Bobsledder Jamie Greubel Poser has competed all over the world for Team USA. She’s had the chance to collect wonderful memories and a passport full of stamps, as well as a bronze medal from the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
Yet often in her years of travel, the days spent in nations far from home are a blur of airports, practice and competition. Time to interact with local people and for sightseeing is rare.
In her most recent trip to South Korea, however, Greubel Poser had a bit more time. She and her teammates on the U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams took a break from practice one day to take a trip from next year’s Olympic sliding venue in PyeongChang to the coastal city of Gangneung. They saw Gyeongpo beach, some of the other Olympic venues and had a seafood dinner.
“To go out and explore a little bit is a treat,” said Greubel Poser.
She also had the opportunity to spend most of a day with young Korean athletes as part of the United States Olympic Committee’s goodwill campaign, “Thank You, PyeongChang,” in which American athletes get out into the community. The initiative’s goal is to contribute to the legacy of the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games by sharing Team USA’s support and gratitude to the people of South Korea for hosting the Games.
Greubel Poser and about a dozen other bobsledders and skeleton athletes, plus coaches and staff, traveled to one of the South Korean national training facilities to spend time with members of the Korean junior national bobsled and skeleton programs, most of whom are in high school or college.
“It was great,” Greubel Poser said. “They had a translator there, and we were able to get to know the athletes a little bit and discuss what we love, our sport.”
After introductions by a representative of the U.S. embassy, each American athlete had the chance to talk about his or her career and then take questions. The Americans then learned about the Korean athletes.
Following that, the Americans did some pushing demonstrations and talked about some of the fundamentals they follow.
“They were interested in hearing our ideas and opinions about pushing techniques,” Greubel Poser said. “(Then) they demonstrated pushing, a few athletes on their team pushed, and we gave them some pointers and tips and the important things we look for, and they kind of did the same thing.”
One of her favorite parts of the day was just hanging out with the Korean athletes.
“They had asked how many years we had been bobsledding, and I had said 10 years, and just to see their expression, like ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you’ve been doing this for so long,’” she said, laughing. “At one point we were asking each other how old we were and they said like 17 and 19, and asked, ‘How old are you?’ I said 33, and they were like oooooh. They were typical teenagers and it was great. I was really enjoying that interaction.”
In the following days, Greubel Poser said she saw many of the same athletes at the sliding venue while the U.S. team was practicing and called the experience “really neat” to connect with the young Koreans. It reminded her of learning how to pilot a bobsled years ago at driving school at Lake Placid, New York, when several South Korean bobsledders were in her class. Ever since, she’s enjoyed seeing them at international competitions and watching their progress and successes.
This was Greubel Poser’s second trip to South Korea this year, after winning a world cup event on the Olympic track in March with brakeman Aja Evans that clinched the world cup season championship. The time she spent on the PyeongChang track in March and October — plus the success she’s had this season overall — makes Greubel Poser eager for the Olympics.
“I’ve been having great years and successful years, but last year was definitely the icing on the cake to be able to win the overall world cup title for the first time in my career, and also to win on the Olympic track,” she said. “I’m really excited to see what this season brings. I’ve been working really hard.”
The chance to meet young Korean athletes and travel to the Olympic host nation is extra special for Greubel Poser, whose 17-year-old sister was adopted from South Korea when she was five months old. Her sister will travel to PyeongChang and be able to experience the Games and watch Greubel Poser try to bring home another medal.
“It brings a whole nother meaning for me competing there,” she said.
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.