Jeremy Bloom

Jeremy Bloom recalls 2006 Olympics in ‘Fueled by Failure’

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Courtesy Jeremy Bloom.

Two-time Olympian Jeremy Bloom incorporated not only his moguls skiing career but also his time as an NFL wide receiver, CEO and philanthropist in a new book, “Fueled by Failure.”

In 2003, Bloom captured gold and silver medals at the World Championships in dual moguls and moguls, respectively. He earned 10 career World Cup victories, including a then-record six straight in 2005.

But in his two Olympics, Bloom finished off the podium, ninth in 2002 and sixth in 2006.

“We all use failure as a vehicle to learn,” Bloom, who has worked for NBC Olympics, said in a phone interview Thursday. “Failure makes you stronger. Losing teaches you how to win. We’ve all heard those quotes and clichés, but what does that mean? Why does it make you stronger?”

Bloom detailed why he wrote the book on his website. It follows his path from football to skiing to business. He also included stories from Olympic teammate Apolo Anton Ohno and other successful businessmen who overcame failures.

Here’s an excerpt from “Fueled by Failure,” from the first chapter titled, “22 Seconds to Glory,” about Bloom’s experience at the Torino 2006 Olympics:

I had 22 seconds to make a 23-year-old dream come true.

As I stood in the staging area at the 2006 Winter Olympics, in Torino, Italy, I thought about how I wanted to be able to call myself an Olympic champion. I thought about all my friends around the world watching me on TV and about my dad back home in Colorado and my mom who was in the grandstands waiting for me below. I flashed back to the years I spent competing in regional competitions around Colorado, the phone call I received at 15 when I found out that I had made the U.S. National Team, and the thousands of hours that I had spent preparing myself for this moment.

Images shot through my mind of the journey that had brought me to this point. I remembered the time, at 10 years old, when I first watched mogul skiing in the Olympics with my dad and my mom. My dad has a passion for the Olympics that goes back to the Carl Lewis days at the 1984 games and continues to this day. When a U.S. athlete stands atop the podium and “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays, he gets very emotional. My dad was my first football coach and ski coach, and my hero. I wanted nothing more in my life than to win an Olympic gold medal, not only for myself but also for my family. The thought of my family watching me as I stood on top of that Olympic podium, with a gold medal wrapped around my neck, was a major driving force in my lifelong quest.

I had won more consecutive World Cup races than any freestyle skier in history the year before—I was skiing great in 2006, and this was my moment. I had trained well all week and knew that I was going to ski flawlessly.

One Move, One Moment

As I slid into the starting gate, I got my first glimpse of the 230-meter mogul course where my fate would be decided. It was a beautiful night in Torino; the snow sparkled off the bright lights like a Manhattan sidewalk on a warm summer evening. I went over the three key things I needed to remember:

1. Focus on your skills. They are what will get you down this mountain every time. This was my method of going back to the basics.

2. Live downstairs. I imagined myself downstairs in a cellar where no thoughts from the outside could get in. This was my way of eliminating any thought that wasn’t focused on the skiing task at hand. It helped me achieve tunnel vision.

3. Mind like a river. Any thought that might come up that didn’t have to do with my run would flow from the front of my head out the back. Nothing can stay still in a fast-moving river. This was also how I moved quickly past any self-defeating thoughts like “I’m going to fall,” “I’m going to miss my top jump,” or “I don’t feel ready.”

I had an unusual sense of confidence that day. In my head I knew I was going to ski up to my potential. Finally, the judges were ready; my time had come. I wasn’t nervous. My moment was now!

“Three, two, one,” over the loudspeaker, and I pushed out of the gate. I felt the snow under my skis and quickly got into the top jump. I nailed my takeoff and landed my 720 iron-cross perfectly. As I landed, I started to accelerate faster and faster. The snow was icier than it had been in training. I felt myself getting a bit out of control, but I was determined to fight my skis back underneath me. I got it back together quickly and was flying into the bottom air. The takeoff on my D-spin 720 was not perfect, and I landed with a small compression. But I blazed through the bottom section of the course to the finish line. My heart immediately dropped—I knew it wasn’t my best run. I knew I made a small mistake, but didn’t know how severely the judges were going to penalize me for it.

Even though I wanted to win a medal, in reality, my biggest goal at the Olympics was to ski to my potential. If I did that, everything else would take care of itself. But I had made one mistake, and I knew it would cost me. The only question was how much. In those fleeting moments while I awaited my score, I felt the same gut-wrenching feeling I had experienced when I was 19 years old and participating in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. That year, I had been the number-one ranked skier in the world, but I made a small mistake on my final run and it cost me an opportunity to medal.

My score came up. I was in fourth place with two skiers to go. My dreams of becoming an Olympic champion were over. I had prepared my entire life for this one moment and I knew there would not be another opportunity. Skiing through the media gauntlet that awaited me, I tried to smile, said the right things, and kept myself together, masking the disappointment as best I could. My mom came over, hugged me, and told me she was very proud of me. My mom was my biggest supporter and fan. She flew all over the world to see me compete and had not missed a single football game I played in during high school and college. Yet she always cared more about how I treated other people and how I handled winning and losing than she did about where I placed or whether I won.

When I returned to my apartment in Torino, I closed the door, sat down on the bed, and, well, that was it. I lost it. Tears flowed down my face. A torrent of emotion flooded over me. I wanted to crawl outside of my body because the pain was so unbearable. It was the lowest moment of my athletic life; I felt totally defeated once again on skiing’s biggest stage. I woke up the next morning hoping that it was all just a bad dream. Still engulfed in the emotion of what had occurred, I kept replaying the run again and again in my mind. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to keep to myself and be alone. But there wasn’t much time for mourning and self-pity. Within 48 hours’ time, I had to move on. There was another dream that wasn’t going to wait for me to recover from this devastating emotional blow: football.

Catching up with Olympic moguls medalist Toby Dawson

Iris Cummings, last living 1936 U.S. Olympian, has flown ever since Berlin

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Iris Cummings is one of the last living members of a historically significant, global group: athletes who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She is the only U.S. Olympian from those Games believed to still be alive.

Cummings, a 99-year-old who still swims regularly, was one of 46 U.S. women (along with 313 U.S. men) who competed at the Berlin Olympics, best known for Jesse Owens triumphing in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Since swimmer Adolph Kiefer‘s death in May 2017, the breaststroker Cummings and canoeist John Lysak were the last living 1936 U.S. Olympians. Olympic historians recently learned that Lysak died in January at 105 years old (which Lysak’s family confirmed this week). Canadian Paul Tchir of the OlyMADMen keeps a list of the oldest living Olympians here.

Lysak, born in New Jersey, turned 4 years old when his mom died in 1918 due to the flu pandemic. He was orphaned by his father, overwhelmed with taking care of a farm and four children.

Lysak got a bike to handle a paper route as a boy. That allowed him to sneak down to the Hudson River and row with homemade boats with his younger brother, Steven, who became a 1948 Olympic gold and silver medalist.

“I couldn’t swim, but I floated with a log,” Lysak told NBC Sports for the 2016 film “More than Gold,” about Owens and the 1936 Olympics. “I grew up paddling.”

He specialized at the Yonkers Canoe Club, made the Olympic team and finished seventh in a 10km doubles event with James O’Rourke in Berlin. Lysak later became a Marine and served during World War II.

Lysak spent his last years in California, where Cummings learned to swim off the Pacific beaches as a girl around the time of the Great Depression.

Cummings credited an ability to become an Olympian and one of the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft to her parents, who met while serving in France during World War I. Her father was a medic and sports doctor. Her mother a member of the American Red Cross canteen service.

She said her father, an all-around athlete, gave up a chance to try out for the first modern Olympics in 1896 to attend Tufts University School of Medicine.

“My mother provided the intellectual and academic inspiration from her rare perspective as a woman college graduate and a high school language teacher when very few women ever went to college,” Cummings told NBC Sports in an interview for “More than Gold.”

In 1928, Cummings’ dad took her to her the National Air Races at what is now Los Angeles International Airport.

“I watched Charles Lindbergh at the peak of his fame fly in the air show,” she said.

In 1932, at age 11, Cummings was introduced to the Olympics in person. Her dad was a track and field official at those Los Angeles Games.

Iris Cummings
Iris Cummings (center) competed in the 200m breaststroke at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Courtesy Iris Cummings)

All of Cummings’ swimming up to age 13 came in the ocean due to a lack of pools. But from 1934 to ’36, she developed into an Olympian in the breaststroke. In 1936, a 15-year-old Cummings was offered a paid-for, round-trip, cross-country train ticket to swim at a national championships in Long Island, N.Y.

“My mother had to borrow money to buy her railroad ticket to accompany me,” she said.

In a telegraph after nationals, Cummings was told by a California club coach to stay back East for five weeks before Olympic Trials (also on Long Island) because they had no money to send her back and forth again.

“So my mother figured out how we could stay with my grandmother in Philadelphia with almost no place to swim,” Cummings said. They found a country club pool, where she swam after hours while a janitor cleaned.

Cummings placed third in the 200m breast at trials to make the team as its youngest member in an individual event. (Today, only the top two at trials per individual event make the Olympics.)

“They stated, ‘You have made the team, but we don’t have enough money to send all of you,'” Cummings said. “‘The S.S. Manhattan sails in five days. Get out and raise as much money as you can from your hometown.’ My mother and I telegraphed our local newspaper, and a small amount was sent in from Redondo Beach.”

Olympic team members took a 10-day trip on the ship to Germany. Swimmers had one 20-foot-by-20-foot pool in which to train while at sea.

“They pumped the saltwater into it, and it sloshed around as the ship rolled,” Cummings said in an LA84 Foundation interview.

After arriving in Hamburg, U.S. athletes took a boat train that had swastikas on it out of the port.

“Most of us were quite aware of the evolving difficulties or however you want to classify the rise of Nazism in Germany,” said Cummings, adding that U.S. swim coach Charlotte Epstein previously boycotted attending the Olympics. “We’d heard the same rumors [about a U.S. boycott]. We were all wondering if the Olympic committee was going to take action before the boat sailed. That had come up in most everyone’s minds.”

At the Opening Ceremony, Cummings was bored by speeches and instead said she took pictures of the Hindenburg flying above. She had no fear about being there.

“The concerns were from nations that had proximity to the situation like a Belgium, or Holland or Austria,” she said. “We’ve got this passport, I know Margie [Marjorie Gestring, a gold-medal diver at age 13] and I looked at this and said, we’ve got this special passport. They can’t touch us.”

Most of Owens’ events took place before Cummings was eliminated in the first round of the 200m breast. She nonetheless took advantage of passes for athletes to watch track and field at the Olympic Stadium. She saw all of Owens’ races, sitting in an athlete section about 15 or 20 rows above Hitler’s box.

“Whenever [Hitler] came in, we could see him down there,” she said. “He wasn’t very far away.”

Iris Cummings
(Courtesy Iris Cummings)

Eight decades later, Cummings still remembered the crowd cheering for Owens after his victories.

“The whole stadium was rooting for Jesse,” she said.

Soon after the team returned to the U.S., Cummings began attending the University of Southern California. She enrolled in a pilot training program in 1939, earned her license the next year and worked as a flight instructor during the war. Then she became a pilot for the AAF Ferry Command in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later included in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

“None of us thought there were going to be Olympics in ’40,” she predicted, correctly. Not in 1944, either.

She estimated that she’s flown more than 50 types of airplanes.

“There were only 21 of us [women] who ever flew the P-38,” she said, “and there were only four of us who ever flew the P-61 Black Widow.”

After the war, marriage to Howard Critchell and childbirths, Cummings continued to race planes. She developed curricula for the Federal Aviation Administration, founded an aeronautics program at Harvey Mudd College and was inducted into the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame, among many honors.

“I’ve been flying 76 years, and it’s a privilege to just be around,” she said shortly before she stopped piloting in 2016.

Cummings still flies as a passenger with a former student.

“It’s a treat to be up there with the elements and appreciate it all,” she said. “It’s you and the air movement and the wind and what you can do with your airplane.”

MORE: Wyomia Tyus’ Olympic protest resonates 52 years later

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NBA participation in Tokyo Olympics could be limited, Adam Silver says

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Tokyo Olympics’ effect on the league’s schedule planning for 2021 is unclear, but that it’s possible that Olympic participation may be limited.

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver told Bob Costas on CNN on Tuesday. “Obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics from other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through. I just say, lastly, these are highly unique and unusual circumstances. I think, just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. We’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations.”

Silver said his best guess is that the next NBA season starts in January with a goal of a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. A schedule has not been released.

In normal NBA seasons that start in late October, the regular season runs to mid-April and the NBA Finals into mid-June.

The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. If an NBA season is pushed back two or three months to a January start, and the schedule is not condensed, the Olympics would start while the NBA playoffs are happening.

The current NBA season is in the conference finals phase in an Orlando-area bubble after a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a factor in our planning,” Silver said of the Olympics. “It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear.”

The NBA has participated in every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Monday was the 29th anniversary of the announcement of the first 10 members of the original Dream Team on an NBC selection show (hosted by Costas).

Before the NBA era, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams consisted of college players.

MORE: When Michael Jordan lost in wheelchair basketball to Paralympian

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