Olympics Parent Profile: Luger Keeps Photos of Wife, Daughter In Helmet
Filed under: Amazing Parents
One in a series of interviews with U.S. Olympic team athletes who are also parents as they prepare for the Winter Games in Vancouver. The conversations will focus on how these elite athletes juggle training and their duties as moms and dads.
Christian Niccum, a member of the doubles luge team, spends his days hurtling down icy tracks on a small sled. Hidden in the back of his racing helmet are photos of his wife, Bobbie Jo, and 18-month-old daughter Hayden. Recently, Niccum, 32, from Woodinville, Washington, spoke with ParentDish about his sport and his family. An edited version of the conversation follows:
ParentDish: As a luger, your job is sliding down an icy, curved track on a cramped sled at speeds of 90 miles per hour and above. Any similarities to parenting?
Christian Niccum: I'd say they're completely different. The sport is a sport. It's for fun. But it's a kind of a selfish activity. Unlike parenting, which isn't selfish at all.
PD:Selfish? How so?
CN: It's a lot of sacrifice on the part of my family. Since October 25, I've been home seven days -- for Christmas. My relationship with my wife and daughter right now is pretty much on Skype. I think my daughter thinks of me as another face on a computer screen, the way she thinks about Sesame Street. I look at Elmo as my competition.
PD: There's a parenting story about how you and teammate Dan Joye qualified for the Olympics At an event in Norway. you had pictures of your wife and daughter in your helmet.
CN: I wanted a little good luck charm. Luge is a funny sport. Your time going down the track is about 40 to 50 seconds. There's a lot of sitting around in the starting house before and after -- waiting. It's nice to have my helmet in my lap, looking at pictures of my wife and child, like they're there with me.
PD: Are the pictures staying in the helmet for Vancouver?
CN: Definitely. We just got some new helmets for the Olympics. I'm looking for the best location, in a place where they're not going to fall out.
PD: Luge is a dangerous sport. Do you want Hayden to follow your lead?
CN: I wouldn't push anyone into a sport where you go downhill 90 miles an hour. Whatever makes her happy is fine with me. Right now, she seems athletic. She likes it when I swing her around.
PD: How did you get started in luge?
CN: My parents had five kids in five years; I was the baby. Whatever my brothers and sisters were doing, I had to be doing. I was always a daredevil. When you first do luge, it is fast and it's fun. It's a similar feeling to riding a roller coaster except you're in control.
PD: What's your Olympic dream and Olympic goal?
CN: The dream is to win gold and hear your [national] anthem played. The goal is to get to Vancouver and peak physically and mentally, have my absolute best performance. If you peak at the right time, you might get to have that dream.
ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms our Kids" (Beacon Press).
Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related: Should Yoga Qualify as an Olympic Sport?
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.