United States Olympic Sports News (Part 5)

Athlete Spotlight: Bobsledder Jean Racine
by Jessica Scott

For nearly three years, Jean Racine has relaxed, reflected, and refocused all of her energy into becoming the bobsled superstar she was supposed to be in 2002.

After being called everything from “cutthroat” to “Mean Jean Racine,” she’s ready to erase the deep stains left over from the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games.

“Now I feel prepared for just about anything,” she said with a chuckle.

Racine, the world’s top-ranked driver during the 2000–2001 season, and her brakeman, Jen Davidson, were pegged to win the first women’s bobsled gold medal when the sport debuted at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The best friends appeared together on a cereal box, in magazines, and on television—until Davidson was dropped from the team one week before the Olympic Trials. Gea Johnson, a former track-and-field athlete, replaced Davidson in the sled, and the number 1 U.S. team finished a disappointing fifth after Racine’s new partner tore her hamstring in the first race at the Salt Lake Games.

Racine looks back at that time in her life and wonders how her Olympic dream unraveled so quickly.

“With all the pressure that was involved in the 2002 Games, at the time I made decisions that I felt were best,” she said. “But I can’t say now if it was the right thing. It was tough not getting a medal and knowing that you could have.”

The perception of her from outsiders hurt the most, Racine said, because no one fully understood the truth behind the decision to switch partners. She said the coaches played a big part in choosing the team, yet she took the brunt of the criticism.

“I just focused on my racing, the things I could control,” she said. “I tried to block it out for the most part because I was just trying to put on the best performance of my career.”

Racine pauses, controls her emotions and continues the thought.

“The media is looking at you harshly. Your own country doesn’t support you,” she said. “It’s hard to know that you’re going to the Olympics representing your country and wondering if they even support you.”

Today, Racine says she’s much stronger mentally than she was leading up to the 2002 Games—and her results prove it. She recently took first place in the 2005 Bobsled Team Trials, broke a start record with partner Erin Pac, and was crowned a Verizon National Champion, along with Pac and 2002 gold medalist Vonetta Flowers.

Racine said she’s “very confident” that the U.S. will earn medals at the next Olympic Winter Games, although she’s not sure who her partner will be.

“I used two different brakemen for the National Championships, and both did an amazing job,” she said. “I’ve been racing with Vonetta for the past two seasons. She’s the ultimate professional athlete, and I could see us having great success together.”

In addition to preparing for the 2006 Games, Racine—who is pursuing a business degree at the University of Utah—said she is learning how to slow her life down a little bit and have fun. A talented singer, Racine spends her free time performing in small bars around Salt Lake City.

“Singing is a good release for me away from sports,” said Racine, who describes her style as a mix between LeAnn Rimes and Sheryl Crow. “It’s funny because by the end of my set, everybody knows who I am. I enjoy it more when I’m just a singer performing, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.”

After the 2006 Games, Racine said she plans on taking a little downtime to reevaluate her bobsled career. The 26-year-old has spent more than half her life on the ice and said she will consider retirement from the sport.

The extreme disappointment from 2002 may still linger in her mind, but Racine said the 2004 Olympic Games helped her look forward, not back.

“It got me so fired up and excited again,” she said. “Watching Justin Gatlin win the 100 meters, seeing Amanda Beard win her medal . . . I can imagine how it felt. It was one of those things that I was like, ‘Is it my turn yet?’”

For more information, contact Rebecca Kruse at (719) 866-3503 or Rebecca.kruse@usoc.org, or Jessica Scott at (719) 866-2221 or Jessica.scott@usoc.org. This release is also available on the USOC’s public website (www.usolympicteam.com).

This report is in five parts. 1 2 3 4 5

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