During the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Jamie Greubel was on the outside looking in as an alternate brakeman for the U.S. women’s bobsledding team.
“The other alternates and I watched the split times from the Olympic Training center on Colorado Springs,” said Greubel, a former Hun School standout who went on to star at Cornell in track.
“That was disappointing but gave me more motivation. It was a stepping stone for me to get even more serous about doing what I need to do to get to the Olympics. It was special to be part of a national team in an Olympic year, being with the team every week, pushing, and traveling with them.”
Pushing hard over the last four years, Greubel, 30, has booked a spot in the upcoming Winter Games as she was named as one of the three bobsled drivers for the U.S. squad.
“I knew based on my world ranking that I was in a good position to make the team,” said Greubel, who is currently in third place in women’s bobsled standings.
“It was definitely a big relief to finally make the team. I have been in the sport for six years. It is incredible. I never thought I would come this far. It has been a lot of growth.”
Greubel’s growth into an Olympian started during her sports career at Hun.
“I played field hockey and did track at Hun,” recalled Greubel, a 2002 Hun alum. “I have always been very competitive. My experience at Hun gave me the motivation and skill to develop into an elite athlete at track.”
Hun assistant director of athletics Kathy Quirk remembers Greubel making a big impression on and off the field during her high school years.
“Jamie was a great kid and a determined athlete; she was always trying to better herself,” said Quirk.
“She was known as an all-around athlete. She was a good field hockey player. She was quick and had a lot of speed. Jamie was driven to do her best in whatever she did. She was a model scholar-athlete; she did very well academically.”
While Quirk saw greatness in Greubel, she is surprised to see her excelling in sledding.
“She was a D-I athlete; I never thought I would see her in the bobsled,” said Quirk, noting that the two other Hun alums, star rowers Jason Read and Paul Teti, have also competed at the Olympics.
“It is a great honor for Hun and it is a great honor for her. I am looking forward to watching her at the Olympics.”
When Greubel thought of competing at the Olympics during her Cornell career, she hoped it would be in the Summer Games as she developed into a champion heptathlete.
“The coach at Cornell saw that I competed in a lot of events at Hun and that I had the potential to be good at the heptathlon,” said Greubel, who won four Ivy League Heptagonal championships and holds the school record in the heptathlon (outdoor) and pentathlon (indoor).
“It was very challenging to pick up. I made my biggest gains as a senior. I would do better at each competition; one meet my hurdles time would be better and the next meet it would be my shot put. I made it to the NCAAs. I didn’t have the outstanding performance that I wanted. I finished 13th and I was not satisfied with the result. I didn’t know how far I could go. I had only been doing it for four years. At the end of college, no one encouraged me to continue in the heptathlon.”
After graduating from Cornell in 2006, Greubel did get some encouragement to take up sledding.
“I was applying to grad school and one of my older teammates at Cornell who had joined the U.S. men’s bobsled team told me I would be a good fit for the women’s team,” said Greubel, who holds a masters’s degree in elementary education.
“I went to Lake Placid and did a training run. It was pretty shocking to my system. It was not the roller-coaster ride that I had imagined. I was still looking for a competitive outlet.”
Overcoming her initial fears, Greubel became a bobsled competitor. “One of the girls needed a brakeman and she asked me to come to Park City to compete with her,” said Greubel, who joined the U.S. bobsled team in the 2007-08 season.
“I got to go on a different course and I got to compete. It was really exciting; it brought in the competitive notion and I was hooked. I was encouraged; people were telling me that I could be good at this. It made me start thinking seriously about it and I decided to pursue it full time.”
Once she made that decision, Greubel faced a challenging road in mastering her new pursuit.
“It is hard picking up the sport late in life, plus I was paying for grad school and I had to pay to compete,” said Greubel, who has worked as a waitress to help finance her new passion.
“You don’t get expenses covered until you are on the national team and I had grad school debts. The speed I had from track helped. I had to gain 20 pounds to compete; that was a lot of weight to put on for a female and I had to buy a whole new wardrobe.”
After the Vancouver Games, Greubel took on a new role in the sport as she made the switch to driver from brakeman.
“I could take control of my destiny and be in control of the races,” said the 5’9, 170-pound Greubel in explaining the change of position.
“Being a brakeman helped my transition. There are so many things to know about the sport, it is quirky. You are the mechanics of your equipment. Being in the driver’s position gives a new perspective. You have more responsibility in the sled and for the team. You are financing your team.”
Injuring her knee in 2012 helped sharpen Greubel’s perspective. “That was a huge setback, I was making progress,” said Greubel, who was injured playing soccer during a team bonding exercise at a national team camp.
“It really made me think how bad I wanted it. Four months after the ACL, I went to Europe and competed. I had surgery in July and I was racing on November 14. I was learning the other courses. I am glad I did it. It was really important to get that experience.”
While Greubel doesn’t have as much experience as many of the other drivers, she has emerged as one of the top performers in her sport. “As a new driver, I have a steep learning curve,” said Greubel.
“I am in my third full season and some of the drivers are in their 13th season. We have such a competitive push. We have a sled project with BMW. We are up to date technically and competitive. Putting all those things together has been the recipe to success.”
The competitive Greubel is confident that she will experience success in Sochi.
“I like the course; it is definitely challenging; it is a good course for us because we get a strong start no matter who the brakeman is,” said Greubel, whose event is slated for February 18-19.
“There are three uphill sections that are tough for a drive. It is easy to get down but hard to go fast. We will have to try different lines. I am excited to go for a medal. I have been in the medal hunt every week in the world cup races. I feel strong about my chances. It is about being consistent and having consistent races. I am focusing on the present and enjoying this experience.”