An Olympian is not built in a year. To get to the Olympics, an athelte dedicates their life. Sponsorship and donations can't just come the year of the Games. Most athletes depend on assistance from friends, family and strangers for the four years, eight years, twelve years leading up to the Games. Now, I'm asking for your help on my journey to Pyeongchang.
WHO IS THIS LAUREN PERSON ANYWAY?
I'm a Southern California native, a graduate of Northern Arizona University, and a miracle, though you may not know it to look at me.
My twin brother and I were born eight weeks early after complications during my mother's pregnancy. Needless to say, we had a lot of problems in our first couple of months. Our combined birth weight was even less than one healthy baby, and at one point, I dropped below my birth weight of 3 pounds 2 ounces to 2 pounds 12 ounces.
Twelve days after I was born, I underwent open-heart surgery for a congenital heart defect called Patent Ductus Arteriosus. Because of the possibility of further damage to my already weakened lungs, doctors had to perform the surgery through my back. I remained in the NICU for 7 1/2 weeks and was developmentally delayed for 18 months following.
Now at 25, I suffer no side effects from the surgery except for a rather cool-looking scar across my left shoulder blade (which the doctor once promised my parents would probably be invisible. Showed him!). Every year on my birthday, my parents pull out the photo albums to reiterate how tiny and how sick I was. They remind me constantly how fortunate I am to be able to train and compete at the most elite level in the world without any side-effects of my struggles at birth, since many babies with half the problems struggle with their health.
SO WHY ON EARTH DO YOU GO HEAD FIRST AT 80 MPH?
I've wanted to be an Olympian since I was a wee sprite of a thing. I'm fairly sure there's still a drawing at my parent's house that I did as a child of me on the Olympic podium (albeit, in a US soccer jersey!). Sports is my passion, and the Olympics is the ultimate goal of any athlete.
To represent my country as a skeleton athlete is a tremendous honor, and I feel it every time I race. There really is nothing like it. I want to be the best in the world.
There is a strange kind of peace I expereince on a sliding track. Sure, I'm going speeds that would earn one a pretty hefty ticket if done on a highway, but through the chaos and G-force, there is a feeling of elation, and more importantly, a feeling of confidence in myself and my abilities.
AN OFFHAND COMMENT TURNS INTO REALITY
During the 2010 Winter Olympics, I was in the middle of my senior season on the NAU Track and Field team when one of the throwing coaches offhandedly suggested I research bobsleigh. After my initial inquiry, it was suggested by USBSF coaches that, because I was smaller, I instead look at skeleton. When I found out that skeleton athletes don't usually start the sport young, I was thrilled. Never the #1 sprinter in college, skeleton was a perfect opportunity to use the speed that I did have to my advantage.
You'll hear that many skeleton and bobsleigh athletes were addicted to the speed after their first ride. I can say that I was not thrilled at all. I can hardly describe the first time I went down a track, which happened to be in Lake Placid. Though it was from about halfway down, we still reached speeds around 45 MPH. For someone who freaks out on a bike going down a shallow hill, this was not exactly my kind of fun. But having paid for the week, I stuck it out. By the end of that week, I was addicted.
THE FINANCIAL REALITY
You may be surprised to know that unlike most countries in the Olympics, the United States athletes do not receive government financial support. With the few exceptional cases of major corporation-sponsored athletes (Lindsay Vonn and Shaun White come to mind), everything is entirely self-funded in the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. As a newer athlete rising through the ranks, I do not receive a stipend from the Federation. I work part-time jobs, usually as a waitress, to fund my season. In the last couple of years, I've had two jobs to try and offset the costs of living and training as an Olympic hopeful, but even that isn't enough. With the amount of training and traveling I do, it is impossible to compete without help.
A typical season will cost between $10,000 and $20,000, not including the cost of equipment (mainly, sleds). As my goal is to compete with the best in the world, I have listed a layout of estimated prices for a season.
Flights to and from Europe/North America run $200-$500 (each way). Depending on the tour, athletes could be looking at 5-8 flights per year.
2 pairs of runners $1200
Racing speed suit $700
Bag Fees for 75lb sled $350-$500 (each way!)
European Rental car $1500
American/Canadian car rental $150/week
Accommodations for 9 weeks in Europe $4000
Accommodations for 4 weeks in North America $2000
Race fees $1000
I have had good success so far, and it will be with your help that I continue to slide well. Some of my accomplishments in my short career are listed below.
- North American Cup (*No FIBT points*)
- Lake Placid: GOLD
- Lake Placid: GOLD
o US Skeleton National Push Championships: SILVER
o US Skeleton National Championships: BRONZE
o FIBT North American Cup
- Calgary, race 3: 13th place
- Whistler, race 5: 9th place
- Whistler, race 6: 6th place
- Whistler, race 7: 5th place
- Lake Placid, race 8: 6th place
- Lake Placid, race 9: 4th place
o Empire State Games: GOLD
o US Skeleton National Championships: 4th place
o FIBT America's Cup
- Lake Placid, Race 7: 7th place
- Lake Placid, Race 8: BRONZE
o Empire State Games: BRONZE
o US Skeleton National Championships: 9th place
o FIBT America's Cup
- Lake Placid America's Cup: 5th place
THE SALTY CREW/TEAM SALTER
No athlete could compete at the highest level on their own. I am incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful family who supports my dreams, even when they're worried about the financial burden on my shoulders (or the possible injuries!).
Thanks to the generous help of my grade school and middle school Physical Education teacher, I was able to purchase a new sled, custom built, which will aid me in my push towards making the 2018 Olympic Team.
The sled, however, is only one important piece to the financial puzzle. I have an entire four seasons to finance, and this Rally is here to help me through the 2014-2015 season. I will be working at least one full-time job, but it will not be enough. If you'd like to be a part of Team Salter (sometimes called The Salty Crew...clever, eh?) then look no further.
Any little bit helps. Yes, even a $5 donation will be used towards the season.
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
Can't donate financially? It's ok! Spread the word! Please share this RallyMe page (https://www.rallyme.com/rallies/551) on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, or any other social media you may use!
Spread the awareness in your towns that the athletes you love to watch every four years need THEIR help and YOURS to compete for their country. Athletes who represent the United States will not always be competing. When they retire, they will enter the job force, where they will contribute to society through their hard work, their dedication and their perseverance. To help an athelte now is to aid in the future of the country.
Please visit my website for more information about me and follow my blog!
Twitter handle: @lsesalter
Select Swag For Your Contribution
$5A well-deserved shout-out on my blog. Every little bit helps!
$100A postcard from a competition site, and a shout-out on my blog!
$500An offical USBSF t-shirt, and a shout-out on my blog!
$1,000Your name or company logo on my sled during the 2014-2014 FIBT season, a t-shirt, and a top spot shout-out on my blog.
$5,000A USBSF jacket, t-shirt, and prime logo placement on my sled during the 2014-2015 FIBT sliding season.