Jamie Greubel Poser poses for a portrait at the Team USA Media Summit on Sept. 25, 2017 in Park City, Utah.
When Jamie Greubel Poser competed at a bobsled world cup in South Korea almost a year ago, she sent Snapchat photos to her younger sister, Elizabeth. Nearly 7,000 miles away in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth received glimpses of the 2018 Olympic host nation — her birthplace.
Greubel Poser’s family adopted Elizabeth, who was born in Incheon, South Korea, when she was 5 months old.
Elizabeth, a senior in high school, hasn’t been back to South Korea since. Next month, she will return to watch her sister race at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
“It's been amazing to have that connection, and that's been my main motivating factor for this Olympics,” said Greubel Poser, who won bronze medals at the 2017 world championships and the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
She won a gold medal, with teammate Aja Evans, in the test event on the 2018 Olympic track at that world cup last March. Throughout the trip to South Korea, her mind raced through scenarios of what Elizabeth’s life could have been like.
“I have always been so competitive, and that’s why I wanted to compete in the Olympics. I wanted to be the best in the sport,” she said. “This just has another whole meaning.”
The PyeongChang Games will be the first time Elizabeth has ever watched her sister race in person.
“I never thought I would get to go to an Olympics with her just because of school and everything,” said Elizabeth, whose spring break coincides with the Games. “But I'm really excited that she's really excited.”
While her birth city is outside of Seoul, Elizabeth isn’t sure she will visit Incheon on this trip. She would rather spend her time attending other Olympic events, such as figure skating, she said.
Eleven other family members also plan to head to PyeongChang to support Greubel Poser. None have been to South Korea before.
When Elizabeth was adopted, her parents didn’t have to go to South Korea, and that was one of the reasons they chose to adopt from that country. Greubel Poser’s mom, Melinda, died in 1987, and her dad, Peter Greubel, remarried in 1995. His wife, Janet, is a physician so avoiding travel for the adoption helped accommodate her schedule.
Greubel Poser still remembers picking up her sister from John F. Kennedy International Airport. Through the adoption agency, an elderly couple visiting the United States volunteered to carry the baby in exchange for the payment of one of their airline seats.
“They handed us Elizabeth and a couple of bags,” Peter said. “They didn't speak any English. They just turned around and left.”
Greubel Poser was 17 when Elizabeth was adopted, so the family was “looking at colleges and nursery schools in the same year,” Peter recalled. They have photos of Elizabeth barely being able to walk when they visited Cornell University, where Greubel Poser was on the track and field team, competing in the heptathlon and pentathlon.
Even though the sisters have what their dad calls a “long-distance relationship,” Greubel Poser said Elizabeth keeps her grounded.
Apart from seeing “Cool Runnings,” the movie based on the true story of a Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, Elizabeth doesn’t know too much about bobsledding. After Greubel Poser won a medal at the 2014 Games, she visited Elizabeth’s school. Later, Elizabeth told her she and her classmates had done the math and joked that Greubel Poser is almost old enough to be Elizabeth’s mom.
“They're not like, 'Oh my God, you have an Olympic medal. You're so amazing,'” said Greubel Poser, who’s now 34. “It's more like, 'You're Elizabeth's sister. You're old.'”
Greubel Poser hadn’t yet made her first Olympic team when PyeongChang was named the 2018 host city in 2011. Yet, because of Elizabeth, Greubel Poser knew as she watched the announcement in the sports medicine room at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, that this was the Olympic Games in which she certainly wanted to compete.
“I just knew deep in my heart that it was meant to be and I was meant to be there,” she said. “I had to do absolutely everything I could to get there.”
Emily Giambalvo is a student in the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She will be part of TeamUSA.org’s coverage team for the PyeongChang Games.