American skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace knew that Sochi would be her last chance at a dream of winning an Olympic medal. On Feb. 14, she achieved that dream with her family by her side and came in just behind Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold to win the silver medal.
Pikus-Pace was a favorite to win the gold medal in the 2006 Winter Games, but an accident with a bobsled that struck her in a training accident, derailed those dreams and forced her to sit out of the Olympics. In 2010, she headed to Vancouver to compete in those Olympics, but placed fourth, missing a medal by just one-tenth of a second. Following those Games she retired, but later decided to give it one last shot in Russia.
The 31-year-old capped off her final medal-winning run by jumping into the crowd to hug her family, which is now known as one of the most memorable moments of the Sochi Games.
The Celebrity Café: What was it like having your family with you in Sochi to witness your incredible run and see you win the silver medal?
Noelle Pikus-Pace: It was a dream come true to be able to have them there by my side. We started this thing out all together when I came out of retirement after the Vancouver Olympics. We knew that the only way that we would come back and I would come back is if we could do this as a family. I had my kids and my husband by my side at every single one of my World Cup races. They’ve been there obviously throughout the summertime with me training and all those little things that most people never see. To share that moment with them in Sochi was a dream come true and something that we’ll be able to talk about and remember and have with us for the rest of our lives.
TCC: Everyone remembers the scene of you going into the crowd to hug your husband and children after that final run. Do you remember what was going through your mind at that exact moment?
NPP: Yeah, I just remember passing the finish line and just jumping up to try and see where I finished. I didn’t know how I did. I didn’t know where I was at and I saw my coach’s hands in the air and I knew immediately that I just won an Olympic medal. I just tried to stop my sled as fast as possible. I jumped in the air gave my coach a hug and I remember the first thing I thought was I need to be up there with them. I need to share this moment with them. These are the people that I love more than anything in the world. I remember jumping off the side of the track and thinking oh my goodness I didn’t know that getting down to the ground was that far down and I jumped down and then I remember thinking oh my goodness I didn’t know getting up too was so high up. I jumped up in the air grabbed onto the bar and I don’t know how I had the strength to pull myself up cause I remember just shaking. I remember just literally shaking from being so excited and almost worn out just from the emotion of just knowing that I just won an Olympic medal. Jumping into the stands all I could say was ‘We did it. We did it.’ I just wanted to find them all and give them all a big hug and share the moment with them.
TCC: You said that the Sochi Winter Games was your final Olympics. What will you miss most about competing in the Games?
NPP: I’ll miss the atmosphere of competition. There’s something about it and many things that you can learn from competition that can help you in life from being determined to reach a dream and to have a goal. All the little goals that it takes to make big dreams come true and having your heart race on a competition day and knowing that you need to give it your everything. There aren’t many days in somebody’s life where many people get to feel that adrenaline and that pressure of competition. It doesn’t come to everybody and it doesn’t come that often so it’s something that really challenges you to do your best. I think that’s what I’m going to miss the most.
TCC: You are a wife, mother, world champion and now an Olympic silver medalist. What’s next for you?
NPP: Oh man, the world is full of possibilities. I plan to continue to develop and find my talents and also to encourage my kids and my family to do the same. They’ve been right there by my side since I started to develop mine and to reach this dream and now I feel like I want to switch gears. It doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to develop my own talents, but I definitely want to help them to focus on developing their own talents and reaching their dreams, while I am looking to fulfill other aspirations that I have. Maybe I’ll write a book or who knows what, but I just want to focus on my family.
TCC: You’ve been through so much in your career and have been an inspiration to so many. What would you say to someone who is going through their own trials and tribulations right now and may feel like they should give up their dreams?
NPP: I think the number one thing I would want to say is there is so much power in positivity. If we look back at all the things that have gone wrong in our lives and all the negative aspects and why me and poor me and how did this happen it’s really, really hard to move forward. But if we’re able to change our mentality and to find any positive side and try to get outside ourselves and help others around us, it’s amazing how we can come out of those trials and those tribulations and become stronger than we ever have been before. We have more strength within us than we’ll ever know if we’re just willing to learn from the trials that come. Sometimes it’s hard to see that in a moment. Sometimes you have to give it some time that it will heal our hearts in time. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to take just a little bit of time for ourselves.
TCC: National Breakfast Week is March 3 to 7. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how you got started with Kellogg’s?
NPP: Yeah, I absolutely love Kellogg’s, my family and I. It’s a perfect fit for us. As an athlete and as a mom I know how important it is to eat a healthy breakfast. Kellogg’s has been right there by our side through this journey to reach the silver medal. It’s been a great opportunity for us to share in this. I’m really excited to be a part of the breakfast week as well. Kellogg’s has this goal, it’s really incredible, to be able to provide 2 million breakfast to kids in need. I didn’t realize that 1 out of every 5 kids in America doesn’t get breakfast each morning and knowing that that’s the most important meal of the day, it’s actually quite shocking. So anytime that anybody gets onto Twitter and tweets #GreatStart, Kellogg’s will donate a breakfast to a child in need. That’s a pretty remarkable thing to do and it’s a great way for us to be able to give back to the community to help in this project that Kellogg’s has going on.
TCC: Finally, I heard that you were also the silver medalist in the Twitter Olympics. Can you tell us what that was about?
NPP: (Laughs) Holy smokes I know isn’t that crazy? Yeah, I actually just found that out yesterday, which was really shocking to me. It’s very humbling to know how many people support me and my family and to see and hear and read about how many people were there right as I jumped off my sled and jumped into the stands and they were cheering right alongside us and they were crying right alongside of us. Yeah, social media is something very, very incredible. It allows us to be united more so I think as a people, as a county within our community and as family and friends it’s something very special. And I’m very humbled to have the following that I have and have the support that we have had.