SOCHI 2014

By Emily Azevedo, 2010 U.S. Olympic Bobsledder | Oct. 28, 2013, 2:33 a.m. (ET)
2010 Olympic bobsledder Emily Azevedo pushes a Prowler sled in June 2013 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The other day I was looking through a magazine and happened to stumble upon an article which highlighted a plus size model. I was completely astonished to see that this plus size model was 5-foot-10 and weighed 150 pounds. If our society is claiming this size is plus size then what are we being told is ‘normal’? Body Mass Index or BMI is a way to measure body fat based on height and weight and it assesses if individuals are at a healthy weight for their body height (obviously there are exceptions, as most athletes are considered to be out of range because of the increased muscle mass). This 5-foot-10, 150-pound female has a BMI of 21.5, which is in her normal range of 18.5-24.9. It infuriated me to see a female that was within normal range (according to her BMI) be considered overweight.

I am 5-foot-8 and weigh 175 pounds. I recognize that my size is not a normal size and is a bit extreme because of my sport, but I would hate for young woman or a female athlete to be looking at that same magazine and feel inadequate because they will never look ‘normal’ according to these images. In today’s society 5-foot-10 and 95 pounds is considered to be an average sized model. This is an unrealistic size for any healthy female to attempt to be. I have learned over the years that in order for me to be successful in my sport I have to be this size — even if it is unorthodox — and I hope that other females can follow suit.

This exact same day I went to the Boys & Girls Club where the project of the day was for the kids to imagine what super power they would have and to draw themselves as the super hero. Ironically, one of the girls, Niya, created herself as ‘Flex Girl.' Flex Girl helps people out of trouble by flexing her strong muscles. I asked Niya where she got the idea for her superpower. She told me that she saw my muscles and thought it would be cool to be strong like me! I was incredibly moved that I inspired Niya to look beyond the unhealthy 95-pound model seen in the magazine and show her that any body type is beautiful. This interaction helped to further motivate me and to push me to dream big and work hard in weight room or on the track not only for myself, but also for young girls like Niya. Every pound of muscle I have on my body is a direct reflection of my hard work. I am proud of the body I have created regardless of if it is 'normal' or if I will ever find jeans to fit over my quads!

Until next time, I am off to the gym to keep my super powers in tact!

Emily Azevedo is a women's bobsled brakeman who first tried the sport in 2006, following a successful collegiate track career. Azevedo finished fifth with driver Bree Schaaf at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and is a hopeful for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. She is currently the most experienced U.S. women's brakeman, competing on her eighth national team. Azevedo volunteers with the Boys & Girls Club and has helped organize a pen pal program between athletes and kids.

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