U.S. skeleton athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace finds joy and growth in facing challenges
She said the track suits her because it isn’t the fastest track in the world, like Vancouver’s, or the easiest, like Park City’s.
“Sochi is a very technical track, so you’re going to see some separation in times, which is a great thing,” Pikus-Pace said. “I like that there are areas where people can mess up. I like to know that if I get this right, I can give myself a little bit of distance between myself and other athletes.” Despite her victory on the Olympic track, she said the most encouraging thing is that she won with an imperfect run.
“I still have things I can fix,” she said.
Which is typical Pikus-Pace, where perfect might be the goal, but imperfect may be even better. That means there is more to learn, more to experience and somewhere even better to go.
She battles aching pain in her leg, which is still held together by a metal rod. She can’t do all of the strength and conditioning other athletes do. And she deals with the kind of guilt other world-class athletes know very little about but moms battle on a daily basis.
“Number one, have a great support system,” she said of how she juggles all the demands of her life. “Number two, I’ve really learned to manage my time. I make a list every night, and every minute of my day, I know is going to be filled, and I need to utilize it to the best of my abilities.”
She’s faster and stronger than ever thanks to a great strength and conditioning coach who has adapted her workouts to deal with the fact that she can’t do any one-legged isolation exercises.
“There are a lot of things I can’t do, like jumping or bounding or single leg movements, which is really inhibiting for a sprinter,” she said. “But I’m faster than I’ve ever been, and most of my strength comes from squats and sprinting.”
Just like her success comes from finding a way to bring joy and light to whatever situation she faces. She said being back on the track has been even more enjoyable, even with the new challenges.
“I am competitive by nature,” said the former UVU track athlete. “There is just a thrill about being able to stand at the line, being able to control your nerves and turning it on. There is something about putting yourself in tough positions, facing that kind of pressure, seeing yourself overcome it and pushing forward. It’s just incredible. It’s unlike anything else.”
And when she says it, she smiles because she knows that it’s true in sports, as well as in life.
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