24:17] You didn't know that at the time though did you?



[00:24:20] No I had the time on my leg. I mean I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get a medal but like it’ll be best Olympic like it was super fun like could have put on a great show. But in 2015 they disclosed all the stuff and Wrench a buddy of mine with friends Bryan Fogel the director of the movie. Texted and said that 100% Elena Nikitina on the girl who beat me was doping. And it broke my heart and I wasn't. My heart wasn't so much broken to the medal. It was broken because that Olympics was fake. I was just like oh my gosh everyone that participated in the race participated in something that wasn't real. They went to such long extended lengths to make sure they won. And it breaks my heart. And then you know like those pretty crazy like. It was exposed the IOC decide to strip the medal in November 2017 which made me a bronze medalist. I was like wow this is awesome you know. But the day I arrived in Pyeongchang they gave the Medal back. So I arrived at my fourth Olympic Games thinking I was a bronze medalist. And then when I woke up to go through processing I woke up to hate mail. And I mean some of whom are kind of funny but not nice. It was like you're not an athlete.



[00:25:33] Wait wait wait. Just back up a minute. How did they take it back? Like what exactly happened?



[00:25:41] That was through the court of arbitration of sport. So the athletes appealed to the higher court. And so the court of arbitrational sport ruled there wasn't enough individual evidence to show the athletes knew they were cheating. Or knew about the conspiracy. So I mean I'll just skip it. Skip the god Pyeongchang part. But I read a letter after the 2018 Games after experiencing that and I said I appreciate that you are attempting to protect the individual athlete right. However, I think you've done the opposite. You have not set any parameters in which the state can treat the athlete. And by giving them back the medals you're rewarding an abuse of power. It is not the reason that there is a conspiracy to cheat. It's not disputed that they distributed drugs. And it's not just that they destroyed the samples and replaced them with those athletes. That evidence is 100% factual by you rewarding them the medal. You have now allowed Russia to force their athletes to participate in a conspiracy to cheat against the Olympic movement. Olympic spirit and their health.


[00:26:48] What happens in 10 years when they can't have children. Some of them are having severe health issues or some of them pass away. Their friends their family and potentially themselves will come to you asking why you didn't do anything. Who is protecting the athlete from how the state can treat them? And that kind of set me on a pathway this fall where I began investigating the Olympic movement and the systems and processes in place. All the way from the top to the from the IOC down to the USOC. And I'm on a mission to create an independent athlete commission or association like a player's association for athletes in the US. I'm hoping it can be recognized by the 96 Olympic Committee. Acknowledging that there is a cultural issue that there is a problem. That the athletes have nowhere to go outside of their federations or any and National Committee is open to NSC. that can negotiate. Mediate on their behalf or hope their well-being first. We really truly need to define athlete right? And ensure that the culture is changed from a win at all costs. Performance at all costs to you. Your well-being is as important as your performance.



[00:28:03] That would be huge. That's awesome. I'm glad you've made that part of your mission. That's really really cool. I mean I don't like that you've had to go through these things to learn that and become passionate about it. But I mean just think of all the people that you're going to help in the future because of that. That’s really cool.



[00:28:19] I think the only reason people are listening is due to what happened to the gymnast. And so I think that I'm hoping you know I think one of the girls Jamie I don't remember how to say Well I think the thoughts of a D. She was one of the first ones to speak out against Larry Nasser. And the sexual abuse he did. And because of her slowly the rest of the girl started to stand up and speak out. It was like 1to 10 to 15 now 300 over 300. And because of them, Congress is listening USSC is listening. And I can't imagine what it was like to go through what they went through. But I think the solution like this like I spoke to her last night actually and she was like oh my gosh I had no idea. I was like you know our experience isn't unique. But the susceptibility to neglect. To neglecting our needs. And the culture pushing that on us to believe that that's what it takes to become an Olympian. That’s what it takes to perform is real. And I think that this is a great solution that can bring us all together. And kind of bring some empowerment to some of those victims or people that have suffered you know. It makes me feel better to come up with a solution to the problem. And I see that I could have easily been one of those administrators that believe in that process too. Like I can't imagine being put in a position where it's like my paycheck or the depends on this athlete performance. I actually want to recheck that statement because I would want to make sure that athletes were OK. But I think that you know the environment's gone. The culture has gone a little too far.



[00:30:01] Mm-hmm. For sure. Well, now that lead up to we're talking about to Pyeongchang. Your fourth Olympic Games can't leave you in for that's so cool. I mean it was difficult on so many levels. Obviously you just talked about the whole finding out about the medals from Sochi. You mentioned earlier your best friend Steve Holcomb his Olympic champion he passed away. You've had you had five surgeries. You struggled with an autoimmune disease. I mean you have quite the story to athletic career you know. How did you handle emotionally, physically, and mentally going into that games?



[00:30:40] Well like I said I had really great support. Giddeon was someone I spoke to all the time and it was really great for him. I had this other friend Leah Oriel she is my sister in Christ. And then she came on tour with me like a month. I had another friend that I met out there. His name is Manny he used to be a minister. So I mean like it was really important to me for me to have God in my life. I think that really got me through a lot. And then Elana Meyers was on tour with me and she was a huge support. But honestly like I didn't share with either anyone really what I was truly going through. I was diagnosed with PTSD. The only people that I told were the Federation and the coaches. So I don't know if I handled it really well I didn't really know how I ended up just kind of going numb and I was still pushing transport through things. There's no real black or white answer there. You know I was feeling I would have triggers so I would have anxiety attacks panic attacks and then you know I was trying to sort through a lot. So I just tried to put my best foot forward but I went numb.


[00:31:55] To be honest I was exhausted by the time I got to the Olympics. And I can't say that I was really excited to be there but I did my best. And I was very aware that I was a role model for a lot of people so I made sure to be clear about that good thing. Like I was really happy about the fact that I got to start a relationship with my mom again. That was really happy to have really had a come to Jesus moment on that year. I was really grateful for my friends and family but that doesn't change the fact that I was dealing with a lot. And I was emotionally exhausted. And like there are plenty of moments I didn't feel like I handled myself well at all. I spent way too many long texts to Giddeon.



[00:32:44] Giddeon if you're listening. Thank you.



[00:32:47] Yes. But I mean that's what friends are for right? And if they can really understand who you are and what you're going through like and not judge you for it. That's pretty awesome. I mean it's tough right? I don't know how I dealt or process it. I think I still am. Like I finally got thanks to talk space and Michael Phelps. I got some real help. The USOC doesn't have any true mental health resources. So when I told them I was having panic attack anxiety attack. They didn't really know what to do and then when I ask for help they just kind of brushed me off. So. I'm really grateful that you know I have the right people in place to help now. And but it's still a process. Like I'm just starting to get back on ice and I get triggers every once in a while or a nightmare and I can't sleep.But I think it's definitely getting a lot better. It's much less intense than it was. I should have clarified I got PTSD. Because in May 2017 I found my best friend Steve Holcomb passed away in the Olympic Training Center from an overdose. He accidentally took too many sleeping pills and drank and it ended up being lethal.


[00:34:08] So that was I think the whole situation though I think that's what woke me up finally. Because it paralleled with my dad and I remember Holcomb said to me right before he passed away. Remember who you are. You said be the Kate your dad said you were which was fierce. And you would go to the line dancing your own music and not really care about winning and thought and relax. Like the performance was never my focus and you should stop looking for people to assure you that you know. Stop looking for your dad to be or for people to be who your dad was you. No one hope you passed away. I was like. It kind of snap me out of it I think. And like I said I'm regaining my own agency and you know going through these therapies and stuff. That's when I started I realized like Wow that's where all my trauma came from. Was when I swallowed who I was to perform I lost my identity. So I think currently I am rediscovering that. I'm on a mission of personal discovery.


[00:35:16] And I'm grateful to have rediscovered God along the way. Which I think is huge because it was always a huge part of my life in the past. And I'm rambling now but I think that was one of the things that I realized was that when my father died I stopped praying as much. I stopped doing a lot of reflection and intersection and the things that took care of me. Like you have to make time and create space for yourself and create space for God. And I think that was one of the things I didn't do when I became overwhelmed with sadness or you know. Like I said if you're in a state of cognitive dissonance a state of conflict really hard to hear the Holy Spirit. Hard to hear yourself. So you know facing those things to clear that out and create faith that's going to be a constant job I think.



[00:36:09] I'm glad to hear you're on the right track and you're figuring out how to sort through it. And like you said talking to God and having those important relationships. And having therapy and talking. Like working through those things that's so huge. And you said you're back on ice so are you still competing and looking forward to Beijing?



[00:36:30] Oh my gosh Beijing so far away. Just pick your day and time.



[00:36:34] Well, you also I picked up another sport in this process too, didn't you?



[00:36:39] I did. I am currently a national champion in 2 sports back to back. And I'm gonna try and do it again. When I try to win skeleton Nationals and then cycling Nationals again it’s like you've done?



[00:36:48] That’s amazing.



[00:36:51] I don't know. I'm just gonna take a day of time like I got injured and I'm just now getting back on ice like tomorrow. So I have about 6 weeks to prepare for national and everywhere else has been sliding since October. But I'm just like. I'm just starting to think that my career numbers are coming up on most people stages. So I should be at all. They’re like calling me grandma skeleton at this point. I'm like I am 34 and offended.



[00:37:22] Grandma Skeleton I like it.



[00:37:24] Ouch. But I'll take it. So then I'll do nationals. And then if I win I get to buy on to the world team next season. And then I'm gonna head back to L.A. immediately and start training for Team front. Which is like you go in this little circle and a velodrome it's like a fishbowl. The sport getting in bed and my teammate is Mandy Marquardt I think. I like calling her Marquardt because it is French. But so we won nationals and if we win again in my time is within the league standard then I'll get a Pan Am games. And hopefully help us attempt to make the summer games Tokyo 2020. But I'm like a second offer I need to be which is quite a bit of time. And I haven't had a lot of experience on a bike but I'm really enjoying it and the community is fantastic. I love being a part of a team. I love that I can do it and stay in one place like skeleton I’ve travel non-stop. So I think I'm ready to like transition into not traveling as much. And I was in L.A. up until like last week. I have to say 70 degrees in January was pretty awesome.



[00:38:38] A far cry from the skeleton you know area I'm sure.



[00:38:43] Yeah. I mean like Christmas was super rad. I wanted to get a palm dream and put like a Charlie Brown decoration on it. And then just wear an ugly sweater because the flake warm enough where you don't need a coat. But cool enough to wear like a sweater is appropriate. I was like This is great. This is business Christmas.



[00:38:53] That would be perfect. Oh That’s awesome. Well cool. Well, where can we follow you because you're absolutely incredible you're awesome. So where can we follow you online to continue to be inspired and encouraged by you and cheer you on toward Tokyo and Beijing perhaps?



[00:39:16] Instagram @kateu11 and all the other ones there @KatieU11 Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. It's not hard to find me. So is there another platform missing?



[00:39:30] No. That's perfect. We'll make sure to put those on there. Katie thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your story and just encouraging and inspiring all of us.



[00:39:42] I really appreciate the opportunity and thank you.



[00:39:46] Wow. I love how vulnerable Katie is willing to be with her story. Knowing that her openness can encourage others to take an honest look at themselves. As well and perhaps even be bold enough to engage with where they're at. At one point she said the only one who knows if you're OK is you. And men that is so true. If you're feeling off or unheard or you resonate with Katie's sense of neglect then I encourage you to just like she did to go on a journey to discover who you are again. Reach out to a friend or a mentor and get connected to those who can remind you of your identity. Seriously Katie that was some amazing wisdom and we're so grateful. Be sure to follow her on all of her socials that are linked in the show notes so that you can cheer her on as she aims for her fifth Olympics and shoots for back to back Summer and Winter Games. Don't forget to subscribe and join us each week for more raw honest conversations with athletes about how their journeys have shaped them and how they are engaging in things that give them purpose. And if you're interested in getting outside of your normal day today and you want to pursue purpose then consider registering for an upcoming trip with hope sports. The link is in the show notes and a trip is coming up this June that you do not want to miss. Next step is swimmer Michael Andrews who is a young up and comer who has broken over 100 national age group records. He's blazing a trail to the 2020 Olympics and he'll share more about his story right here next week. On behalf of Hope Sports, I'm Laura Wilkinson. Thanks for listening. This podcast is produced by Evo Terra and Simpler Media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete archives please visit HopeSport.org



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About This Episode

Hardly any kids grow up bobsledding regularly or even dreaming of reaching an elite level in the sport. The same was true for Elana Meyers Taylor. As a kid she played all sorts of sports before focusing on softball, which she went on to play for George Washington University. Throughout college it was her goal to play with the Olympic team, but tryouts did not go as she hoped. “I literally had the worst tryout ever,” Elana recalls. She swung over balls, misthrew relays, and bumbled catches, all of which solidified the disappointing end of her softball career.

Hanging up her cleats didn’t just signify the end of softball, it felt like letting go of her Olympic dreams. In the midst of the post-graduation listlessness, her parents saw bobsled on television and encouraged her to check it out. A quick google search and an email to the coach of the US National Team landed Elana an invitation to give bobsled a try. After a few shorts months on the track, she attended the Olympic Trials for the 2010 games in Vancouver and a selection committee chose her for the position of brakeman for a two woman team. In light of the immense pressure to simply make the American team, the actual Olympics were like a dream. She took time to be present, enjoying the celebration of diversity, athletics, and sportsmanship. With her bobsled partner she took bronze and will forever remember the bliss of her amatuer games.

But now that she had one Olympics and one medal under her belt, the pressure was on to go for gold. She increased her training and the frequency of competition. She took silver at the 2013 World Championships, but didn’t just head home with her medal, she walked away with a ring as well. Her boyfriend and fellow bobsledder, Nic Taylor, popped the question in front of her friends, family, and fans as she got down from the podium and broadcast their love story around the world.

Elana stepped into 2014 prepping for the Sochi Olympics and for her April wedding; a welcome distraction in the midst of such rigorous training. These games felt different, however. In Vancouver she was there to experience the Olympics, soak in the culture, and participate in the celebration of nations -- in Sochi she was there for gold. Rather than being selected for the role of brakeman, she earned a spot as the driver. Focused and competing well, they held onto their gold medal standing through three of the four cumulative heats. But a mental mistake early in the final heat cost them the gold. “We almost lost some of the fun of it because it was all about the medal, and maybe that’s why we didn’t get it,” Elana says. She walked away devastated and disappointed, truly more upset over not competing to her full potential than missing out on a gold medal.

Post Sochi she took a much needed reprieve from bobsled. She got married in April, and that summer trained in California at the same facility as the US Women’s Rugby Team which, like bobsled, is also known for attracting crossover athletes. Elana was invited to practice with the team and went on to play in two tournaments with the National Women’s Rugby Sevens team. “I found a community of really enthusiastic, encouraging women,” says Elana. It was the perfect change of pace after a disappointing Olympics, but she knew that her heart was still with bobsled.  She returned to the track that fall, albeit in a slightly different scenario. 2014 marked the end of a 75 year ban on women in four-man bobsled competition. With the right to drive secured Elana was immediately keen to give it a try, but she was having trouble getting anyone behind her in the sled. Her husband, Nic, was the first to volunteer to compete with her and his presence encouraged several more athletes to join. She became the first woman to compete in international mixed gender competition for the United States.

In 2018 both Elana and her husband represented Team USA in bobsled at the Olympics in PyeongChang. She was enlisted as a driver, while her husband was selected to the men’s team as an alternate. He may have been disappointed for a minute, “but he is the most positive person that I know,” says Elana. They were looking forward to experiencing the games together that year, but a week before competition Elana partially tore her achilles in a training exercise. Determined to compete, she arrived in PyeongChang in a wheelchair and had to radically alter her pre-race training to account for the injury. Oscillating between training as much as possible to be sharp, but as little as possible to recover, she needed to manage the pain and try to not do further damage. Her husband jumped on board with the trainers to quicken her recovery. He pushed her around the games in a wheelchair to cut back on walking and even refashioned her shoes to alleviate pressure on her ankle. She went on to win a silver medal that year, but wasn’t dampened by the disappointment she felt with the previous second place finish. Focused more on the experience and her efforts, rather than the outcome, left Elana feeling proud of what she offered and the medal she got to bring back with her.  “I wanted it to be fun for the people, and for the games,” Elana recalls.

Through the ups and downs of competition and injury, it’s her faith and her family that keep her grounded. Her father was a professional athlete and she credits him with instilling in her the importance of having other hobbies and passions. Even in her marriage the presence of sport is limited. “We have to ask permission to use the ‘b-word’ at home,” jokes Elana. With two professional bobsledders in the house, it would be easy to allow critiques of training, debates on strategy, or stress about upcoming races overshadow their relationship. “I have always managed to work or volunteer outside of my sport to make sure I don’t get too inundated with bobsled. ” she says. Most notably for Elana is her recent work with the Women’s Sports Foundation. The Foundation aims to encourage and advance the lives of girls and women through sports. Started by tennis legend Billie Jean King, the organization encourages professional athletes to be ambassadors to their communities, supports programs that involve young girls in a variety of sports, and advocates for sports equality for all. In 2018, Elana was named President of the Women’s Sports Foundation and awarded an honorary doctorate in Public Service from George Washington University.

Through it all she continues to train and fully intends to race in Beijing, but her regimen looks different now. Accounting for her injury and her age, she’s no longer pounding out intense workouts or testing her strength in the weight room. Her experience, self-awareness, and confidence allow her to craft a program that works for her and gives space in her life for things that matter more than another medal: service and family. Elana continues to be recognized for the inspiring woman that she is, so be sure to follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and at the Women’s Sports Foundation as she looks ahead to the 2022 Olympics and advocates for uplifting work around the world.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_toggle title="Read Episode Transcript" admin_label="Transcript" _builder_version="3.21.1" saved_tabs="all"]

[00:00:05] Hello and welcome to the Hope Sports Podcast where each week amazing athletes share their personal stories of
overcoming obstacles and conquering fears. To encourage you in your unique journey towards purpose. I'm your host Olympic
gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. This week we have such an influential and inspiring guest Elana Meyers Taylor is a three-time
Olympian and an incredibly decorated bobsledder. But if you've ever felt like your dreams were dashed with one blundered
opportunity then Elana is your girl. Hear about how she navigated a failure so big that it seemed her Olympic aspirations
would never come to be. Elana also uses her success to advocate for others. She serves as the president of the Women's Sports
Foundation and will surely stir you to find ways to give back to those around you. All right. Let's dive on in. Elana welcome to
the Hope Sports Podcast! I am absolutely stoked that you're here with us today.
[00:00:58] It's great to be here.
[00:00:59] Now ok. You did not start off in bobsled for what you are so well-known for now. Can you kind of give us your
background? How you got started in the sports and how that eventually led to bobsled?
[00:01:10] Yeah so just as a process most people given a bobsled through a variety of ways and nobody grows up bobsledding.
With the exception of where do you live in Lake Placid New York or Park City Utah you might grow up doing it but for the
most part nobody grows up bobsledding. So I grew up playing a lot of different sports softball, basketball,l track, soccer, you
name it I played it. I really love softball and I went to college played softball. Played professionally with the intention of going
to the Olympics. And I did everything I could but have an Olympic tryout and had the absolute worst tryout in the history of
[00:01:45] Oh no.
It was really bad like swinging up balls over my head. It was horrendous. And then softball sticking out of the game. So I
thought my Olympic dream was over but I still had it. So I was like well what sports can I try. And it was at that point that my
parents actually saw Boston on TV and were like why not try this one? they're looking for a woman. And I was like OK sure
why not. And I just google it emailed the coach and got invited to a tryout.
[00:02:12] Oh my gosh I love it. You just google that right? Ey! let's give it a whirl!
[00:02:16] Yeah. I have no idea what I would have done if I was pre-google. You know I couldn’t have found it.
Google saves the day! I love it. Oh, that's insane. And so I mean it was like what? Less than three years from when you started
to when you were standing on the podium at the Olympics right?
[00:02:33] Yeah it was crazy. That was a little bit of a whirlwind. I never would have imagined that. I knew I had a shot to
make an Olympic team but that was all I thought. I didn’t have intentions of medals.
[00:02:46] Oh man that's so great. So what was making that first Olympics in 2010 like? I mean was it just a dream but just in

a different sport? Or I mean was it just surreal? Describe that to us.
[00:02:57] It was absolutely a dream. I mean the first thing is for bobsled for women's bobsled. We have 2 men is our
traditional Olympic event and there's 2 of us in the sled. So I was in the back and I was a brakeman and now I'm the pilot. The
brakeman position is largely dependent on a selection committee. So it's a group of people who select you to be on the team.
Whereas the pilot the role I'm in now you actually raced races and earn points and you make the team based off of your
performance. So brakeman, it's a much more nerve-racking position. So all the way up until like 2 weeks before the Olympics
when the team is actually announced. You're battling it out and you're sweating you're nervous as a brakeman because you
have no idea what this committee is going to select. And fortunately, I was selected so that moment was just the most
incredible. Because you know it was. Truly I wasn't sure what was going to happen. And at that moment when they named me,
it was like oh my gosh this is what I've been working for my entire life. And actually, at that moment I actually could relax a
little because I feel like I can go and enjoy these Olympics. I made the team. And that seemed a lot harder than actually
competing at the Olympics.
[00:04:06] I feel like that too. Our Olympic tryouts on diving are sometimes more intense than being at the Olympics. Because
if you don't make the Olympic team you can't try and achieve your dreams. You know that home making the team part that's so
[00:04:18] Yeah. Yeah. US is tough for that too. So.
[00:04:22] Oh yeah for sure. Now at the 2013 world championships, you won a silver medal and as exciting as that is
something else happened on that award stand that I'm willing to bet was maybe even a little more exciting than the medal. Can
you tell us about that?
[00:04:36] Yes it was one of the most exciting days of my life. So funny enough I had been dating my now husband for two
years at the time and use a bobsledder too. And we had had the conversation. I thought he was going to propose to me at
Christmas. So I was a little disappointed with it. And we had the conversation I was like absolutely do not propose to me at
World Championships. I want championships to be about worlds. I want our proposal to be about that because we had talked
about getting married. But lo and behold doesn't listen to me and propose to me while I was on the medal stand. But actually
it's one of the coolest moments of my life and I'm so glad he did it. And now we have footage and now we have like all these
photos from around the world of people who are covering the event. Because you just got down on one knee got some roses for
me. Which end up because it was so cold and save from Switzerland. This rose is actually frozen. Which is kind of funny? My
hands were so swollen from racing. The ring did not fit but still that the proposal was changed so much better than any real
championship medal could ever be.
[00:05:46] Oh that's so epic. I love it that all the photographers are there. Everybody covered it. That's so cool. It's a good thing
he didn't listen to you that one time. Right?
[00:05:54] Yeah that one time.
[00:05:55] you let him sneak by. Well, so how was going into the Sochi Games in 2014 different from your first Olympic

[00:06:04] It was very different because my first Olympic experience I went in just happy to be there. You know you just oh
everything's the most wonderful thing possible. But in Sochi I actually went in with the intention of winning a gold medal. And
that was where everything was focused on. And I felt like we had a great team in place. And I felt like my driving and my
understanding of that particular track in Sochi was in a place where we could actually go to the gold medal. So that was all the
focus. And as some part, I think we actually lost a little bit of the fun during that experience. It came about the gold medal and
I think that's actually why we didn’t end up with the gold medal because that's all the focus was on.
[00:06:45] Wow. So I guess. I mean do you guys still got a silver but was that disappointing then because you were so focused
on the gold?
[00:06:53] It was a little disappointing because we were leading in the race for 3 heats and.
[00:06:58] You did 4 right?
[00:07:00] Yep yep we did four heats. And then it's total combined time. And so I was in a really good position after the first
three heats. I’m still leading the race by over a 10th of a second at least. Which is a pretty large margin bobsled to start off
with. And then I made a mental mistake and ended up making a pretty costly mistake in its curve at the top of the track. And
that cost us a good amount of time. Which ended up costing us the gold medal essentially. And I think because I put the
pressure on myself and because I had actually questioned myself whether or not I could do it. You know that's what eventually
cost us. And because I was so focused on that gold medal and because we were so close it really changed how I looked at that
[00:07:46] Oh wow. So how did you feel after that? Like walking out the games like after that?
[00:07:51] Oh I was pretty devastated. And you know I feel like you still win silver medal. You know it's still a huge
accomplishment. At the same time and knowing that I could have done better. That's the hardest thing to deal with. Four years
later the same result but a totally different experience. So after that Olympics you know I knew I could do better I could be a
better driver I could be a better athlete at that point. And that's why I felt like I'd let myself down and my team down. So I
knew I had to make changes going into the next quad.
[00:08:25] That's cool. And you and Nic tied the knot shortly after Sochi right?
[00:08:29] Yes.
[00:08:29] so was the wedding planning distracting at all going into that games? Or was it you were able to separate and
[00:08:35] It's actually you know I wouldn't necessarily recommend this but it actually gives you something else to focus on. I

feel like as athletes sometimes we get so caught up in what we're doing. And live in these little bubbles of you know you got to
do every single thing in my sport. We're trying to fight for every hundred. So what that comes down to is what you eat, how
much you're sleeping, what exact time you're doing your workouts, and you spend so much time in that focus. It's sometimes
nice to have things outside to focus on. And the wedding planning was kind of in that regard. And I didn't really know what I
was doing. My mom helps me fit a lot of it. She called me up one day she's like so what color do you want for your wedding? I
said pink and she's like OK what shade of pink? I was like there are different shades of pink? What are you talking about? I
don't know pink shades. It is a good distraction in some regards.
[00:09:26] It's awesome. I love you're like laid back attitude. That's great. Okay, so 2015 was another huge year for you where
you made history. You became the first woman to earn a spot on the U.S. national team competing with the men as a 4 man
bobsled pilot. You went on to become the first woman to win a medal in international competition in a men's event. And if
that's not enough you also won the 2015 World Championships in the women's two main event the first woman in history to do
so. I mean what? How are you doing these things? And what separates you from everyone else?
[00:10:03] I don’t know. Grace God that's all I could say. Fortunately, you know I've got really good people around me my
husband being one of them. And that was the biggest thing is when I wanted to take on 4 men in traditionally women's bobs
but it's just been too personal. We've actually been banned from driving for man sleds for most of history all the way from
1939 to 2014. Women were actually banned from driving for men sleds you know. Because I don't know it'll hurt our ovaries
or something like that. So we finally got the right to drive sleds and I really wanted to take it on. But it was something I when I
initially went to take it on you know I couldn't get anyone to get behind me in the sled. Couldn't get a brakeman and I was
having a lot of a hard time really making this happen. And my husband being a bobsledder volunteered to be the first one in
my sled. And then, fortunately, I was able to get other guys to join him really join him join me to join him after.
[00:11:02] So like I said I've been fortunate to have his support and the support of other people around me to really do some
incredible things and have some incredible experiences. And in that season, in particular, it was not only my husband but my
coaching staff as well to try and work together to develop a plan. Allow me to do both 2 man and 4 man races and still compete
at a high level. So it took a team literally in order to be able to accomplish those things.
[00:11:29] That's so cool. And that kind of leads in really well because I was gonna ask you. What's it like having a husband
that's also an elite level bobsledder?
[00:11:38] Most of the time is pretty awesome. He understands me better than I understand myself and he knows what I need
before I know I need it. And it's just great having him there with me and having him to help out with whatever I need at the
Olympics this year. There's no chance I would have won a silver medal without him. So he's the instrumental part of my team.
At the same time I want him to win more than I want myself to win. So it is very I can imagine me because you have children
so maybe it's like that way for having had kids. You get so nervous when they're competing and just it's hard for me to actually
watch. And like not want to do something but there's nothing you do. You just did the sidelines and just hope and pray because
you can't do anything. That is the most nerve-racking thing I think ever.
[00:12:32] Well I heard I read somewhere that you guys try to minimize your shop talk at home no. Like at home you say it's
the B word or something. Isn't there some like rule about it? What’s the rule?
[00:12:43] We have to ask permission to talk about the B-word. Just because we really want to make sure you know this day
and age there are enough distractions out there. And we want to make sure that our marriage is secure and we're really engaged

with each other. So we want to make sure we're not sitting at home talking about bobsled all day. Because at one point we're
not going to be bobsledder anymore. We're not going to be able to do this anymore. And it's important that we don't spend
however many years you've got only focus on the bobsled. And what would we talk about in our marriage later? We're just
going to sit around and tell all bobsled sort of stuff? It is important to develop ourselves outside of sport.
[00:13:21] Oh that's great! I love it. And you did mention that your husband got in with you to encourage others to get in the
sled with you. But you also got to compete with him didn't you?
[00:13:30] Yes. Yep.
[00:13:31] Okay. So were you as nervous for him when he was in your sled? Or are you not as nervous then because you were
[00:13:37] No I was less nervous because I was driving. I had control. So I could actually do something about it. So actually
that was the most fun stories. But with other drivers like I’m a nervous wreck.
[00:13:49] I love it. You guys work well together it's perfect.
[00:13:52] I'll continue my conversation with Elana in just a minute but first I want to tell you more about what we do here at
Hope Sports. At Hope Sports, we know that you want to be the best athlete that you can be in order to do that. You train hard
and dedicate yourself to performing at your peak. But sometimes it can feel monotonous. Every day as a similar routine and
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to HopeSports.org sign up for the June 7th through the 10th home build and build hope for a family. And win like never before.
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[00:15:09] And now back to the last half of my conversation with Elana. Now you mentioned getting really nervous when he
goes and he was an alternate on the 2018 men's Olympic bobsled team. And you made your third Olympic team. I'm guessing
there was a huge mix of emotions there. Can you kind of walk us through that?
[00:15:26] Yeah. So actually most people I feel like come off the Olympics and are pretty disappointed to be named in an
alternate spot. But you know my husband is one of the most positive people you would ever meet. And as soon as he was
named to the alternate sport yes he was disappointed that he wouldn't be racing but same time our alternates travel with us.
They stay right if they're not in the village they stay right outside the village. There are training sessions every day. They have
full access to the village. So they're there with us and they're an integral part of the team. So for him as soon as they named the
alternate selection he spent maybe a minute being bombed and then he just took it. What do I need to do to help this team win a
medal? And not only did he do that to the men's team but he also did that for me as well. As is what is my role now and how
am I going to support my wife in trying to win this medal. So before that Olympics, I actually ended up tearing my Achilles.
So he was an instrumental part of me being able to even compete. And he'd be an alternate being able to be there every single
day helped me through that was huge.

[00:16:36] When did you tear it?
[00:16:38] We had a training camp a week before the Games. We were at opening ceremonies and I was doing an uphill Sprint
and came down wrong on it. And immediately felt like a shot in the leg. It was not great.
[00:16:41] Oh my goodness.
[00:16:52] OK. Yeah. So how did you go on to be OK enough to do it at the Olympics? I mean had a tear that's pretty
significant. That's tough.
[00:17:03] Yes. So it was a partial tear. Luckily it wasn't a full rupture. And then at that point, we had MRI and everything and
we realized you know this is pretty bad. But if I could manage the pain there's a chance I might do some worse damage. I
definitely did. But the main thing was dealing with the pain and figuring out creative ways to train as much as possible. But
also train as little as possible to get to the actual races. And so it was even to the point where I had medical treatments every
single day multiple times a day. I couldn't walk in opening ceremonies. We literally had to limit my walking as much as
possible. I actually rolled up to the games in a wheelchair. Came off the plane and was going through Pyeongchang in a
wheelchair for a little bit. Which is pretty interesting. And then my husband recrafted my shoes to make it more comfortable.
To allow me to get his sled. And we just really got creative with our training.
[00:18:04] Wow! That's impressive. I mean I know most athletes are at some level of injury going in but to have a significant
tear like that. That's something else. I mean you are battling team Germany and Pyeongchang right over for heats of
competition back and forth and you just miss out on the Gold Medal by seven hundreds of a second. But you said this is totally
different from Sochi. So what was that experience like?
[00:18:27] Yeah. Going in with the Achilles I knew we were at a significant disadvantage I knew that would hurt us
significantly. And also we're having some equipment issues as well so I knew the cards were against us. So I just went in and
tried to drive the four best heats of my life and I really felt like I'd put together a race that could be proud of. And that's why
regardless of whether or not we had won a medal I would be happy with that race because we really went out there and put on
a show me and my brakeman Lauren Gibbs and I think we put on a great performance. And at the end of the day, I think that's
where my career's kind of shifted. It started off as all about me and what's going on and inside my head and my hands and
really wanting to win all this hardware. But it became more about the performance and going out there and putting our show. I
mean that's what people want to see you know working out there to perform in front of you at the Olympics millions of people.
They want to see a show. They want to see a close race 700th of a second they don't want to see somebody winning by half a
second. So if I can give people a good entertaining show that's what I'm out there to do.
[00:19:33] I love how you connected that to like you understand the change and just having that different attitude. Like I'm just
going to put on my best song and be happy with what I can do and just getting the same result. Like you said you're walking
away with a totally different feeling and emotion and memories from it. I mean that's pretty awesome. I think that's a great
takeaway for all of us listening to your story here. But do have to back up because right before Pyeongchang didn’t you try a
different sport randomly? What? What? Like how did that happen? And why did that happen?
[00:20:08] Yes. So during the summers in bobsled you can train anywhere in the world. There's no ice so we're just doing

running and lifting. So right before Sochi I was into a Vista California at the Olympic Training Center out there where the U.S.
rugby team trains. And the rugby coach saw me and of course, I'm pretty much rugby player size and my dad is running back
to the NFL. So he saw me as like Hey! Why don't you come over here and throw this rugby ball around and come on in and
practice with us? And I was like you know what I'm kind of busy right now not to of risks. But afterward you know I came
home from Sochi I was pretty disappointed and I just wanted to be away from bobsled for a little bit. And rugby gave me a
perfect outlet.
[00:20:51] So I was fortunate enough you know rugby looks for a lot of crossover athletes. So I was fortunate enough to go
right with the U.S. team and start training with them and go to two tournaments with them. Which was a really cool experience
and really helped me get over I guess your “Post-Olympic depression that you kind of suffer”. Especially when you're really
disappointed with a performance like that you know. I was inundated with a group of girls who were so energetic about the
sport rugby. Which at that time was just going Olympic and they were just trying to navigate this Olympic pathway and
everything. And the girls were so welcoming and everything. It was a nice breath of fresh air right after those games.
[00:21:31] That's cool. Be careful because we just talked to
Alev Kelter
a few weeks ago and that's how she got sucked right
in. So we might be needing to watch for you in the next Summer Games but I think I'm hearing.
[00:21:41] Good now! Me and Alev actually came in at the same time. So she's a joy. She's awesome person.
[00:21:48] Yeah. She is she is fantastic! Now I have to ask this because I don't know much about the bobsled process and how
you get your teammates. Cause I know each Olympic Games you've had a different teammate. And you said the pilot is based
off of like points and results and how you're doing. But the brakeman is always selected so is that hard for you? Are you
having to constantly work with different people throughout the season then? Like how does that dynamic work? So
[00:22:14] Yes. Yeah. They do constantly rotate throughout the season. They used to be in bobsled that the pilots used to
choose their brakeman. But in order to make sure they had the most competitive sleds possible they changed it to a selection
committee. It's six people coaches and some of the upper-level executives who sit down and decide the brakeman for each sled.
And they look at numbers they look at physical testing numbers. They look at results of races over the season and how they've
done. And really try and dig into the numbers and choose the best brakeman for each sled. So I have a little bit of input but
usually. It doesn't really it goes with whatever they see best. And as a pilot, you kinda just have to trust that they know what's
best for your sled. Because this pilot I feel likes you can have blind spots. You could feel more comfortable with one person or
another. But if they see something that's gonna make you faster down the hill then you have to trust them. So it's nerve-
wracking for the brakeman to know. And in the past 2 Olympics 3 Olympics, I think the difference between making and not
making the team for brakeman over all the data we had is like 200th of the second. So it's very narrow margins and it's very it's
a crushing decision. But fortunately, I don't have to make it.
[00:23:34] That's so tough. Well OK, so your life is so intertwined in your sport. I mean when you train you earn a living.
You're sitting on the boards of directors. You're getting proposed to at an event. You're training with and competing with your
husband. Like all of these things with bobsled. Like how do you separate Elana and your worth as a person from your
performance and your results as an athlete?
[00:23:54] Yeah. I think part of it is my faith. Part of it is staying up with my faith and realizing that there's more to bobsled
than you know. God gave me a gift to be a bobsledder but that's not the only thing I'm going to do. And that's the only thing

I've done. So there's much more I have to accomplish and in that regard. My father being a professional athlete always made
sure that we had other interests because you never know when it's going to end. I hope that I get the chance to choose when I
retire. But at the end of the day, you don't know. So we've seen with plenty of athletes. They have to retire before they would
like to so I have to be prepared. I've always managed to work or volunteer or do whatever I can outside my sport. To make sure
I don't get too intimidated in the day and day bobsledding and that's my only life. Because at some point it's gonna end and I
need to be prepared for that.
[00:24:48] So wise. I love it. Now last year at George Washington University honored you with an honorary doctorate degree.
And now you're the current president of the Women's Sports Foundation. I mean does this kind of all just seem surreal? Or
These things you were hoping for and getting for one day like Long long ago? How is life taken this turn for you?
[00:25:09] It is very surreal. I always wanted a doctorate but I thought I actually have to go to school. And so.
[00:25:15] Most people do.
[00:25:16] Yeah. You know. I so might do that. That's in the cards. But as far as the Women's Sports Foundation and being the
president of that it's. Every day it's such an honor to be at the helm of that organization. It's for me it's an organization that's
paid such a powerful role in my life. As far as even just giving me some of the basics I needed to be able to become an elite
level Bobsledder. So whether it's in the form of grants or whether it was in the form of support you know. Being able to go to
events and meet the most incredible female athletes in the world and being able to sit down and pick their brains. And be how
are you successful? How are you able to do this? You know it's just been such an incredible organization towards me. So to be
able to be in this position it's such an honor and a privilege. Like I do have to pinch myself because you know to be able to
impact girls and women in sports it's more than I could ever ask for.
[00:26:12] So cool. What are some of the coolest things you've done since being president?
[00:26:16] The coolest things by far are the Athlete Ambassador events. The events we put on. We have Athlete Ambassador
events around the country and if anybody's interested listeners interested we're always looking for athlete ambassadors. And
basically, we would run events at people's hometown. And we'd have athletes at those events Women's Sports Foundation
athletes. And so those events have been the most incredible events I get to. Because it's girls from a variety of backgrounds
whether different socioeconomic status different racial status it doesn't matter. All different backgrounds and we're working
with them in one common task and that's learning a sport. And so to be able to see the smiles on their faces to be able to see
100 kids run up to Billie Jean King you know. Billie Jean King is 75 years old and you've got 6year olds running up to her
asking for the autograph. And being a part of that it's the coolest thing I could ever imagine. And it's just being surrounded by
kids who are so enthusiastic just to be able to get out and play a sport. Like with them it's not about winning Olympic medals at
that point. It's just getting out there and playing. It's really really incredible experience.
[00:27:27] I love it. That's so awesome. Now you fully intend to return to the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022 right?
Yeah? Once again going for gold? How's the training going right now.
[00:27:37] Yeah. So actually on that regard you know I'm learning that I do I am getting older I have to train differently. This
year itself coming off the Achilles injury I've really struggled to be healthy whether it's you know illnesses or injuries itself. I

tend to think I'm still 22 but I'm realizing this year that I'm not. So we have to learn how to train differently and adapt things.
And that's really been the story of this season is struggling through that and finding out what our new limits are and defining
what that is. So I feel like we're starting to get a handle on it and go to the next three years. We're really going to have a plan so
I can get to Beijing 2022 as healthy as possible and still competitively.
[00:28:31] I love it. So are you gonna take up another sport for cross training in between?
[00:28:35] Absolutely.
[00:28:37] You are totally welcome in the pool with me I could use a synchro partner. Just gonna throw that out there. You're
always welcome.
[00:28:43] I could belly sucks so.
[00:28:45] I don't want to do that from 10 meters. That's not going to feel good.
[00:28:49] Ahmm you know. I'll do different types of training than I've done. A little bit more yoga a little bit more a lot less
pounding and a lot less time in the weight room. So it'll be a little bit different but I actually was thinking about this like about
a week ago. And I sat down with my husband was like you know what I think I'm done with sports. Like I'm at the point in
time where I'm just if I haven't played before we're not picking it up. Because in bobsled a lot of people do crazy ideas where
they're going to try all these other sports because they tried bobsled and it worked so why not try something else. I was like No
I'm done. You know I wouldn't mind throwing a softball around again. But as far as new sports nah were good.
[00:29:34] Well, you are still always welcome at the pool. So I'm just keeping that offer on the table. So where can we follow
you online to keep in being inspired and encouraged by you and to cheer you on toward Beijing?
[00:29:46] So my Instagram handle is @elanameyerstaylor my Twitter handle is @eamslider24 and I'm on Facebook. But as
always you can always go to womenssportsfoundation.org. Find more about me and the organization and all the work we're
[00:30:04] Awesome Elana! Thank you so much for coming on our podcast and sharing your incredible story and just inspiring
all of us.
[00:30:10] Oh, Thank you. Please talking to you.
[00:30:15] Isn't she incredible? I feel like so many can relate to her story. Sometimes there are experiences like her tryouts that
just don't go as we hope or plan and it feels like it derails our entire lives. But she was able to step into something new without
having to abandon her dreams entirely. They just took shape in a different way. I hope that you're encouraged today that no
matter if you're an athlete trying to make it to the top or an entrepreneur or a person with a big vision for your future. Your

dreams are still attainable even if it's not the way that you originally envisioned it. And if you want support in ways that you
can grow as a competitor and overcome obstacles just like Elana did? Head on over to LauraWilkinson.com/performance to
grab my free guide. Five things that you can do today to become a more confident competitor. Again that's
LauraWilkinson.com/performance. Be sure to tune in next week as we have another incredible woman a
Alev Kelter
who plays
for USA women's rugby. On behalf of Hope Sports, I'm Laura Wilkinson. Thanks again for tuning in and have a great week.
This podcast is produced by Evo Terra and Simpler media. For more information on Hope sports and access the complete
archives please visit HopeSports.org


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About This Episode

There is some debate about when it was discovered that Lauryn Williams was fast. Her father claims that it was when she spent an entire day at the science center in Pittsburg racing a hologram of the legendary Olympic gold medalist Florence Joyner until she was actually able to beat it. For her mother, it was when she could beat their family dog home after playing outside. Either way, they knew that she could run -- fast. But Lauryn didn’t always have aspirations of being a track & field athlete. She participated in karate, gymnastics, softball, basketball, and ballroom dancing throughout her childhood. While focusing on academic college scholarships during her senior year of high school, she stumbled upon athletic scholarships and thought that she had a good shot of snagging one. She ended up attending the University of Miami, confiding, “if I had to run for college funding, I might as well do it where the weather was nice!” Though her decision may have hinged more on climate than programming, she recalls being incredibly well cared for, honored, and championed as an athlete at the school. “The coaching staff and athletic department always did what was in my best interest as a person, in addition to an athlete,” she says.

At 20 years old, she ran the second fastest time in the world for the 100 meters, was the fastest American women, and won the NCAA championships. Although, being a professional athlete wasn’t anywhere on her radar at the time, her success catapulted her into the Olympic Trials and into the pressure to win big for her country. Her hometown did fundraisers to get her parents to Athens and it was as if the entire world watched her step up to the line of the 100 meter race. She ran a great race and was proud to walk away from that event with a silver medal. It wasn’t time to relax yet, however, as the 4x100 meter relay was only days away. The four women on the team were several of the fastest in the world and together, they easily had a shot at not only a gold medal, but a world record. In the end, perhaps it was division in their training or a lack of chemistry or negativity that chipped away at their confidence, but whatever the reason, the baton failed to be passed inside of the allotted zone and the team was disqualified.

“I felt like I not only left my team down, but I let the whole country down,” says Lauryn of the race. Set to receive the baton from Marion Jones, Lauryn was personally a part of the botched handoff and the headlines, reporters, and fans didn’t let her forget it. “It was the first time that I was subjected to the anger and hatred of others. And it went far beyond just the performance,” she recalls. After repeatedly seeing her name alongside words such as “failure” and “let-down”, she had to dig herself out of the pit of self-doubt and insecurity; she had to not internalize what everyone was saying about her. With the support of her family and close community, she says that she arrived at the mindset that “it’s about who I believe I am.”

Putting the Olympics behind her, she returned to training and competing professionally. An opportunity for redemption presented itself at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing where she qualified to run the 100 meter individual event as well as the 4x100 meter relay. She took fourth place in the individual race behind three women from Jamaica and had to bounce back from that disappointment to head into the relay. But the nightmare repeated itself for the American women. The baton was again dropped during the transfer; once more the team headed home empty handed, devastated, and in the merciless hands of the media. “I just wanted to hit the rewind button,” says Lauryn. It seemed that one mistake was forgivable, but definitely not two. Despite her rich faith and strong friends and teammates, Lauryn struggled to maintain her confidence.

Shortly after those 2008 Olympic games, her father passed away. Still reeling from the disappointment of the games, her pain was only worsened by not having one of her biggest encouragers on the sideline. The grief didn’t fully hit her until May of the following year when, out of instinct, she picked up her phone and called her dad. As the phone rang and rang, it finally dawned on her that he was gone and she could never again be comforted by his counsel or encouraged by his voice.

“I was faced with questions about what life was really about and why I was running circles around a track,” says Lauryn. She had equated her identity, success, and influence with her speed, but losing her father brought her face to face with deep doubts about her purpose. She took 2010 off from track to find out who she was without running, to discover the way she contributed to society and community when she isn’t simply an athlete. “During that year I spent a lot of time talking to people about how they got to where they were,” explains Lauryn. She was on a mission to discover how the everyday person navigated they journey, and she ascertained that there was no such thing as a linear path. “You get to write your story. You get to decide who you are,” she says. She learned that the journey towards purpose is one of evolution, not destination or definition. In various seasons elements are added into our lives, just as others fall away. She found peace in the realization that she wouldn’t be an elite sprinter forever, but also that she wasn’t done yet.

She returned to competition in 2012 with an entirely different mindset. “I felt more grateful to those who were around me,” Lauryn recalls. Her eyes had been opened to the specific journeys and purpose of her coach, trainers, nutritionist, and even the volunteers at every event. “So many people invested their time in my success,” says Lauryn. And she started taking time to thank them. Although she didn’t qualify for the individual event in London, they still thought highly enough of her that she was placed on the 4x100 meter relay team despite her perceived failures in 2004 and 2008. Most of the team was brand new and her maturity, experience, and composure grounded the team. Because of her negative experiences and mistakes, she was able to emphasize the importance of honesty, communication, and trust within the relay team; things that she knew mattered just as much as speed. Lauryn got to be a part of the semi-final race that secured the American team a spot in the finals where the women went on to break a 27 year old world record, and finally win the gold medal. It took time, however, for Lauryn to fully accept the medal. Although she was a part of getting the team to the final, she didn’t run in the actual race and initially felt quite fraudulent owning that victory. But with time, she matured enough to see the intangible effects that she had on the team that led to generating the kind of atmosphere from which world class teams are born.

After her final season of running came to a close, she ran into Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones at an airport and they talked a bit about the bobsled career that Lolo pursued after retiring from track. One month later, Lauryn found herself at the Olympic trials for bobsled. It was a steep learning curve over the next six months, but of that time she says, “I realized that I had nothing left to lose, and only things to gain.” She spent several months training with various partners in a round robin style and the final pairings wouldn’t be decided until ten days before the event. Thanks to her experience in 2012, she knew that her contribution wasn’t limited to tangible influence. No matter the outcome, she wanted Team USA to send the best six competitors to Sochi even if that put her in a supporting role. A week and a half before the event she was paired with Elana Meyers Taylor and the two went on to win silver in the bobsled final. “The best part was that I just never saw the opportunity coming,” says Lauryn. Participating and winning in a collaborative event was both gratifying and redeeming. In addition to winning a medal, Lauryn made history as the first American woman--and one of only five athletes ever--to medal in both the summer and winter Olympics.

Satisfied with her athletic career, Lauryn has recently turned her attention to serving athletes in other ways. She started a financial planning business called Worth Winning that aims to help young athletes optimize their finances, set markers beyond competition, and define their values in a concrete way. So many young athletes don’t fit into the typical box for financial planning; they are more tech savvy, on the go, and goal oriented. In addition, she has her own podcast  with guests who discuss their own financial journeys in hopes that listeners can shed any embarrassment or shame in feeling inept at managing money. Her knowledge isn’t limited to the financial sector, though. Her book, The Oval Office, will be releasing this year and is full of information for professional athletes about how to navigate the world of elite sports in a really practical way. From working with agents to wading through endorsement offers to signing with teams, she guides readers through the world that she had to uncover on her own. And, true to her own journey, Lauryn encourages others to write their own story, believe in themselves, and learn to view failures as building blocks for their future. Be sure to following Lauryn on Instagram and Twitter, as well as on her website and podcast.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_toggle title="Read Episode Transcript" admin_label="Transcript" _builder_version="3.21.1" saved_tabs="all"]


[00:00:06] Welcome to the Hope Sports podcast. I'm your host. Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. Each week I have the

privilege of chatting with a different elite athlete about how they navigated their rise in sports where they find their purpose

and how they're contributing in amazing ways to the world today. You're in for a real treat today as Olympian Lauren Williams

is joining us. I can't easily tag a sport alongside her Olympian status because Lauren is actually the first American woman to

win a medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. And she's one of only five individuals to ever do so. She race track and

field and three Olympics and just when she thought she was retiring she turned right around and raced bobsled in the Winter

Olympics. But her journey is about so much more than that she has walked through heartbreaking defeats and emerged so

incredibly grateful optimistic and authentic. She's a savvy business owner a compassionate leader and an all-around

inspiration. You are gonna be so glad you tuned in today. Let's dive on it.

[00:01:04] Lauren Williams thank you so much for coming on Hope Sports podcast today.


It is so good to be here. I can't wait to share my story.


Well for those listening to that may not know a whole lot about you. Can you kind of walk us through how you got your start in



[00:01:18] Sure. So it all started way back in the 1980s. Now I'm born and raised between. I'm born in Pittsburgh raised

between Pittsburgh and Detroit and started running track when I was nine years old. And depending on who you ask between

my mother and father you'll get two entirely different stories about how I got my start. My dad will tell you that we were at the

Carnegie Science Center in Pennsylvania and there was a blow Joe hologram. And I do know this story to be true. I remember

the hologram and I remember raising the hologram but I stayed there all day didn't do anything else I didn't see anything else in

the science center. And I did beat the hologram a few times now. Clearly, she could have been set at a world record pace. But.


[00:02:03] For you are really impressive 9 year old one to the other.


[00:02:06] right or I was a really impressive 9year girl. But that wasn't quite as fast as I got older. And then my mom tells a

story of me getting home faster than the family German shepherd. And I do also remember going outside and playing with the

dog and you know her kind of calling us when it was this time for us to come in. But whether or not I got home faster than my

dog. You know I'm inclined to believe I did. But.


[00:02:31] That you're a racer from the beginning huh?


[00:02:33] Exactly. I always love running. I always love being outside. You know competing and you know it was kind of a

tomboy if you will.


[00:02:40] Did you do any other sports or was it always just track and running?


[00:02:44] Everything. In fact, I didn't think that I was gonna be like a star track athlete. It wasn't a goal or aspiration of mine

at all. I did karate and ballroom dancing. I did gymnastics. Softball.


[00:02:53] Ballroom dancing.


[00:02:55] I know right.


[00:02:56] Wow! Nice.


[00:02:58] I didn't make the volleyball team. I still kind of have a chip on my shoulder about that.


[00:03:03] You can't have it all Lauren. Can’t have it all.


[00:03:04] Can’t have it all. That's true. Basketball is the thing I love the most though. And that's what I thought I was going to

do and I wanted to do. But sitting on the bench on senior night in high school my best friend got her. And then finally got to go

in when she got her in the fourth quarter. Let me know that I was probably not going to be a basketball player beyond my high

school days.


[00:03:25] Also how did you find herself at the University of Miami?


[00:03:29] Well when I started to get these letters in the mail to ask me you know if I was interested in attending this school or

that school. I got really excited because I didn't know that that was actually an option initially. I was really working hard

toward getting academic scholarship, moneys and keep my grades up. And then I realized there was this thing called athletic

scholarships and I was like oh like this could work. And I'm just sorting through the different options. I decided that if I needed

to go to school and it was gonna be my obligation to run track as a way to kind of pay for my education that I had better do it

in a place that had warm weather so that I'd feel good about going to practice every day and meeting. At 17 that's all the wiser

that I could be it was a warm place, outdoors and I went on my college visit there it was October. And so got a sunburn in

Miami in October and got back to Pennsylvania for school and it was the first frost.


[00:04:23] Oh wow.


[00:04:24] And I was like oh like sunburn in October or snow in October.


[00:04:30] I think that’s a wise move. Well, you competed for track at Miami. You graduate in 2004 and you were even

inducted into the iron arrow Honor Society of the university's highest honor. Tell us about your college experience.


[00:04:43] It was amazing. There's no place I would rather go to school. There was not a day that I regretted choosing the

University of Miami the way that they looked after me in a family sort of way. We got there and the athletic department was a

small tight-knit family. My coach to this day I can say has always done what was in my best interest. And that you know

always thought about what I needed and what was going to be best for me as a person and in addition to me as an athlete. And

the university as well kind of correct was the word was rallied around me when I started to get some fame and stardom. And

you know made sure that they did everything they could to help me as well. And so I'm just really appreciative for the

opportunity to have gone to that school to have been supported the way that I was. All the way up to the president of the

university. Yeah. It was a really really good opportunity.


[00:05:37] Well that's cool. So after you graduated you made it to the 2004 Athens Olympics that was your first Olympic

Games right?


[00:05:44] Mm-hmm.


[00:05:44] And you got a silver there and one hundred meters you became one of the darlings of the games. But at that same

games and the 4 by 100 your team was disqualified because of the baton pass. Can you kind of walk us through? I'm sure there

were so many ups and downs to that Olympics not only just because it's your first Olympics too and then all of that like. Walk

us through that.


[00:06:03] Yeah there was a lot. I was it was 2004 I was 20 years old I was now dealing with this idea of becoming a

professional athlete. That was not something I was necessarily on my radar earlier in the year. I was just trying to win the

NCAA title. And you know not only did I win the NCAA’s but I ran the second fastest time in the world. And it was like oh

you're now the fastest American that we have heading into the Olympic trials. So you better get on your big girl bridges and

hop to it because there's sponsorship opportunities and there is a lot to sort through. As a junior in college 20 years old and now

it is being the Olympic year. I get on this Olympic team.

[00:06:43] I had to figure out how to get my family over there. I didn't have any money yet my family didn't have a lot of

money. So there were fundraisers going on and things like that to sort through. My dad got to Athens and got sick. There was

just a lot going on, to say the least. But then in addition to that look at the actual performance. And I think I did a really good

job of kind of bundling my nerves together and performing well earning that silver medal. But then we had to go and get

ourselves. I had to go and get collaborative with the other sprinters and work on this relay and it did not go very well at all.

You're right. And the thing that's really hard about it even in thinking about it and reminiscing about it today is that we were

easily a world record team. If we could have gotten that baton around the track in the way that the potential we had. There's no

doubt about it that we not only would've been gold medalists but Olympic world record holders or world record holders now.

[00:07:45] And yeah just negative chemistry you know the coaches not really paying attention to what we were saying as

athletes. And you know feeling like they knew what was best for us even in the midst of us saying that you know what about

this what about that. All those things and all that negative chemistry came together and we did not get the baton round trip.


[00:08:09] How did you. Did you guys get a lot of flak for that?


[00:08:12] A whole lot of flak for that. You know I was receiving the baton from the infamous Marion Jones I was this new

rookie. Even though I had you know they said I just want a medal and you think that that would create some stability or

credibility. It did not seem to create very much at all. And we were the crappy Americans that didn't do their job. And you

know there were all kinds of headlines on failure. And you know how could we screw this up sort of deal and whose fault it

was and lots of blame game. Yeah, it was a really tough time.


[00:08:46] Well how did you. How do you handle that? As a 20 year old thinking about going professional now also to your

thrust into the spotlight with a medal and with this failure. Like how did you handle that?


[00:08:59] It was a lot. You're right. Because I got a really good high of earning a medal and not have expected that at all early

in the year. But then I got this really really big low of you let the whole country down. And you let your teammates down. And

I was the actual person that was part of the botched handoff. You know because I score runners so you know three other people

could have done perfectly and one person got it wrong. And you know I could have been on the done perfectly part of that but I

was on the wrong part of that.

[00:09:26] So that was the first time I was subject to the opinions of others and you know just even the anger and hatred that

others have just for us for sport in general. So you know, you stupid girl, how could you and you're an idiot. And you know

things that just went far beyond the actual performance that I think we're very unnecessary. And just negative fans that you

have to deal with. And digging yourself out of the idea that this is not who I am. This does not define me and what those

people are saying about me is not the thing that is most important. It's about who I believe I am you know how I decide to

bounce back from this catastrophe. And the way that I move forward that's going to build me and make me a stronger person.


[00:10:16] So those next four years you went pro. I'm guessing at that point you did kind of become professional. You made

another Olympic team in 2008 and again it seems like it was kind of a mixed bag. I mean you got fourth in the individual but

that's you know short of the medals had three Jamaican runners that were in front of you. And then in the relay again like you

were the anchor and there was a mix up in the semifinals. And your teammate dropped the baton and like you had to pick it up

and you guys finished but you got queued. Because you had to run outside of the lane in order to pick up the baton. Like I

found a quote that you had about this that I just thought was so well said that I would love you to talk on. You said it's a pretty

big deal when you're the person that was accountable for the demise of an opportunity. Not only for us to win a gold medal but

to possibly break a world record because we had to really fast teams. Both of those years and I felt very alone at that moment.

Like how. I mean I know you said you've got a fine figure out that this doesn't define you but I mean it happened again. And

like how do you have people speaking into you or you isolated? Like what did it look like walking out those days afterward?


[00:11:21] You know I'm very fortunate to have a really good team around me. And have a really good set of friends to kind of

keep me lifted up in moments like that. But it's definitely really tough even despite my faith and belief to just walk away and

kind of let that roll off your shoulders. You know you work so hard. You want to do well for not just yourself but for those that

you're competing with. You do want to represent your country to the best of your ability. And at that moment you feel like you

feel that all of those things and you just want to hit the rewind button. You're like Why is there not a rewind somewhere.

[00:12:00] But yeah working through it just takes a little bit of time and takes you know sticking to this idea that you know

some negative things are going to happen but these things are something to build on. They're not something to continue to hold

you down or they're not something to kind of wallow in and stay there. So I'd say like yeah do I walk through the valley of the

shadow of death. I always tell people in speeches and things that's like it's walkthrough. It doesn't say like stop and set up camp

there. Doesn't say go hang out in the valley of the shadow.


[00:12:34] That's so good.


[00:12:36] So just giving yourself those constant reminders that yeah it stinks. But keep going.


[00:12:43] Did you keep going after Beijing? Because I know you finished your masters and then you took a whole year off in

  1. So did you keep training kind of after and then take a break or what how did that play out?


[00:12:53] Yeah. So my dad passed away in 2008 shortly after those games so to add insult to injury. He passed away in that

year and it was just a little bit tough to digest. It was May of the following year 2009 when it really kind of hit me. And I think

you know people grieve differently so often. And you never really know what it's going to mean. Or what it's going to feel like

for you when you lose someone that's very close to you. And you know I was just kind of be-bopping along and pretending as

if nothing had happened. And I went to call him I was on my way to practice in 2009 and picked up the phone and like you

know doubt it. Was like waiting for it to ring and then I realized like oh I can't call someone who's dead.

[00:13:42] And it kind of just like splitting me into like a spiraling few months of you know the actual real grieving process.

And wondering you know like what is life all about anyway. Who am I outside of running up and down this track? And you

know getting these accolades. And you know being judge or feeling as if I'm judged so harshly. Or so it was with so much

weight by the world because of my ability to run up and down the track. And you know you meet people and you know doctors

and lawyers and other people that are contributing to society. And it's like what does this mean? What am I contributing by

running up and down this track?

[00:14:20] And so I took that year off in 2010 to really just kind of try to find that answer for myself you know who am I

outside of this. Because I'm not finding that I'm anything other than an athlete. And I really. I know there's more but I don't

know what else I am and I want to take time to figure that out. And what I did during that all fear was spent a lot of time

talking to other people about you know how they got where they were. So there's a young lady that owns a hotel. And how do

you come to own a hotel? And her story was just you know all sorts of different things. And she didn't go to college for hotel

ownership. And then get out of school and work in a hotel and then become a hotel owner you know.

[00:14:58] It was a very very winding wavy story. And then you realize that you know you're not you know there's no linear

path to anything that you're doing. And you get to write your story. You get to decide who you are and what you want to be in.

And there's nothing that you can't do if you set your mind to it. And it's not just in saying that about sport it's about saying that

in life and deciding. Then what do you want to do? What do you want to set your mind to? And so that's kind of what was

happening for me in the 2010 year with me figuring all that out.


[00:15:30] I love that. And what did you find out? Who are you? What did you discover during that time? I’ve loaded question

I know.


[00:15:39] Right. Exactly. I found out that who I am is ever evolving. That from one day to the next I am growing into who I'm

going to be. And that there doesn't have to be a set definition on that. I think that's one of the things we're always trying to fit

ourselves into a box. Wears the appropriate label that I'm supposed to be wearing right now. And there is no one thing that you

are you know. Like if you went through you could say you know a woman, dog lover, wife you know. And the list goes on of

all these different things you know. Law and order lover, podcaster, a financial planner but you don't need to fit into a box. And

for one day it makes one of those things my drop off and somebody else might be added to the mix. Each and every day is a

process of like you know being the best me that I can be. It's not really about you know fitting into anyone else's box or

creating boxes for myself.


[00:16:36] So good. And so what made you in 2011 return to competition?


[00:16:42] I just knew that I wasn't done yet. You know I just I decided like you said that though this is not who I am in its

entirety. That it is a part of who I am. Track and field. And that I had more to give. I had more that I wanted to accomplish. I

had plenty of potentials inside. And that I wanted to go after reaching my full potential. And I wanted to really like walk away

by saying I have left it all on the track. And so I went back to the sport with that as the intention. And I did have a completely

different mindset when I think when I return the sport. Knowing that that was not like said the end all be all. And though I

didn't know what was coming next. That the end was closer than I was closer to the end than I was to the beginning. And that I

had better make the most of these opportunities.

[00:17:34] So I think my attitude changed quite a bit. I was a lot more grateful to those that I was around for their contribution

to you know me being able to compete. So you don't realize sometimes or you know because we're athletes and you know I'd

do an individual sport. It's a lot of me thinking about me. But the number of hours that someone else has to spend for me to be

able to reach my full potential. My coach has to write a workout. She has to watch the film. She has to show that practice with

me you know travel and be away from her family. And the way Coach does the same thing. You know the nutritionist is doing

similar things. And so really just like the kind of tuning into all that was around me and all that I had to be grateful for. And all

those people were pouring into me.

[00:18:16] I was a lot more aware and a lot more focused on showing gratitude and appreciation for my ability to be able to

compete. So I'd get to a track meet and remember to thank the volunteers. Because a lot of track and field is volunteer oriented.

And you know where they said busy Russian or we're mad at them because they telling us. We can't go over here and we need

to warm up over there. And you know it's like these are real people and take a moment to be present at the moment and realize

that. And I think it just created like set new energy for me as I return a sport.


[00:18:51] That's so cool. And so how did that I guess change things? Because you did make another Olympic team in 2012.

Like, walk us through what this new attitude? This new kind of outlook on life. Like how did that affect your games in



[00:19:06] I think it helped quite a bit because you know part of that story is I didn't make the Olympic team in my individual

event I made it only part of the relay. And so you know it's a tough pill to swallow. Initially that you didn't make it for your

individual event you know you could have been left at home but. And despite my failures you know 0-4 we dropped the baton,

0-8 we dropped the baton. Despite both of those being the situation and me being directly involved in both of those situations

they still thought enough of me to bring me as part of the relay. They thought that I had enough experience. They valued the

experiences that I had and wanted me to share that because most of the other team was brand new. They'd never been on an

Olympic team before. So here they are with this opportunity to be a part of the relay but they don't have any experience on this

stage. And I have not just experience but experience in the worst kind of way.

[00:20:00] So I can tell you exactly what to do to avoid ending up in the situation that I ended up in. And you know maturing

to a point to understand that has value. It was a really big part of the puzzle for me. Knowing that you know there's something

and being able to explain to them why we should not go about it this way. Why our chemistry needs to be really great. Why we

need to communicate with one another. Because that negative energy that we took on the track in 0-4 in 0-8 definitely played a

role in our failure. And I think you know that it was really important to contribute to our success in 2012.


[00:20:36] Yeah I would say it’s successful. I mean I think our leadership and your wisdom that you learn along the way

obviously helped you guys walked away with a gold medal. Like what did that getting that gold medal means to you?


[00:20:50] I would say at the moment like you said it's been a process of me maturing to understanding and really getting

meaning from the metal. But at the moment I wasn't ready to accept. I felt really embarrassed and ashamed like you said the

way that I just described the medal to you now is where I've evolved to understanding. Like what my contribution was and

why it was valuable. But initially I felt kind of fraudulent. I felt like I didn't earn that medal. So the way that goes is there's six

of us that get to go as part of the relay. And two of us competed in only the first round while the other two are resting because

they were also running the open hundred meters. So I contributed in the first round which is an important thing because if you

don't get it around in the first round there is no second round.


[00:21:34] Right.


[00:21:35] But you know the actual group that won the gold medal ran the final. Broke the world record. You know I wasn't on

that team. And so I felt a little bit weird initially to say that I was an Olympic gold medalist when I knew I didn't do the final

part of the race. I felt a little weird to call myself a world record holder when I was not actually on the track and you know

doing my part to contribute there. But as like I said I started to think about like the contributions. And you know having talks

with others. And you know just realizing how different that games was than the others. And you know like one of the girls

coming up to me later and saying you know thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. You know it was really

frustrating when this happened or whatever and you helped me understand it. I realized that that was valuable and that was a

contribution and that helped her be able to compete hard to the best of her ability.


[00:22:30] That's awesome. I guess sometimes it really is hard in those moments but I love that you can look back and see all

that you really did add to that. Because without leadership and without somebody guiding and directing. I mean who knows

what would have happened right? We need all of those things to come into play at the right time to happen. So what happened

after London? Because I think you retired from the track but something else kind of started to take a play and I want to know

how all of this unfolded?


[00:22:56] So I was thinking about giving up the sport. So London came and went and I had one season left as per my contract.

And I thought it was kind of the perfect timing because you know I could see and feel the end was near. As it pertains to my

ability to focus and really give all I needed to give to be a professional athlete. I knew that you know I can continue to compete

for 5 years at a mediocre rate or I could stop because I wasn't 100 percent. And my idea was you know make the most of this

last year of competing and then you know to move on with life. And while I was in my last year of competition I ran into Lolo

Jones at the airport and had read an article about her having tried bobsled after the 2012 Games. And just wanted to hear more

about her experience and how that happened and she was like Lauren it's awesome it's really really cool you should try it. And

it's the Olympic year and I was like so? I just got to be something cool to do in my free time. Now that I'm getting ready to

retire I wasn't thinking anything about the Olympics. And so yeah I reached out to find out what the process was and a month

later I was at the Olympic trials for bobsled and.


[00:24:12] A month later?


[00:24:13] A month later. Yeah.


[00:24:16] Goodness.


[00:24:16] No. Yeah. So that was. Yeah. From you know June of 2014 to June of 2013. July of 2013 I was there and I was

trying out and the Olympics were six months later. So immediately I showed up I got third place and I had a really steep

learning curve over the next six months.


[00:24:38] I would imagine that's insane. That's insane. And now how did you get partnered with Alona too because you guys

were obviously an amazing team. Like how does that all work out in the bobsled world? Do they pick your teammate for you

or do you guys kind of all work together? What does that look like?


[00:24:54] We do a little bit of round robin in those 6 months that I was telling you about. So we were racing a World Cup

season that takes place before you get to the games and that plays into your rankings and you know where you'll go in the

process as a driver. But we did a lot of round robin to figure out who was gonna be best suited to who. And we actually did not

know until 10 days before the actual Olympics who was going to race with who.


[00:25:20] Just 10 days? Whoa! that's crazy. So what. I mean did hearing the news that you're going to be on the Olympic team

and getting to walk this out was it just surreal? I mean here you were your whole life doing track and three Olympic Games

that way. And then all sudden you know in a month you're on this Olympic team and you're. I mean I can't even imagine. How

did you process that?


[00:25:44] So do I. Like I said it all happened really really quick from you know finding out about it. A month later being at

the trials to having 6 months to figure the whole thing out to be in a month before the Olympic Games. And we're all still

sitting and wait in you know anticipation. Trying to figure out like who are they going to pick. They finally named the team.

But then you still had to wait 20 more days to find out. You know, now you're on the team but you still don't know you're

racing with. So there's a lot of hurry up and wait anticipation and this big build of energy that's always happening in bobsled.

But it's just really about trying to figure out how to manage that to the best of your ability to kind of enjoy the ride. And I think

that was the thing that helped me a lot was I decided at the very beginning of it that I had nothing to lose.

[00:26:38] I only had things to gain and that the journey was going to be the thing that was going to be more important to me

than anything. What can I contribute? And I think that that 2012 experience of knowing that I wasn't competing but I could still

contribute. Help me understand that that's all that this was about. Is there a way I can contribute? Is there a way I can help this

team? And if you know if there's a way I can help but it doesn't require me to be on the actual track or on the actual team? Then

so be it. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that Team USA has the best 6 people out there.


[00:27:15] That's so cool. Now I have to know because I've only been a summer athlete. What's the difference besides the

freezing cold? It's not like Miami. What's the difference between the summer and winter games? From your perspective?


[00:27:28] I would say that intimacy is the biggest thing. So I always tell people like I remember one of the years. I think they

said the track and field team was 182 people. So just USA Track and Field 182 people for the Olympics. The Winter Olympic

team all sports 230 people.


[00:27:51] Wow.


[00:27:52] So it really puts in perspective. You know all the various sports that compete in the Olympic Games in the summer.

All the various sports for Team USA. You know there's thousands and thousands of athletes. But yeah one team in the summer

is pretty much equivalent to the whole Olympic team. All sports in the winter.


[00:28:13] Wow that's cool. That's very cool. Well, you guys went on to mean not just compete but you got a silver medal in

the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Just one-tenth of a second behind the Canadians. Like what did that medal mean to

you and how is that different from all your other experiences?


[00:28:31] I mean the thing that was really cool about the medal was like I said I'd never seen it coming. I could have never

guessed that my life was going to take that turn and bring me such a cool opportunity. And to have the opportunity to get to do

it with Alona who is an amazing person made it that much more gratifying. Because we did it together. And you know in track

and field I didn't really get that opportunity. I had the individual medals and then I got to be a part of a team and do my

contribution there. But then this was like the end of the third time. Making me well-rounded if you will of actually competing

with another person and earning that medal together. And it just felt so great to be able to do something with someone and to

understand what it means to like partner up. And decide to really go hard for it for a specific purpose with another person.


[00:29:30] That's so cool. And you made history and doing that she became the first American woman to win medals at both

the Summer and Winter Olympics. And one of only five athletes ever to do it at all. I mean that's incredible. Did you realize

you were making history when you did this?


[00:29:44] I did not. It did not come to my attention until the reporters brought it up afterward. What does it mean to you to

make history and I'm like What kind of history? I don't know. So.


[00:29:56] That’s so cool. Well OK. So tell me now you have a financial planning business called Worth Winning. Tell us

about your company.


[00:30:04] Yes. So my company was born out of me not having the best financial planners during my career. So I worked with

two different gentlemen during the course of my career and I wanted to be responsible with my finances. But they didn't really

understand what I needed as an athlete. You know what I needed as a 20 year old who didn't know a whole lot about money.

And you know my busy travel schedule and you know there's just a lot that doesn't fit into the traditional box of what financial

planning is. So I help young professionals and professional athletes organize their finances and you know what does that mean.

That's like creating a budget you never bought a house before and that's something you want to do. If you're saving for a

wedding you know you don't know anything about how to put money aside for taxes. And you know do you need a business

account or not. And there's just so many different things that get thrown our direction. And just kind of make money, spend

money, you know hopefully save a little bit money and you know that's not a real strategy.

[00:31:05] I help people optimize their finances so use them money, give it a job and give it a job that's gonna be in line with

your values. So I spend a lot of time talking with my athletes and the young professionals that I work with. About what are

your goals? What are your values? The same way that we do in the sport. Let's work backward from there and create smaller

goals. Smaller things that we want to do. And then go you know piece by piece after that so that we can you know the

championship is this one thing that you're trying to achieve. But once again it's never like making it to the podium that makes

you feel awesome. Is this journey all along the way? And so using money as a tool to really enjoy the journey is how I try to

focus my business and help people in all aspects of their finances.


[00:31:50] My goodness I love that on so many levels. I mean I love just what you're doing. I love who you're targeting to

help. I mean there's definitely that need there. I mean a lot of people like you said are young when they become professional

athletes. Because that's usually when an athletic career is optimal when you're young and you don't know anything. So I just

think it's brilliant. I love how you compare it to athletics in such a way that we can understand. And I think you do a lot of stuff

virtually too right?


[00:32:12] Yeah I'm completely virtual. I'm actually podcasting today from Buenos Aires. So.


[00:32:16] Oh wow. We should've done this on location. I should have come down to you. That would be nice.


[00:32:25] You know as young professionals we are tech savvy. We're on the go. We're spread out all over the country. And I

didn't want that to stop me from being able to serve the client that I want to serve. And we jump on a video chat just like zoom

and we talk about what needs to be talked about. And there's no dumb question. And there's no you know fancy suit and tie that

needs to be worn. You know people's kids are running around in the background. These things shouldn't be barriers. You

getting help and getting the answers that you need about your finances. And it should be talked about in such a way that you

don't understand it in. It sounds so fancy and complicated.

[00:33:00] You know we've got basic questions and I really just want to help with basic questions. When I was competing and I

wasn't finding that. I was frequently finding you know there like I said fancy talk down to me it sounds more complicated than

you can understand. Because you're not smart enough and I'm like No that's not true at all. Like, break it down in a way that

lets me know what I'm doing. Why we're doing this? And you know helped me set some goals so that I'm gonna be OK in the



[00:33:25] I love it. Sports just. Yes. It can play off in your life in so many ways. And it's just such a good analogy for life

right? You could just use it in so many ways. I love it. And you also have a podcast now you said it's a year it's been a year

now. So happy anniversary to your podcast called Worth Listening. What do you talk about on your podcast?


[00:33:42] Yes. I love love love love my podcast. And the reason that I love it is like a passion project for me. It is encouraging

others to discuss money and I think that's one of the big barriers that we have in organizing our finances nowadays. Because

we all know that everybody has to make money some sort of way. Everybody has to spend money on some sort of way. And

there's no requirement that you hire a financial planner or someone to help you. But what people do is hide the information and

they are afraid to say what they don't know and they're ashamed of all these different things. And that's what actually leaves

you making more mistakes is hiding, being embarrassed not feeling like you can be open. And feeling like you have to know

everything and you can't ask anyone anything. And so my podcast is based all around people telling their money story. So that

the listeners don't have to feel alone and like oh I have student loan debt too that six figures. And you know this is how I'm

tackling it. And you know I don't know what a 401(k) is but I know I'm putting some money in it. And you know now this

person help me break it down a little bit.

[00:34:48] So it's getting rid of all those barriers of things that could stop you from being able to save for your future or being

able to get over the fact that you've made some mistakes before and really move forward. You know I had a girl on recently

that I met paid down over 50,000 dollars in credit card debt. And I think a lot of people get in a situation like that and they just

you know maybe file for bankruptcy. Or they would never even say anything to anyone. But this girl decided to make a

mindset change and pay it all back and get rid of it and you know to change the way that she was going to think about money

in the future. And I think that's a really inspirational story to tell. She didn't have to be a financial expert to inspire people to do

the right thing and to get on some sort of plan. So the podcast is all about like I said having money. Discussions and

encouraging others to be more open and honest about sharing what they know and educating one another about finances.


[00:35:42] And if that's not having this new business in your podcast you're also releasing a book very soon called the Oval

Office. A 4 time Olympians guide to professional track and field. So tell us about your book that's coming.


[00:35:56] The book. Yes. This is another thing that I'm really excited about we are just days away. Actually spent the whole

morning on the last round of edits and sent it off to the designer to redo and get it to look like a book. Because right now it's

like a document and yet again another passion project. There are so many people in track and field that are just like how do you

navigate this world and they have questions. And there's no guide. There's nothing that tells you to like how do you become a

professional track and field athlete? And what do I need to know and how can I be responsible for managing all these different

aspects? And what questions should I be asking my agent? What should I consider before I buy a house and then decide that

I'm going to go train with this coach instead. And now I'm stuck with a house in this state and got to pay rent in this day.

[00:36:42] And there's just so many different things that I learned during my time competing that I felt like I needed to share.

And it wasn't just gonna be a one hour talk and you know try to change someone's life. But like why not give them the

roadmap to the things that I felt like I was missing in addition to the things that I felt like I did really well. And that's how the

Oval Office was born. And I'm really really really excited about the way that it's going to change the lives of those or interested

in the sport. Obviously not going to be like a New York Times bestseller. Track and field is a very small sport but it matters so

much to me that they'll have a resource available to them to help them understand better how to navigate sport.


[00:37:23] I think it's amazing. It sounds like you don't just have to be a track and field athlete. I mean I'm looking at the

highlights that you had on the Web site. I mean it's like how to choose the members of your team including your agent, your

coach, your training group. How do you negotiate sponsorships and contracts? And handling your finances like a professional

athlete. Building your brand using social media. Managing travel nutrition life outside of sports. I mean to me it sounds like it's

gonna be helpful to any professional athlete. So I'm gonna have to preorder a copy because I know you can. So tell us where

we can find your book your podcast. Your company. All of your online things where we can follow you to continue to just be

inspired and to learn from you because you obviously have a lot of great wisdom to teach us.


[00:38:03] Definitely. So the book is The-Oval-office.com. So all of my web sites have a little dash in the middle because you

know to buy the actual website was a bazillion dollars. But we've kept it all consistent so whatever words I say put a dash in

the middle in between and get to the .com and you're there. So Lauren-Williams.com is my personal Web site is all about me as

an Olympian and being a speaker and consulting and things like that. And then Worth-Winning.com is a website for financial

planning all things financial planning. And so you can find us on social media looking for the same sort of thing. So

Worth_Winning on Twitter, @worthwinning on Instagram. Lauren C. Williams on all the social media platforms so that's the

one thing that's a little bit different. But I'm sure that all the initial notes. So.


[00:38:54] Yeah. We'll make sure to link to everything you guys don't get confused. But Lauren thank you so much for coming

  1. You're an incredible inspiration. I feel like you're a great teacher as well and so we just really appreciate all of your wisdom

here today.


[00:39:06] It was wonderful being on the show. Like I said I hope that I can inspire and I'm just really excited to be kind of in

the next phase of life where I can give back to the sport because the sport has given so much to me.


[00:39:19] Wow! A huge thanks to Lauren for joining us today. Isn't she just incredible? I just love how she talked about taking

that time off in 2010 to really dig into her purpose and figure out what life was about outside of running. It's so neat how that

journey just drastically changed who she was going into the next Olympics. The gratitude leadership and composure that her

solid identity gave her. It really allowed her to ride the waves of the coming years towards all of the amazing things that she's

doing now. She's just incredible. Be sure to check out the links the show notes to follow on social media. And if you're an

athlete definitely snag a copy of her book because that knowledge will be so invaluable for you and for the athletes out there

looking to improve their athletic performance with a purpose. I'm offering a free life masterclass where all talk about five

common mistakes athletes makes that hinder success. If you're ready for a change and want the skills to take your performance

to the next level then I want you to go and sign up. LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass. That's LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass

to sign up for my free live masterclass on five common mistakes athletes make that hinder success. I'll see you there! And be

sure to subscribe so you don't miss next week's episode because we have an absolutely insane athlete joining us. David Colturi

was once just a 10-meter platform diver like myself. But apparently that wasn't quite enough of a thrill. He is now a cliff diver

and travels internationally diving from nearly nine stories high. I'm sure you're wondering how he does it. I am too. You don't

want to miss it. On behalf of Hope Sports, I'm Laura Wilkinson. Thanks for tuning in and have a great week. This podcast is

produced by Evo Terra in Simpler Media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete archives please

visit HopeSports.org



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About This Episode

The youngest of nine kids, Dan Jansen was no stranger to tagging along, and in rural Wisconsin that usually meant to the ice. He got on his first pair of skates as a toddler and whizzed around frozen lakes and ponds. He tried other sports over the years, but always came back to skating where he was unmatched in speed for his age. In 1984 at only 18 years old, Jansen went to his first Olympics in Sarajevo and fondly remembers the care-free experience. Because he was relatively unknown, there was no pressure to reach the podium and he could fully enjoy the opening and closing ceremonies, the camaraderie between athletes, and the magic of the games. His goal was to be in the top ten fastest times in the 500 meter event and he ended up coming in fourth, just barely missing bronze. Dan returned home elated and proud of his finish at his first Olympics, but, for the first time, was faced with public perception and media scrutiny. For while his expectations were exceeded, others appeared disappointed that he didn’t medal at the games.

Knowing the podium was within reach, Dan poured even more into his training. He won the World Championship in 1988 and was favored to win in the 500m that winter at the Olympics games in Calgary. “Going in favored to win is one of the hardest things an athlete can do,” recalls Jansen. The awe of the games was long gone, as he was down to business, focused on his race, eyes on gold. Despite the fact that he was skating incredibly that week, there was something weighing heavy on his mind. Back home his older sister, Jane, had been battling leukemia for over a year. After receiving rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she was in stable condition when Dan bid her goodbye before leaving for Calgary. But his dad, who had been with him at the games, was called back home before Dan’s race to be with her as she took a turn for the worse. On the morning of the race, February 14, Dan got a call at 6:00 am that she had passed away.

Racked by the shock of her dead, Dan barely managed to eat breakfast before returning to his room and collapsing into tears. Four hours before the start he summoned the strength to put on his uniform and lace up his skates. There was much debate over whether or not he should even compete, but knowing that Jane was his biggest fan, the family assured him that it’s what she would have wanted. Stepping on to the ice, his legs felt like lead, exhausted by the emotions of the day. He did his best to loosen up, but stepped up to the starting line feeling disoriented--and crashed just 100 meters into the 500 meter race.

Three days later, once the initial shock had worn off, Dan found himself on the ice again preparing for the 1000 meter race. He considered leaving between the two events, but his family and coach encouraged him to finish his races before returning. As he stepped on to the ice, he felt more physically prepared, but his heart was still with his family. Again, he fell on a turn and recalls, “I just wanted to be home.” He got off the ice, packed his bag, and was home that evening without any goodbyes, not caring in the least the outcome.

When he was twelve his dad once told him, “there’s more to life than skating in little circles,” and that never felt more true. Dan took time to be with his family after his sister’s death and went back to skating because, “I just didn’t know what else to do.” He buried himself in training and competing and even won a World Cup that year, but admitted that he skated to avoid facing the pain. Wanting to distance himself from his reality, he enrolled in the University of Calgary and intended to train there as well. When he arrived the following fall and stepped on to the same track, all of the trauma of race day came flooding back. Even though it was a year later, Dan finally had to wrestle with his grief.

Dan arrived at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville on the heels of a new World Record he set while dominating the international circuit across Europe. He refers to the 92 Games as the most “puzzling” of his Olympics. Perhaps it was overconfidence or over-resting, but he lost his typical spark and missed the podium in both events. Befuddled and frustrated, Dan left the games and again faced media scrutiny for his performance. Reporters even referred to him as “The Big Choke” of the games as, once again, he didn’t race to his potential.

On his way to the 1996 Olympics in Lillehamer, Dan got married and welcome his daughter, Jane, named after his sister. The five fastest times ever skated in the 500 meters all belonged to him, so truly, this was a race against himself. He fully expected the journey to come to a happy ending, but pushed himself too hard and caught the edge of his skate on a turn causing a wobble that would, again, cost him a medal. Despite his initial frustration, Jansen was in a different position mentally. “I thought to myself, ‘it was one place that you slipped, it doesn’t mean you are not skating well.’”, he said. He knew that public perception would be relentless about his loss, but he could still walk away proud of his career even without an Olympic medal. He walked into the 1000 meter race, the final professional race of his life, knowing that if he did his best, he could retire happy. He had seized the power to define success for himself. When he crossed the finish line and saw the World Record time, he knew that this race would finally deliver that long awaited medal. Even his rivals were thrilled for him, one pulling him aside to say, “It’s about time.” As he stood at the top of the podium soaking in the National Anthem, he recalled all of the people who helped him along the way to this moment - the trainers, coaches, friends, and family--especially his sister Jane.

Leaving Lillehamer, “it was like a weight off of my shoulders,” he says. He may have retired, but he did not slow down. The Dan Jansen Foundation was soon established to help support non-medical costs for families with loved ones battling cancer. Everything from hospital stays, to food, to transportation - Dan knew first hand what a toll cancer takes on an entire family. He continues to advocate and fundraise for research for leukemia as well as speak around the world. “If you use your sport to make you a better person, then you’ve won,” he says. Through the ups and downs, victories and pitfalls, Dan’s perseverance shaped his character and has become his legacy.
Find out more about the Dan Jansen Foundation and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


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Chula Vista, CA 91912

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