Friday, February 12, 2010

The real Olympic trial - being away from their kids

For AOL's parenting Web site, I just interviewed five U.S. Olympians who're headed for Vancouver. The hook is that, in addition to being on Team USA, they're all parents. That's somewhat unusual for Olympic athletes. The first interview to post is with Christian Niccum, a luger. Niccum and his wife have an 18-month-old daughter Hayden. The Niccum family has a blog and you can see family pictures there.

One thing that came up over and over in the five interviews is how much time these athletes are away from their families and how rough that is on all involved. When we spoke, Niccum was in Germany. He'd been out of the country a lot in the last year.

Niccum said being an Olympian was selfish. I asked why. He said, "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."

He told a good story about his wife and kid. At a race in Norway recently, he tucked pictures of them in his racing helmet before a run. He and his partner did well, qualifying for the US team. So the photos will be in his helmet again in Vancouver.

"I'm looking for the best location, in a place where they're not going to fall out."

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