What are the chances that an unorthodox olympian appears on the United States Olympic team in a sport people barely know? Laughable. It is number 1 on the top 5 list of the hardest things in the world to accomplish. It’s more difficult than public speaking, building a rocket to carry humans to Mars, brain surgery, becoming CEO, or winning the US Presidency. All these feats have a progress chart to follow: you start from the bottom, build skills, present them, then you’re given the opportunity to put those skills to test, and everyone (mostly) agrees that you’re fit for the task. What happens when an athlete decides to become an olympian? Normally, they go through childhood, high school, get recruited for college, maybe go pro, and make it from there. That’s an orthodox olympian though. I said unorthodox. There are other sports besides basketball, track, swimming, gymnastics, or wrestling that are contested in the olympics. Can you tell me about Skeleton? How do you play Handball? What’s the difference between the Nordic Combine and the Biathlon? How do you even get into contention for Badminton? Even if you have the elite athleticism to play each of the sports just named, chances to become an Olympic athlete are slim to none. Like so many of the black men and women decades before I was even born, my dream is to be a pioneer in sports; to be an inspiration to the youths that look like me.
Think of the most popular sports in the Olympics. Everyone knows what they are, and they are easily accessible to every community. That also makes for these sports to be very marketable. For an athlete to become a great swimmer, they just need to find a body of water. A fast sprinter; an open field or a pair of mailboxes in their neighborhood to race between. A basketball phenom; a basketball and hours to dribble and shoot. After they master the sport, go try out for a team or post a video on instagram and the possibility of becoming a sensation is plausible, and it only costs a few dollars, maybe $50, to pay for what you needed to get up to the top.
Let’s look at Skeleton though — specifically me. As a track athlete, my only necessary expense for the sport are my shoes, and since I live in Austin, entry fees for track meets. A whopping $500, at the most, per year. Oh, but Skeleton is a different story. Just the start-up cost to jump on the ice track is enough to make someone cancel their flight to upstate New York or Utah. The sled cost $2,800, the helmet cost $350, the shoes cost $300. Let’s say time is spent in Utah instead of New York, which is basically mandatory, there goes $200 for the season. Traveling is absolutely necessary because no two tracks are the same in Bobsled/Luge/Skeleton. Round trip, with all fees included—because you already know that sled is oversized and overweight—that’s a solid $600-$700. Anybody doing the math? I got it for you: that’s up to $4,350 for the first season ALONE. Sometimes after you get over that first hump, the following costs can be easier to bear. Skeleton doesn’t follow that logic. I’ll break down the recurring costs later.
Let me be clear, in order for an athlete to become an Olympian, regardless of how elite he is, in a sport that is considered to be very niche, there will be a sustained financial hardship so difficult that it will seem impossible. That is unless there is already a system of wealth in place or a constant financial backing from friends, family, or sponsors. In all modesty, I have already demonstrated myself to be a superior athlete to those currently in place. The reality is that a huge area of opportunity for USA Skeleton sits in the caliber of the athletes. The last piece of the puzzle is for me to spend more time on ice. That’s what separates me from the national team. That is what separates Team USA from the European countries that dominate the sport. More time on ice means more time away from home and work. Time is money.
I work a job in Austin that requires me to be face to face with people. I’m mainly a personal trainer and sometimes a chef. Clients rely on me to get them fit, to order their steps in the right direction towards their goals, for fitness advice, and for accountability. I rely on them to get paid and earn money, first, to take care of bills, and second, to put money towards training for Skeleton. And since I can’t be in two places at once, when I’m one place, the other suffers.
If you follow me on any social media, you’ll see that I’m full of discipline. Failure is embraced as an integral part of my training, but committing to something being impossible is a foreign concept to me. Impossible is a word that I take seriously and use once in a blue moon. I may admit that the odds are not in my favor, but that’s still a green light in my eyes. Listen to me when I say this: the only thing stopping me from lifting Team USA to the podium consistently in both world and Olympic championships is a financial infrastructure focused on my skeleton career.
No olympian, whether they are from Team USA or the Refugee Olympic Team, will ever tell you that they made this journey alone. Somewhere along the way, help was provided, coaching was given, a flight was paid for, an opportunity knocked. We all hear the call and we all answer, but the journey is too great a burden to bear alone. The stress, the emotions, the weakness, the blood, the finances! Thankfully, I have an amazing support team in place to take care of me in my athleticism and my daily performance. Financially, I’m overly grateful for the support currently in place— friends, family, foundations—but they just aren’t enough. Skeleton is costly. I need multiple people on board to give monthly. I need local businesses to support a Texas athlete trying to compete as a winter Olympian.
What’s in it for you? The opportunity to form a source of inspiration for young minority athletes through the financial equity you helped provide. But you’ll be able to legitimately say you helped me get to where I am when you see me on that TV accepting my medal. You’ll be a visible member of my team when the world sees your brand on my sled. You’ll be part of history when I become the first black man to compete in Skeleton on the Olympic team for the US. You’ll be part of showing new opportunities to represent Team USA for athletes exploring new sports. The vision I have extends past some selfish ambition to win some medals and go home a star. There’s a community of youths in this country that look just like me. Their ability to contribute to the success of Team USA could remain untapped without a face for them to see and follow. I plan on being that face — like Michael Jordan was to Lebron James, like Floyd Mayweather watching Muhammad Ali. I offer progress in the diversity and athleticism of athletes throughout Team USA.
As for those recurring costs, take a look at this breakdown. You’ll understand how there is an underrepresentation in this particular sport, why I’m asking for your help, and why a solid financial infrastructure backing me is very important to make this dream happen.
Home costs ($2500/month)
I don’t even have WiFi!
Skeleton (~$7000/season; oct-mar)
Track fees (tracks charge PER RUN)
Now that you’re ready to jump on my team and support me through monthly financial contributions, this is what I am asking:
There you can select a predetermined package and send a donation every month without even thinking about it. Thanks for your support. Your contribution to the greater pool can and will create some great waves. I appreciate you beyond belief.
This month has been a very good month in terms of my pursuit of skeleton. I just got back to Austin after having spent 2 weeks in Lake Placid. Even though there were several ups and downs, I think my biggest take away is to relax when I’m going down that ice. Kind of ironic because I often get told to relax by Jesus when I’m panicked and desperate for answers. But I learned a ton and got some good feedback from Matt Antoine, Olympic medalist, and Stephen Garbett, one of our nation’s top sliders.
Next week I’m headed to Park City, UT for some sliding. My personal goal is to learn the new track quickly, meaning have some very good awareness of where I am at all times. This track is a lot faster than Lake Placid’s so I’m excited on plenty different fronts.
It’s been a while since my last update, but it’s my off season now and these past couple months have had some pretty good highlights.
In March, I competed in a Powerlifting Meet for the first time. My goal was to break the RPS World Record for squat in my weight class (75 Kg). The record was 515 lbs and my personal record is 500 lbs. I’d say the goal was within reach. However, at the meet, my quads locked up on me and I felt like I was about to pull a muscle, so I called it and decided it would be better to walk away from the meet somewhat (but not really) disappointed and HEALTHY, than to walk away limping because I’m injured. The other two lifts, bench press and deadlift went extremely well. Took away PRs in both lifts and set records for my gym, Austin Simply Fit. Overall, the meet was fun, but it was very drawn out—a lot of sitting around. I’d do it again, but probably next year.
April, so far, has been pretty good to me. It’s my birth month and my gym donated it’s opening anniversary towards my Olympic Dream and held a Crawfish Boil Fundraiser with me at the pot. We ended up raising just over $2000 which helped me purchase a pretty good Skeleton sled. Now, all I need to do is find a helmet that meets the requirements of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation. That is a herculean task, because they’re aren’t exactly the easiest to find. Adding to the list of goals for this off season and summer are to: gain strength, generate more explosiveness, gain weight (currently 165, trying to gain 20-30 lbs) and save enough money to support traveling for next season.
I have received so much love throughout this entire journey and I know God has so much more in store for me. If you’re wondering how to contribute to my success through prayer, praying for mental and emotional stability as I progress and learn the sport (it’s easy to get lost and look at how someone else is progressing compared to you), for strength in times when I feel like training isn’t going anywhere and for The Lord to continue to bless me with the finances as he has been up to this point.
Where to begin?! This week has been one of the best, most productive weeks of my life….in terms of skeleton anyway. I started kind of self-conscious and a little on the defensive side because I didn’t have the same opportunity that a couple other athletes had to stay at the OTC for several consecutive weeks. Tuesday was the worst day because for the first time my sled and I crossed the finish line at different times. I crashed and boy, did I feel isolated. I really just have never felt more unworthy and pathetic in my entire life. By mid week, though, the ice was warmer, slightly sticky and moist (if that makes sense) and that is where I began to reclaim my confidence and my sense of identity, which doesn’t lie in what other people are doing but in promises the The Father has for me.
Eastern Regional Championships was Friday, but it’s my first year, so I constantly told myself that it doesn’t really matter and my main focus needs to be to have fun and do the absolute best I can. I went in the day feeling great and focused. I went in confident in all my steering, both defensive and offensive. I went in knowing that my push had to be explosive and fast and strong. I went in not knowing, however, that my push, which is where the hopes and dreams of doing well lies, would die an icy death—I popped the groove. In skeleton, there’s no best out of anything. It’s the time of your total combined runs. So when my start was messed up before the beginning of my very first run, it was already over. That’s not even the worst part: I was so pissed and selfish minded at that point that I started to hope for my other teammates to fail. Obviously, that disturbed me, so I started to focus on everything I did right in the race and gave a little encouragement to a couple people around me. Eventually, my mood changed and I began to feel better about myself, my day and the sport.
Yes, it hurts that I didn’t have an accurate representation of my progress thus far, but I’m still confident I’m doing exceedingly well. So when I look back and evaluate my week, I’d say I’m thoroughly pleased. I have a long way to go and I’m ready for the ride.