Family Ties

BY Jamie Greubel

The fact that I could train for the Olympics was not on my radar growing up. Competitiveness, on the other hand, was a natural instinct. In my family, I am the oldest of four children (myself 29, Eric 27, Andrew 16, and Elizabeth 13). Although I am not close in age with all of my siblings, each one of them draws out a special meaning and motivation behind my goal to become an Olympian.

My brother Eric and I, who are close in age, literally competed with each other in about anything you can possibly imagine. Whether it was playing traditional games, to who was the fastest getting into the front seat of the car or into the bathroom first, everything felt like it was a fight to the death (or until my parents forbid us from playing that game ever again).  You would think that it was just natural sibling rivalry, but it got vicious. We were so serious about competition, that we could not handle the other person beating us in anything. Looking back now, the extremes we went to seem pretty ridiculous, and I can’t help but laugh at the memories I have from growing up. At the same time, I know the competition during my childhood helped shape the person I am today, as well as the determination that drives me to train so intensely.

Eric and I used to play a card game together called “Egyptian Ratscrew”. A basic explanation is it’s a fast paced game where players alternate putting down cards on the same pile and slap the pile when they see a combination of the same card or cards in an order. The goal was to take all of the cards in the deck and leave the other person with nothing. We eventually had to stop playing this game because it always ended in a wrestling match or someone bleeding or crying. So we moved on to outdoor sports like basketball, where I chipped my first tooth. Then tennis, my brother hit my hand with a racket and crushed a ring on my finger. Snowboard, chipped another tooth. I think you are starting to see my point. We also had horses growing up. So every morning it was our responsibility to wake up, feed the horses, and clean the barn before school. Left unattended, we would soon be dueling with pitchforks or whips.

We were so competitive that it was pretty much impossible for us to get along until I left for college. At this point, Eric joined our high school track and field team (which I had been on for four years), and he would call me constantly to tell me how much he beat my best result by. As the years have gone by, Eric and I seem to have settled our long rivalry (…I won :-D ) and have come to appreciate each other. Today, Eric is one of my biggest supporters. I know I would not be where I am today, or be as serious as I am with my training, without all of his nagging and challenging throughout the years.

Some other interesting family ties and inspiration come from my younger brother and sister. I have always seen Andrew and Elizabeth as kids because they were very young when I still lived at home during high school. We are 14 and 17 years apart, respectively.  Now, they are growing up and shining in their own ways, and it is truly a source of inspiration for me.

My brother Andrew, who is finishing his sophomore year in high school, recently switched from playing baseball to rowing crew. With less than two years of experience, he is already one of the strongest and best rowers at his competitive high school, St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia.  He has been invited to join the U.S. Rowing Junior National High Performance camp this summer, and told me that he wants to go to the Olympics too! Wow! It feels like only yesterday that I was going with my Dad to pick Andrew up from daycare, and now he is asking me about protein, my training, and how much I can squat. Where did the time go? I hope that I can continue to inspire Andrew to train for the Olympics as I try to reach the same goal.

Another very cool connection for me was when PyeongChang was named to host the 2018 Winter Games. I remember sitting in Sports Medicine for the announcement and thinking “this was meant to be.”  When I was in high school, my family adopted my sister, Elizabeth, from South Korea. She joined our family when she was only 5 months old. I have watched her grow up to be the most loving, caring and happy person I know. Korea is still very much a part of her life. She goes to Korean school on the weekends to learn the language and be around other Korean kids. How great would that be if I could compete in 2018, in the country where she was born? I know that my family wants to go and visit South Korea when Elizabeth is older, and I think that would be an amazing opportunity.

One other member of my family that I must to mention when it comes to bobsled is my cousin, Amy, who is like a sister to me. A few years ago, she took a week off of high school to come be my brakeman in my first race ever as a driver. Within the same week of learning how to push and be a bobsledder, Amy raced two America’s Cup races with me. Her bravery and resilience helped me have the courage to start my driving career. It also gave us a special bond. The best feeling ever was hearing the track cleared for “Greubel and Greubel” before we raced! I will always remember my first races with her and the experiences we shared.

As I train and prepare for the most important season of my bobsled career, I reflect on how my passion to compete began, and why it continues today. I find that it was never a specific athlete or Olympic performance that fueled my desire to reach the highest level of athletics. Rather, it was the competitor in me that could never be satiated, and my family who was always there to inspire me and push me to be my best.  

Jamie Greubel joined the U.S. bobsled team in the 2007-2008 season after her college track teammate encouraged her to try the sport.  She was a member of the track team at Cornell University, and made a smooth transition to running on ice as a brakeman.  The powerful athlete opted to become a driver midway through her career after winning multiple medals on the America's Cup tour, and has emerged as one of the nation's most promising women's pilots.  Follow @JamieGreubel on Twitter to follow her journey towards Sochi 2014.

*Athlete blog entries are the sole opinion of each individual author and may not be representative of the USBSF or its athletes.