Olympics Parent Profile: Pikus-Pace Gets Her Chance at the Winter Games

Filed under: Sports


Pikus-Pace will compete in women's skeleton. Credit: U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation

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.

Noelle Pikus-Pace, star of the U.S. women's skeleton team, has definite hopes for the Winter Games -- bringing home a gold medal. She also has a definite plan for what comes after her competition in Vancouver -- retirement.

She's earned it. In 2005, Pikus-Pace's career nearly ended when she was struck by a runaway bobsled. (She has a titanium rod in her right leg as a reminder.) In 2008, she began a second comeback after the birth of her daughter, Lacee. She and her husband, Janson, have been married since 2002.

Pikus-Pace, 27, tells ParentDish she's primed for the biggest competition of her life. An edited version of the conversation follows:

ParentDish: The Olympics are almost here. When do you start getting nervous?
Noelle Pikus-Pace: It's more a feeling of getting excited. Obviously, the nerves will be there. I just need to control them.

PD: Tell us about Lacee, your daughter.
NPP: She just turned 2 last week. She is in that "Terrific Twos" stage.

PD: Terrific?
NPP: She's all over the place like any 2-year-old. Because of what I do, some things are confusing, though. If she sees anyone dressed in a speed suit or a helmet, she yells, "Mommy, Mommy!"
PD: You're the youngest of eight. That prepare you for parenthood?
NPP: I don't think anything prepares you. I had no idea the time it takes to care for a child. And I had no idea how much I could love somebody. I love my husband, but that's different.
PD: Lacee was born at Winter Olympics "halftime" -- two years after the last Winter Games, two before the Games in Vancouver. Was that the plan?
NPP: Of course. I'd planned to retire after the 2006 Olympics, then start a family. Right before the games I got hit by a bobsled and wasn't unable to compete. The Olympics has been one of my biggest dreams. I wasn't ready to end things. We had to make sure we timed my pregnancy. Taking the second year off out of the [four-year Olympic cycle] seemed perfect.
PD: On your sled, ever think about Lacee?
NPP: Last year, I lost the mental side of things. I'd stand at the start and think, "I miss her. I want to be home." I didn't care about competing. My coaches were pretty frustrated to say the least. I've really worked it out. My whole family has put so much into this. I owe them everything. And when Lacee is older, I want her to know I did my best.
PD: As a mom, any thought that skeleton is just too dangerous?
NPP: If I had just gotten into this sport, I probably would. When I started I'd come home with bumps, bruises, bleeding. Every other week, I was getting X-rays. Now I don't worry. I feel I can get myself out of any dangerous situation on the track.
PD: Your plans after Vancouver?
NPP: I'm retiring. I'm ready to be with my family and start a new chapter in my life.
PD: Ideas about that new chapter?
NPP: I have an MBA. I started my own hat business last year -- Snowfire Hats. We sell hats and scarves and things like that. I do the color and design.
PD: Hopes and expectations going to Vancouver?
NPP: Back in 2006, I felt standing on the podium [as a medal winner] was the only reason to be there. It's not just about that anymore. It's about really taking it all in and enjoying the experience with my family. I'm going to give my absolute best on the day of the race. If I do that I'll be happy.
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 pdyouthsports@aol.com.

Related: Should Yoga Qualify as an Olympic Sport?

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