Home News This Thanksgiving, R...

This Thanksgiving, Retired Bobsledder And Urgent Care Nurse Kristi Koplin Urges Caution

By Joanne C. Gerstner | Nov. 24, 2020, 11:48 a.m. (ET)

Koplin previously worked in COVID-19 testing and now works with COVID patients.


It’s not hard for retired U.S. bobsled pilot Kristi Koplin to quickly explain what she wants Americans to do this Thanksgiving.

Stay home. Try not to spread COVID-19. Be considerate of others.

Koplin, an urgent care nurse with Intermountain Healthcare in Park City, Utah, has been confronted with the reality of nonstop waves of COVID-19 affecting all ages since March. She started the pandemic by working in a team handling COVID testing. She no longer has to do that, now working with the patients who come to the aptly nicknamed “COVID Clinic” for help.

The situation has seriously worsened in the past few weeks, as Utah matches the rest of the U.S. in a significant uptick in coronavirus spread. Koplin said people letting down their guard at home, the weather changing and other factors are accelerating the spread.

And now, after a tough year, Americans just want to celebrate a holiday of togetherness, food and laughter — but that is not what medical experts, government officials and Koplin advise.

“I know people want to celebrate Thanksgiving like usual, but this is nothing like the usual right now,” said Koplin, 34, who retired from bobsled earlier this year after a decade in the sport. “My family usually does a big gathering. We’re not going to do that. It may be just me and my older parents. Even that may not happen.

“We don’t need the risk. We all need to think about the risk. Nothing is worth risking catching COVID.”

Koplin sees the effort to avoid COVID being worth the disappointment of altering Thanksgiving traditions for a year. She has noted a positive change in public attitudes around her. Just a few months ago, many around her were still eschewing mask recommendations. Now, she mostly sees people wearing masks in public.

I see a light at the end of this tunnel. We just have to keep it together for a little longer.

Her advice for everybody over the holidays is similar: mask up, wash up and try to avoid situations that could lead to exposure or spread. And if a gathering is unavoidable, try to make it limited and outside if possible.

“We all need to say that we are going to do what we need to do to be safe for Thanksgiving, and keep the vulnerable people in our households safe,” she said. “Older people, people who are immunosuppressed, people at risk. We all have people like that in our families. We need to remember them and do right.”

Koplin is following her own advice. She lives with her parents, with mom and dad upstairs, and Koplin taking the basement. She tries her best to protect them if she is close by, by wearing a mask in the house, cleaning surfaces a lot, washing her hands frequently and changing her clothes from what she wore to work.

Her life has changed a lot this year, and she said she remains at peace with her decision to retire from bobsled. Obviously, there are times where she thinks about her former teammates and competitors, knowing the season should be starting right now. She sees their lives on social media, with posts from training.

The rhythm of her life is now different from theirs. No training, no competition, no looking ahead to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

She has turned her focus on waiting for acceptances from a few universities right now, hoping to get into the right doctoral program for nurse practitioner, with an emphasis on family medicine.

She remains active as a captain in the Army Reserve Medical Corps, and is on stand-by, for the third time this year, for a possible deployment. She may be sent somewhere in the U.S. to help with dire COVID situations.

For now, she is where she wants to be: helping her community through a historic pandemic, providing care to those coming to her urgent care and, hopefully, staying safe herself.

“I know people are tired and burned out from this, it’s been happening for months now,” Koplin said. “But we really can’t let down our guard. Until the vaccine is here and that really kicks in, we are going to have to live with this. I see a light at the end of this tunnel. We just have to keep it together for a little longer.”

Joanne C. Gerstner

Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Related Athletes

head shot

Kristi Koplin