Kris Freeman - Olympic and National Champion Cross-Country Skier
Race Update: Cross-Country Skier Kris Freeman has completed two races so far in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. In the 15K race, he made a wrong turn that sent him back in the direction of the course instead of headed to the finish line. He placed 59th out of the 95 skiers who started, earning 73.52 points. Six days later, Kris started out strong in the 30K race and was felled by a drop in his blood sugar, collapsing on the fourth lap of the course. Spotted by the coach for the German team, Kris received the treatment he needed on the spot – a bottle of Gatorade and an energy gel – enabling him to push on to complete the race and secure his position as 45 out of the 53 skiers who finished. He earned 46.23 points in that race.
According to ESPN.com, Kris is expected to race at least one more time in the 50K race on the last day of the Olympic games. In the following, Gary Hall gives his perspective on the latest disappointment.
VANCOUVER – February 23, 2010 – In his 30K race, medal contender Kris Freeman fell short of his goal by falling to the snow. A miscalculation in dialing in numbers on his OmniPod insulin pump sent his blood sugar levels crashing, along with his dreams.
Michelle Adams, a Chicago-area exercise physiologist, type 1 diabetic, and coach for the Diabetes Training Camp organization, says she has heard professional endurance coaches describe diabetics as better attuned to their bodies than other athletes. "Being an athlete with type 1 diabetes requires a level of discipline that can actually give you an edge over non-diabetics," she says.
Tell that to Kris Freeman as he lays in the snow crying out for "sugar," his dreams of an Olympic medal dashed by a mid-race hypoglycemic episode. Diabetes an advantage?!
I was accused of cheating by a few numbskulls through my swimming career because I had type 1 diabetes. The thought pattern was that I was taking insulin and insulin is a hormone, offering an unfair advantage over other non-diabetic competitors. Never mind that I require insulin to live, or that every other athlete competing produces insulin naturally, or that it is my number one objective to keep my insulin levels on par with that of my competitors – and stay alive.
Being accused of cheating because I live with type 1 diabetes was one of the most frustrating experiences of my entire life. Let's face the fact that we will always share the world with a number of people ignorant of subject matter they go on and on about. For someone such as Ms. Adams, someone living with type 1 diabetes, she should know better.
Diabetes is a tough disease. If someone tells you anything different, either they don't have diabetes or they're trying to sell you something. Today it is easier to manage diabetes, thanks to the efforts of many. But easier does not mean easy. Diabetes, and its accompanying discipline, is NOT an "edge" or advantage. Let's be clear about that.
What Kris Freeman bravely set out to do is a daunting task with countless challenges. We saw the diabetes challenge rear its ugly head in Freeman's 30K. The Olympic competition demands the undeterred focus of its participants. The smallest distraction of focus for Olympic athletes results in devastating consequence. Diabetes is a significant distraction.
The fact that Olympic endeavors can be pursued at all by those with diabetes is testament to industry progress. Such progress provides the tools we have available today to manage our diabetes in a way that allows us to "go for the gold" at the highest level of sport.
It is also important to note that Freeman is an extraordinary human being, an athlete with admirable drive and determination. If Kris isn't wearing a Continuous Glucose Monitor he should buy one before he races the 50K Classical. It would have saved his 30k race to be alerted to his falling blood sugar levels.
Will Kris Freeman be able to put the disappointment of his 15K and 30K behind him, keep his blood sugar levels in check, and have the race of his life this Sunday, the 28th? If he can we all will be cheering him on to the medal podium.
You can do it, Kris!
– Gary Hall, Jr.
VANCOUVER – February 14, 2010 – Kris Freeman prepares for what arguably is the most stressful environment, if not known to man then at least known to athlete – the challenge of managing blood sugar levels increase. For those of us living with diabetes, we all know that stress can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels.
Kris is the United States' best hope for a medal in the cross-country skiing events at the Vancouver Olympics and he has type 1 diabetes.
For someone with diabetes mellitus, maintaining a steady blood sugar level is absolutely critical in the days leading up to and through a competition. It's easier said than done.
There is travel, often across time zones. Olympic processing can exhaust even the most conditioned athletes. While the Olympic Village is nice enough, it is hardly a comfortable environment. It's best to bring your own pillow, sheets, and towels. The food is plentiful, but a picky eater would have a hard time. Athletes aren't known to be picky eaters, but athletes with diabetes need to watch what they eat more than the average athlete.
It is not my intention to bash what the Olympic committee provides its participants. However, if you have diabetes, any changes in environment, energy levels, stress, or food can set off blood sugar ranges reflective of the mountains these athletes ski down.
In all of my personal diabetes advocacy work, the most common question I get from athletes and parents of athletes is why blood glucose behavior is so dramatically varied on a practice day versus a game day. The simple answer is stress.
Then take into account the adrenaline, endorphins, and other hormones naturally released with a maximum physical exertion that most people aren't able to relate to. All of which, you guessed it, wreak havoc on blood sugar levels.
With all of these factors to juggle, managing diabetes at the highest level of sport is not without its challenges. The encouraging news is that it is possible. Just ask Kris.
Kris, all of us in the diabetes community throughout the world will be cheering you on! You are an inspiration. You ease the anxiety of the newly diagnosed. Your efforts provide hope and an example that more is possible for those of us living with diabetes today. Keep up the great work and GO!!!
– Gary Hall, Jr.
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