Area Hopeful for 2014 Sochi Olympics

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At this time of year most of us are pulling out the heavy armor that makes it possible to navigate through another winter in Chicagoland. We fortify ourselves with thick gloves, high tech parkas and long scarves lovingly knit by Grandma. Fortunately, each freezing day brings us one step closer to the season’s main event: the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. From Feb. 7 to 23, the world’s best winter sports athletes will look to deliver the performances of their lives on an international stage.

 

But the road to Sochi is paved with hard work. There is plenty of drama happening right now as athletes from across the country vie with each other to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Some of the brightest stars hail from the Chicagoland area. Men’s figure skater Evan Lysacek and men’s long track speedskater Shani Davis are both seasoned Olympians who won gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Others, like women’s bobsledder Katie Eberling and men’s long track speedskater Patrick Meek, are dreaming of their first Olympic medals.

 


We caught up with these four area hopefuls to learn more about their ties to Chicagoland and what it takes to compete on the Olympic level.

 

Evan Lysacek: Men’s Figure Skating

  1. You have had so many accomplishments. Select the ones of which you are the most proud.

I’m most proud of the Sullivan Award because the Amateur Athlete Union (AAU) takes into consideration not only your athletic success but your level of community involvement. As I am very passionate about my non-profit organization commitments, it was great to receive recognition for my work on and off the ice. As for my skating accomplishments, the one that I am really proud of is my first national championship in 2007. My performance there was one of the best of my career.

 

  1. Endurance is a key aspect of reaching goals. Share your thoughts on the physical, mental and emotional endurance necessary to become an Olympic contender, and how you try to cultivate this endurance.

Physical endurance: the way to combat exhaustion and fatigue is to increase your cardiovascular stamina. My thought has always been the more trained I am, the less chance I have of anything throwing me off. I have always taken great pride in knowing that I’ve outworked my competition. Mental endurance: the years of experience and the ability to adapt and process obstacles as they come your way help to shape mental endurance. In a lot of ways this is the most important aspect of competing at an Olympic level. Emotion endurance: throughout any sport, there are a lot of ups and downs throughout each season. I try not to waste a lot of energy on emotions within each season so if something goes well, I don’t overly celebrate it and if something does not go well, I don’t waste time dwelling over it.

 

  1. What are your past and present ties to the Chicagoland area?

I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago in Naperville. I started skating in Glen Ellyn. I trained throughout my career all over Chicagoland. I still represent the DuPage Figure Skating Club. And while I live and train in Los Angeles, I did just purchase an apartment in Streeterville.

 

  1. What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am really a big fan of contemporary art. Some of my favorite artists include John Chamberlain, Richard Serra, Clyfford Still and Rudolf Stingel. I’ve taken several art classes throughout my life and I enjoy painting every once in a while.

 

Shani Davis: Men’s Long Track Speedskating

 

  1. You have had so many accomplishments. Select the ones of which you are the most proud.

Qualifying for the Olympics and winning World Championships and Olympic medals. [I’m a] four-time Olympic medalist (two Gold and two Silver), the world record holder in the 1500m and 1000m, the world sprint champion and a two-time world all-around champion.

 

  1. Describe your current training routine.

[I] train about four to six hours daily, which does not include rehab and therapy. I train mostly in the ice rink or oval, but we do everything outside those areas as well: weight training, track training and bike training. My toughest and most painful workout is running in the sand dunes and soft sand hills.

 

  1. Describe your Olympic goals.

I just try to do my best and compete with myself to have the best performance that I can.

 

  1. What are your past and present ties to the Chicagoland area?

[I was] born and raised on the south side of Chicago. Chicago is still my home and will always be my home. My top five musts if you come visit Chicago:  Eat Giordano’s pizza, go down Michigan Ave., experience the Taste of Chicago, eat Garrett’s popcorn and drive down Lake Shore Drive.

 

Katie Eberling: Women’s Bobsled

 

  1. You have had so many accomplishments from high school up to now. Select the ones of which you are the most proud.

My athletic career has been an incredible adventure filled with amazing family, friends, mentors and teammates. One moment that makes me extremely proud is my 2008 NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance with the Western Michigan University Volleyball Team. Another proud accomplishment is finishing with a silver medal at the 2013 Bobsled World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland (with driver, Elana Meyers).

 

  1. Endurance is a key aspect of reaching goals. Share your thoughts on the physical, mental and emotional endurance necessary to become an Olympic contender, and how you try to cultivate this endurance?

Personally, I have found success in this area by learning how to distinguish the things I can control from the things I cannot. This is important for maintaining both energy levels and peace of mind. Another component which I have found to be significant is sustaining my confidence level; believing in yourself and your abilities is the foundation for everything.

 

  1. What would people be surprised to learn about you?

The first time I saw a bobsled was at age 22; I am currently 25. Most Olympic sports require an extremely early start in order to reach the elite level, but this is not the case for the physical sport of bobsled. Most bobsled athletes are recruited from college programs, primarily football and track. For me, I had just finished my collegiate volleyball career and received a Facebook invite from Elana Meyers, 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalist. Elana invited me and many other potential brakemen to come out to Lake Placid and give the sport a try. Every athlete has an Olympic dream, so I decided to take a leap of faith and go for it.

 

  1. What are your past and present ties to the Chicagoland area?

Chicago will always be home. I grew up in Palos Hills and attended Stagg High School. My family is still rooted in the Chicagoland area, so I always look forward to coming home and spending time with them. While I do a lot of traveling for my sport and see some incredible sights, Wrigley Field is still my favorite place in the entire world.

 

Patrick Meek: Men’s Long Track Speedskating

 

  1. You have had so many accomplishments. Select the ones of which you are the most proud.

I think the one that comes to mind the most is winning a bronze medal in the Team Pursuit at Junior World Championships in Seinäjoki, Finland in 2005. I always come back to this race because it was the first race where I really showed myself I could compete on the international scene. Although this race was small in the grand scheme of my results, I view it as tipping point to my career.

 

  1. Describe your Olympic goals.

To be able to take a moment with my family and friends who are there and appreciate the moment. We all have sacrificed so much for this dream so I want to be able to share this with them a bit.

 

  1. What are your past and present ties to the Chicagoland area?

I lived in the North Shore area, Northbrook specifically, from birth until I was 13. My family and I then moved due to my dad’s job but I still to this day consider Chicago home, even when the Cubs hurt my feelings each summer.

 

  1. What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think most people are surprised to learn I am a big fan of international soccer. It is hard to catch Bears or Cubs games overseas so it is either watching poorly dubbed sitcoms or learning a bit about soccer and following that. Once you learn a bit about the ins and outs, soccer is beautiful sport to watch and can really draw you in.

 

Competition for the 2014 Sochi Olympics begins on Feb. 6 and will be broadcast during primetime on NBC, with the official Opening Ceremony following a day later on Feb. 7. For more information on schedules, athletes and more, visit nbcolympics.com or teamusa.org.