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Why Bobsledders Enjoy Literally Driving In Circles

By Jamie Greubel Poser, Olympic Bobsled Bronze Medalist | Dec. 16, 2015, 4:44 p.m. (ET)

Jamie Greubel Poser (L) and Elana Meyers Taylor point to a kreisel on a bobsled track map in Germany.

Jamie Greubel Poser is a U.S. bobsled pilot who won bronze at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games with brakeman Aja Evans, as well as more than a dozen world cup medals, including three in the first three races this season. Following the Games, she married German bobsledder Christian Poser. Greubel Poser will take Team USA fans behind the scenes into the life of an elite bobsledder during the 2015-16 season.

I used to get mad when people asked me if I enjoyed running in circles when they found out I competed in track and field. I competed in the heptathlon. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a grueling two-day competition which includes seven different track and field events (100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter, long jump, javelin and the 800-meter.) A far cry from what I would consider running in circles, but not exactly traditional as far as American sports go, such as soccer or football.

Today I have found myself even more completely removed from traditional sports and almost a decade deep into the sport of bobsled. However, I now enjoy circles. Driving in circles, that is, in my sled. And it turns out, that these are some of the most fun, yet challenging, kinds of curves in the sport of bobsled: the infamous “kreisel.”

Every bobsled track has a unique combination of curves (normally between 14-20) over about a mile of ice. Some tracks share similar elements, but no track is the same. As bobsled pilots, we drive a new track each week and need to memorize the track before we go down. There is no braking or slowing down as we slide down the track, so our driving program needs to be memorized and automatic as we reach speeds of 70-90 miles per hour.  We only get six practice runs each week, and each run is about 1 minute long. This means we only get to practice each track for 6 minutes each week spread over three days of training before each race! We need to be well prepared for each of the six runs in order to get the most out of them.   

Luckily, this year I get to spend the first month of this season in Germany driving in circles on three different tracks and hopefully not spinning out of control! Not all tracks have kreisels, but all of the German tracks that we race on do.

“Kreisel” in German simply means circle. In bobsled, a kreisel is a 360-degree turn which normally involves three waves that you have to meticulously drive and manage to make it around and safely out of the curve.  Most kreisels are pretty challenging to drive and in some you have a very real possibility of crashing out if you make a mistake driving. Crashes happen. They are just part of the sport. Flipping over and sliding upside down with 400 pounds crushing you into the ice and dragging you on your head for half a mile at 70-plus miles an hour is not a very pleasant experience.  In bobsled, when you make a mistake and crash, you don’t only get beat up physically, but mentally as well.

One of these German kreisels landed me in the hospital last year, while another I would consider to be my favorite corner on any track in the world, even though I have crashed out of it as well.

My motto is,  “nothing worth it ever comes easy,” and success in this sport has not come without its fair share of setbacks and disappointments. I have battled back from ACL surgery and numerous crashes. That is just part of what fuels me. I truly believe you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. You just have to ask yourself how hard are you willing to work, and what you are willing to sacrifice, in order to get there.

You would think that the longer you do something the easier it becomes, but I don’t always find that to be true.  Every year brings new circumstances and you may experience the same thing in a completely different way.

That is what I love so much about being an athlete and a bobsled driver. Every week is a fresh start, a new challenge and an opportunity to work on my skills. There is always something to learn from in every scenario, which allows me to grow as an athlete and competitor.

When facing some of the toughest tracks, I remind myself of all of the hard times I have preserved through and the strength it has given me. When I get on the ice, there will be only one thing going through my head.

Bring it on. 

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Jamie Greubel Poser