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Bobsledder Jazmine Fenlator Shares Her Secrets To Turning Struggle Into Success

Written on September 12, 2013 at 10:46 am , by

Written by Kristen Haney, editorial intern

Fun fact: Jazmine was Broadway-bound as a kid! “I tried out for ‘The Lion King’ when I was nine or ten. I still have my tap shoes,” she says. (Photo courtesy of Topher DesPres)

It only takes six seconds before a bobsled pilot is singlehandedly in charge of steering a 400-pound sled as it plummets down an icy one-mile track, whipping around a labyrinth of turns at upwards of 75 mph. No pressure, right? Not for Jazmine Fenlator, who’s used to steering herself and others through tough situations.

The USA bobsled driver and Olympic hopeful has triumphed over her fair share of struggles both on and off the track. Despite serious family health problems, personal injury and the loss of her home to Hurricane Irene, the New Jersey native has kept her sights focused on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, finishing right behind the reigning Olympic gold medalist at the 2012 Lake Placid World Cup with new partner Lolo Jones. Oh, did we mention she also juggles her training with studying for grad school? We caught up with the resilient athlete, ranked second in the U.S. and eighth in the world, to discover her pre-race rituals, hidden childhood passions and how she continues to bounce back from personal setbacks.

We’d love to know what you’re training for right now. It sounds like the Olympics, hopefully soon?

I’m hoping to vie for a medal in Sochi, so that’s less than six months away. It’s pretty exciting. Right now I’ve just been going back and forth between Calgary, Canada and the U.S. Calgary has an indoor ice facility and the U.S. doesn’t, so to simulate our sport as much as possible, we’ll go up there in the off season. We also do a lot of dry land training in the off-season, when we’re off-ice, running, lifting, sprinting. All that good stuff.

You come from a track and field background. How did you get into bobsled?

I was a track and field athlete in college at Rider University, and was looking to train for London. Some good friends of my coach, who were also coaching our rivals, kind of mentioned that they did bobsled after their careers, and asked what I wanted to do. And he was looking at them like, “Bobsled? What are you talking about? She wants to do track, but I’ll mention it to her.” At that time I was qualifying for NCAA’s and I was pretty focused on one goal at a time, so he submitted my athletic resume for me. They ended up contacting me and asking me to try out, so I tried out in the fall of 2007 and haven’t left. I fell in love with the sport and pursued that path instead.

What have been the highlights of your career so far? 

What’s pretty awesome is Lolo Jones came out for our team last year, as well as Tianna Madison, and now we have Lauryn Williams. I’ve been a huge fan of Lolo and for her to be my direct teammate and friend throughout this past year has been super awesome and not anything I ever expected. I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s extremely humble in our sport and just soaks up information. She has a lot of experience she brings to the table as well. Last year was my second season on the World Cup. Lolo’s my brakeman and she was only in the sport for two and half weeks when we came away with a silver medal.

How do you prepare for a really big race or event?

At a competition I have to have music. It’s something that just helps fuel me. I always have to rock out to Bob [Marley]. It’s in my roots. My dad’s Jamaican. Some rituals: I like to wear all black under my suit. For me, black is like a warrior—in the zone, ready for battle. But I also like some subtle swag, so I’m an accessories kind of chick. I have a lime green watch and I paint my nails gold and lime green—gold for victory, lime green for my bobsled color.

What was it like with Lolo being so new?

You get to choose who you race with: brakemen have driver choice and drivers have brakemen choice, so it’s kind of like a prom. You’re like, “Hey, do you possibly want to race with me?” Brakemen have that first six seconds, and usually it’s less than that, at the top of the hill to show what they’ve got athletically, and then it’s up to the pilot to maintain it. When I raced with Lolo in team trials, I was super impressed. I’ve seen her compete in hurdles and be super resilient—she’s been knocked down, suffered from injury, and gets back up. At the line, we had that bond right away.

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Erin Hamlin’s Need For Speed Is On Track For Sochi 2014

Written on August 15, 2013 at 10:54 am , by

Be sure to tweer (tweet cheer) Erin and USA Luge on this upcoming season. (Photo courtesy of USA Luge)

85 mph. On a sled. Feet first. Inches above a track made of solid ice without protective gear—except a helmet. In case your stomach hasn’t sunk to your toes yet, imagine zooming down the slippery 3,200+ foot course unable to see where exactly you’re going, just “feeling” it. Gulp. Welcome to the dangerous, yet thrilling world of luge. The sport, which made its Olympic debut in 1964, may sound chilling to most but is nothing short of an adrenaline-pumping ride for Team USA’s World Champion, Erin Hamlin. How does one start luging? Are those sleek ensembles even warm? We got the scoop and so much more. Read on and be sure to cast your USA Luge uniform and sled vote by August 24—that’s right, you have a say in what look our athletes will sport for the Sochi 2014 Games. 

How did you get into the luge?

It’s kind of an obscure sport so it’s not really your normal I-did-it-in-school story. USA Luge does what’s called a “Slider Search” every summer. They go to a couple of random cities around the country and recruit kids. It’s the only way they can really get people into it. My dad had seen an ad for this program in his company newsletter and asked if I’d be interested. I was a gymnast at the time, so I was in that whole athletic mindset. I decided to go, pretty much on a whim, and as cliché as it sounds, the rest is history. I got pulled into the development program in 2000. It’s super competitive, so of course they tell you that only five kids out of the 400 are ever going to make it anywhere. I was like, “Alright, I definitely want to be one of those five.” I got hooked right away.

Did your gymnast background translate into the luge?

I definitely think it benefited me as a 12-year-old. I remember being the only girl at my tryout who was able to do a pull-up! I think that real foundation of athleticism and core work, as well as flexibility and upper body strength, helped.

Tell us a little about your training now—we heard you’re quite the yogi!

Yes, I do yoga as much as I can. Less than I would like to, but there are a few other types of training that are more important for me right now. We do a lot of weight training. On the track we really focus on our start, which is a really powerful explosive movement. So we do a lot of Olympic lifting, as well as other more sport-specific stuff like rowing movements; a lot of pull-up and core work like planking and weighted or body weight mid-section work.

Does yoga help you stay centered?

I know one of my strengths is really being able to stay relaxed, and that’s a huge part of our sport. It helps the sled react better. Being able to stay relaxed and not get myself too worked up before races—I can really just chill out and not get too hyped up. [Yoga] just makes me more of a laid-back person in general, I think. If I do have a really bad race, I tend not to dwell on it for very long. I can learn from it and leave it behind quickly so it just helps me to move forward better.

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Let the Countdown Begin: 100 Days Until the Olympics!

Written on April 18, 2012 at 4:32 pm , by

Nastia Liukin is just one of the many athletes we're looking forward to seeing at the Games. (Photo courtesy of USOC)

It’s time to dust off patriotic paraphernalia! Today marks 100 days until the London 2012 Olympic Games and to celebrate the United States Olympic Committee is kicking off a new campaign to give you a chance to back Team USA. Starting today you can sign up to be the Team Behind the Team through the initiative Raise Our Flag. Relax, it’s easier than you think!

Visit teamusa.org/raiseourflag to buy a stitch of the American flag Team USA will carry with them at the Opening Ceremony of the Games. Each stitch costs $12, and you can buy as many or as few as you want. Dedicate your stitch to a loved one or just to show your support. Your donation will go toward helping cover the costs of preparing American athletes to compete (which is approximately $100,000 for elite athletes alone!), from training facilities to travel, medicine and more.

Check out how the flag is coming along online throughout the donation period (April 18-July 27) and then see the real deal stitched by the Annin Flagmakers of Roseland, NJ–the same company that restored the 9/11 flag carried by Team USA in the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Plus, get bragging rights by telling your friends you helped make the USA flag.

Want to get even more pumped up for the Games? Visit teamusa.org/road-to-london-2012 to see 19-featured U.S. Olympic Team Trials and more behind the scenes of the athletes leading up to London.