Holiday festivities with my mom in December 2012


Growing up, whether you’re a sports fan, competing athlete, coach/mentor, we were all taught that the goal is to win, right? Winning is important, it helps get exposure, funding, support, recognition, awards, bragging rights, etc. Winning equals celebrations and praise, whereas losing equals disappointment and punishment training for the mistakes made.

Team Fenlator at the 2012 Lake Placid World Cup race, where I
earned silver

As an athlete grinding for success in performance with goals of being an Olympian, an Olympic medalist and Olympic champion, you tend to be on a one-track focus. Train, train, train; eat, eat, eat; recover, recover, recover; analyze, resolve, fall, stand up, try again, reflect, etc.  It seems all your energy is for that one task at hand – WINNING! Realistically, being an athlete, being an Olympian, and/or being a champion does not solely define us. Although we tend to not operate like the real world and our lifestyles are a bit extraordinary, in all reality we are still very much ordinary people. We live outside the box but have so much more depth than just being “athletes.” As much as we may be perceived and like to think of ourselves as “super” humans, we experience emotions, pain, tragedy, loss, birthdays and celebrations just like everyone else.

To be frank, the past two years have been filled with some of the roughest moments for me and my family (I am sure many of you have been struggling and overcoming hardships as well). But these past two weeks have left me reflecting and getting focused on the “BIG” picture of life. To some, winning can be defined as achieving your goal of being the best in a competition or out of a group of people attempting the same task. But to me, winning is achieving the goal of filling your heart with joy and the knowledge that you gave life your all and were also able to touch a soul through that journey. Winning does not necessarily have to refer to a competition, receiving a medal or being at the top. Winning is about the simple intangibles that are priceless. On the contrary, is that really “winning” or is that living life to the fullest?

“Mom, I’m finally home!” – March 2013

What preempted these thoughts is last week while I was home in New Jersey, within four days my world was turned upside down… again. I was awoken by my cell phone ringing at 2:45 a.m. from my mom. When I answered, she asked me to take her to the hospital or call 911 because she was having severe chest pains and could not wait until morning. Long story short, my mom does not have good health. She has had quadruple bypass heart surgery, a stroke, active lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and a plethora of things related to the deterioration of lupus. Unfortunately this was not my first time calling 911 or attempting to rush her to the hospital for emergency care. 

In the blink of a second, you almost feel your whole world is about to collapse and fade away. That argument you had with a sibling seems ridiculous, being angry the grocery store did not have anymore of your favorite Greek yogurt flavor is absurd, the cost of repairs for your car, which is going to clean out your bank account, or how your going to pay for the plane flight and other expenses to go start training with your coach for the upcoming season are all the least of your concerns. All that matters now is that your heart is aching for the ones you love and the possibility of losing them. 

As much as I want to WIN and become women’s bobsled champion, is it everything? No… I have won already by persevering, being resilient and living life to the fullest, every moment I can. Competing for an opportunity to be an Olympian and medalist is all a bonus. Although she may not know it, that’s something my mom has taught me all my life; it’s the simple intangible things that declare WINNING and are priceless.

We lost our home to Hurricane Irene and my family was homeless for 12 weeks, lived in construction for more than eight months. No big deal, Mom said. It’s just stuff, we have each other and our memories, opportunities are ahead; keep your eyes forward. My mom became permanently disabled and unable to work full-time at the age of 54, due to all her health struggles. Claims of foreclosure are now processing on our home. No worries, Mom said, a home is in the heart and together we are home. We’ll make it through; we always do.

Christmas shopping and being goofy with my mom in
December 2012

Despite all the hurdles, my mom’s will of hope and will to live has continued to inspire and motivate me to pursue my goals and dreams. She has continuously encouraged me to soak up every possible opportunity – grinding it out until the end and then no matter the result, I can walk away head held high and proud as I gave it my all. I feel extremely blessed and lucky that I have this amazing woman in my life. She is home, has recovered from her last hospital stint and we cherish every moment we have together. We only have this one life and, trust me, it’s real short.

If I am able to experience such a roller coaster journey, survive all the trials, touch another soul along the way, well to me, now that’s WINNING! So I ask all of you, take a moment today, call that loved one just to say “Hi! I love ya!,” think of the positives that are happening rather than dwelling on the negatives, share a smile with someone,  jump on that opportunity you’ve been pondering (it won’t be around forever) and take that leap of faith on life!

How will you be WINNING today?