Those who slide together, stay together

BY Kimber Gabryszak

What’s it like to be a dating couple – and then married couple – on the same team, training and competing and dreaming together?

Well, it actually means being apart much more than you might imagine!

Brad Stewart and I began sliding together at the Utah Olympic Park in 2005, (after dating for a year). After a couple years just sliding for fun we surprised ourselves by making the cut, and started competing on various international circuits for Team USA.  Our first time racing for the USA was an America’s Cup race together in Calgary, BC Canada, in the fall of 2007…

…and that was the last time we raced together (other than annual team selections) for the next 5-½ years.  Somehow we always managed to be on different circuits; even if we ended up racing on the same continent, we were countries apart!

  • 2008-2009, I raced the Europa Cup circuit, while Brad raced the America’s Cup.
  • 2009-2010, I raced the Intercontinental Cup circuit, while Brad raced America’s Cup and Europa Cup.
  • 2010-2011, and 2011-2012, and first half of 2012-2013, I raced on the World Cup team while Brad raced on the Europa Cup and Intercontinental Cup circuits…

Fast-forward to last year, the 2012-2013 season.  In an attempt to gain additional points I left the World Cup to race on the Intercontinental Cup tour, where Brad was already racing.  We were so excited! I can’t begin tell you how amazing it was to have my husband, the love of my life, competing by my side. We were definitely motivated: we both earned medals and made it on the podium together, and helped each other through the often stressful but rewarding races. We weren’t distracted or sad by the distance or worrying about how things were going, since we were together.  Remarkably, we even had a few days off between races (another never-before-happened-opportunity) and took the chance to hop a train and sightsee in Prague and Berlin before meeting back up with the rest of the team!

So that’s racing, but what about the rest of the year?

Well, being apart for several months each winter means that summers are a haven for us. Yes, we have to get up at 5am in order to get our workouts in before punching the clock…and then go back to the gym after work to finish our training. Sure, we’re tired and sore and cranky. Absolutely, we’re hungry all the time. Yeah, we’re constantly stretching and rolling and talking about muscles / tendons / calluses / random joints. No, we don’t have a social life. (What movie are you talking about? Good chance we didn’t even hear about it. )

But the thing is…we’re both up at 5am together. We’re both sore together. We’re both neglecting our social lives together. We’re cooking copious amounts of food for each other. We’re each helping the other get stronger, faster, better.

Along the way we’ve also seen the price that other athletes have paid in their relationships; the blind dedication and commitment to the sport can be a mystery to those that aren’t up to their eyebrows in it, and can cause resentment and jealousy that will pull a relationship apart. We don’t face that struggle, since we’re both in it together. If anything, our joint commitment makes our relationship stronger.

So where do we go from here?

This is the last push for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, so we’re up to our hairlines in training. Around the world, athletes are training harder than ever with the Olympics as their goal, and we are no different. It’s the season of 5am wake-up calls, long hours at the gym, ever-hungry bodies, supreme focus to push through fatigue and injuries, the will to make this coming season our best ever!

And we’ll be doing it as always…together.

Gabryszak began the sport of skeleton in 2005 after Stewart encouraged her to give it a try since they lived so close to the Utah Olympic Park in Utah.  Gabryszak and Stewart had planned to slide recreationally in the local club, but they fell in love with the sport and decided to commit to training full time.  Follow Gabryszak and Stewart on Twitter (@kimberg and @stewart_brad), Facebook, and check in

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