My journey and my greatest support team

BY Jesse Beckom III

I grew up on the far Southside of Chicago, Illinois on 12600 S. Wallace Street amidst an environment where gangbanging, selling drugs, and even being shot at on occasion were unfortunately not out of the ordinary. None of these activities were anything that I ever condoned or participated in, but it was a climate that I needed to adapt and survive in. Although they may not realize it until they read this blog, the strength that allowed me to avoid the pitfalls I previously mentioned was the love and support provided by my immediate family. This incredible support system consists of my late Grandmother Catherine Posey, parents Jesse (retired Policeman) and Addie Beckom (former nurse), my four older sisters Denise (School Teacher), Tina (Retired Army Warrant Officer), Ulanka (Current Navy Chief), and Venus (Honorably discharged former Marine).  Every one of these people have supported me along the way.  

It was my desire to excel at sports and in school for the purpose of not only escaping the confines of the neighborhoods that would eventually claim the lives of some of my friends  and family, but also to make my family proud of their grandson, son, and brother!  Using sport as a vehicle of escape, I joined the track and field team at Corliss High School my freshman year in 1991. Two years later in my junior year I decided to play football and wrestle.  I remember calling my father up one day after school informing him that I would be home late since I would be attending football practice.  I had not previously discussed playing football with my parents, but without missing a beat my father simply said, “Ok, see you when you get home!” During high school my parents came to many of my track meets, wrestling matches and my football games. Not to be outdone, my brother-in-law, Mark (Tina’s Husband), also attended my football games when he was in town. (Jesse with his dad pictured above).

In 1995 my performance in football and track initially earned me a partial scholarship to Trinity University in Deerfield, Illinois. While at Trinity my parents attended every home football game and some of my away games as well, at times bringing my late grandmother who was 80 yrs old along with them.  After two years at Trinity I decided to transfer schools. At the time I had no clue what school I wanted to attend, but what I did know is that I wanted to attend a Division I school that had an architecture program. When I decided to transfer schools I gave my parents a call and informed them of my decision, and once again they were immediately on board supporting my decision. My parents' support allowed me time to develop a successful transfer strategy that would see me enrolled at Iowa State University the next year. My parents and my sisters continued to provide emotional and even financial support, which gave me the stability and peace of mind I needed that allowed me to earn a full football scholarship.  My parents, grandmother and my sister Venus and her two daughters made it to several football games. Thanks to that initial support I eventually became the Big XII defensive new comer of the year in 1998, team captain in 1999 and earned a Bachelor Degree (2000) and Master’s Degree (2003) in Community and Regional Planning at Iowa State University. (Jesse and his mom pictured above).

After a conversation with Charlie Partridge, my former ISU Football Coach, in 2002 about an opportunity to try out for the USA bobsled team I called my parents once again. I informed them that I was going to head out to Lake Placid, N.Y. for a bobsled camp. I was in graduate school, so my parents did take a moment to inquire about my plans on finishing up my graduate studies. After assuring them that I had every intention on finishing, they told me good luck. I think they had come to realize that once I decided to do something it was no stopping me, so they might as well support the decision. Lol.

I would love to tell you that my bobsled career has been full of million dollar contracts and corporate sponsors, but it has not. It has however been filled with endless in-season and out of season conditioning, summer jobs, long days and nights of traveling, personal and family sacrifices, perseverance, dedication and good ole American Blue Collar work trying to make it all happen. The sacrifices required for this sport has lessened the availability I have to visit my family, which I’m not a fan of, but luckily for me my family handles it well. 

I thank God that he has provided me with family members that understand what I am trying to accomplish. Every one of my family members have supported of my Olympic dreams just as they supported my collegiate dreams- all of which have played their part in a major way. In 2004 my sister Venus allowed me to stay in her apartment with her and my two nieces for six months, where at times I slept on the floor until I was able to get a job as a City Planner in Winston-Salem, N.C. and eventually get back into bobsledding.  My sister Tina and her husband Mark for the last several years have allowed me to stay with her and her family in March and April when housing at the training centers was unavailable.  My sisters Denise and Ulanka have both allowed me to stay at their homes at times when needed. And all of my family members have spoken to whoever would listen about my dreams of becoming an Olympian and my need of financial sponsors. (Jesse's sister Tina and her husband Mark pictured to the right with their children).

In 2009 after the bobsled World Championships in Lake Placid, when I had surgery on both my lower legs, my sisters Tina and Ulanka both took off time from work to fly out and watch over me as I went into surgery and when I came out. My sister Ulanka even stayed an extra week just in case I needed anything! In 2010, when injury prevented me for making a strong run at the 2010 Olympics, my family kept me sane, kept my spirit up and supported me the whole way. In 2012 my sister Tina her husband Mark and my niece and nephew all came up to stand in the cold and watch me race World Championships in Lake Placid. (Jesse and his sisters pictured on the left after his surgery in 2009).

Throughout my career God has also blessed me with some great strength and conditioning coaches including my current coach Eric Lawson and former coaches Jon Carlock, Jason Hartman and Matthew McGettigan, who helped bring out my physical potential.  My family facilitated the strength of will and heart my coaches have helped to mold.

My faith in God and support from my family is why I will not falter, why I have been successful throughout my life, and why I can’t be broken….ever. I look forward to that day in Russia 2014 when my whole family can be there in person to watch me race in the Olympics!  

God Bless,

Jesse Beckom III

Jesse Beckom began the sport of bobsled in 2002 after attending a camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Beckom is one of the veterans of the team, and has claimed several international medals while racing with various drivers throughout his career.  Follow @JessBeck3 on Twitter to follow Beckom's dream as he races to become an Olympian.

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