Cam Awesome Shares Journey To Rio With Wall Street Journal

WSJ

How Lenroy Thompson became Cam F. Awesome is a cautionary tale, one that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is encouraging him to share ahead of the Rio Olympics.

“To other athletes, I would say, ‘Don’t be me,’” says Awesome. To be clear, Awesome means don’t be Thompson.

As the heavyweight champion at last month’s U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials, Awesome needs a third-place-or-better finish at one upcoming international event, or a top finish at one of two others, to earn a spot at the Rio Games. That’s exactly where Thompson stood four years ago ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London, when USADA issued him a one-year suspension for three so-called “whereabouts failures,” meaning that on three occasions Thompson couldn’t be located by drug testers seeking random, out-of-competition samples.

The suspension cost him a shot at the Olympics and also produced an online archive of negative publicity on sites such as iSteroids.com. “That’s why I changed my name to Cam Awesome,” he says.

Yet Cam Awesome is more than just a new name, and his setback four years ago illustrates the potential benefits of a USADA suspension. That the suspension was only one year—instead of the two years recommended in the World Anti-Doping Agency code—suggests that doping authorities believe that Thompson wasn’t dirty but rather reckless about filing paperwork requiring him to report his whereabouts. In the ring back then, after all, Thompson was a dancing symbol of sloth. “He had quite a belly,” says his coach, John Brown, president of USA Boxing, the sport’s governing body.

“I wouldn’t train as hard as I could, I loved eating and I’d just see how much I could get away with and still win,” Awesome says of his Thompson days, adding that his standard McDonald’s order back then was “five McDoubles and three McChickens.”

After a year of drinking and gaining weight while suspended, Thompson legally became Awesome. Overhauling his diet, he became a vegan, started training with vigor and took aim at Rio.

He also became religious about filing quarterly whereabouts reports with USADA, along with texting the agency with any changes in his plans. “It’s like having a parole officer,” he says. “I’ve even offered to wear an ankle bracelet.” Continue reading

Nick Goepper Looking To Four-peat!

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With a gold medal three-peat in Ski Slopestyle under his belt, Nick Goepper looks to make it four in a row. Last year, Goepper made it to the event’s final round as an alternate after another skier was scratched last-minute, and stepped up to challenge at the top of the hill before throwing one of the cleanest triple corks you’ll ever see for the win. This year, he hopes he doesn’t have to lean on lady luck, leaving no doubt to his dominance of the event.

How Does Ayden Uhlir Deal With Crisis? Find Out With BYOU Magazine

“Dressage is a bit like pairs figure skating, in that you have to have harmony and trust in your team to create the beautiful balance of the complex movements. This only comes from spending a lot of time together. This partnership is developed on trust and knowledge of each other. You have to learn to feel your horse’s thoughts and to be able to make small and gentle adjustments in your riding in even the largest and most out of control situations. This has taught me to be calm and thoughtful, even in a crisis. Considering my horse, Sjapoer, is 17.2 hands tall and weighs about 1800 lbs. when he gets scared or distracted it can be very dangerous. I joke with my athlete friends that while they may be flipping around upside down to do death defying tricks on their skis, the goal of dressage is to look in complete control and make everything look easy. At least their skis aren’t trying to buck them off or jump off the mountain at the same time!

My sport also requires close communication with an animal that weighs over a ton. Horses scare a lot of people because they seem unpredictable and have a lot of power. They are bigger and stronger than us and we can’t always control them. Horses have the added issue of not being able to tell us what they are thinking or feeling, so we have to learn to communicate in other ways and learn to share with them our feelings and emotions without language. We also have to learn to work together, as a team without force.Learning to communicate and work as a team with my horses over the years has also taught me about communicating with people. It has given me a lot of empathy to listen to what people (and nature) need without speaking. By this I mean being aware of other people’s needs without them having to tell you. I think this makes me really aware of people and very empathetic to others. Yet, also to communicate with a horse you have to be consistent, dependable, and trustworthy. You have to build a bond that you will do as you say and will keep them safe. Having my 1800 lb horse treat me like his best friend and believe in me is probably the most rewarding friendship I have earned in my life.”

Sasha Digiulian With Crux Crush!

Crux Crush

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Today we’re very excited to share an interview with the one-and-only Sasha DiGiulian. At just 23 years old Sasha already has a lifetime’s worth of climbing accomplishments under her harness, including the titles of first American woman to climb 5.14d and 3-time National sport climbing champion. Here she shares her thoughts on big walls, climbing in the Olympics, her future in the sport, and lots more.

CXC: A few months ago you became the first woman to climb Magic Mushroom on the Eiger – Congrats! It was quite a departure from what you’re known for, so what inspired you to take on this type of route?

SD: I would like to be the best climber that I am capable of being in as many different facets of the sport as possible. The Eiger was an adventure that tested my comfort zones and was perfect grounds for me to challenge myself physically and mentally.

CXC: Do you have plans for other climbing endeavors that are a little bit outside of the box? Can you tell us a bit about them, why you’re pursuing them, and what you hope gain from them?

SD: One of my goals for 2016 is to Free Climb El Cap. I need to improve my trad climbing and crack climbing skills significantly for this! I would also like to establish more first ascents, potentially travel throughout Norway in June, and then spend time in South America the rest of the summer, and then Fall in Yosemite.

CXC: It seems like you’ve been participating in fewer competitions lately. What are the reasons for this shift?

SD: I would rather spend my free time climbing outside. Perhaps down the line I will be motivated to focus on competitions again, but for now, I am motivated to travel the world exploring new destinations and pushing my limits on rock.

CXC: If climbing is a part of the Olympics in 2020 will you pursue competing?

SD: I can’t say no to that. I think that the way that climbing is packaged for the Olympics in 2020 is interesting – it is a combination of speed, lead, and bouldering. When I won the Overall in the World Championships, speed was a factor but it was so negligible of a factor that it didn’t matter really – I just did well in lead and bouldering so the fact that I suck at speed climbing and have no interest, really, in improving, didn’t inhibit me from winning. Though, that said, I don’t really know how the scoring would shake out if this combination scoring is put to test in the Olympics. In 2020 I will be 27. So, I could compete. Or I could commentate. Either way, I would like to be involved.

CXC: What does inclusion of climbing in the Olympics mean to you and what does it mean for the climbing community as a whole?

SD: I am thankful to be a part of climbing during this period of its growth. I have been climbing for 17 years now and even just during this time I feel like the sport has grown and changed a lot. I know that there are arguments both for the Olympics and not for the Olympics. In my opinion, I would like to share our sport to as many people as possible. Though, I know that the “Olympic” version of climbing will be much different than the authentic form of the sport. I think that that is okay. I just know that the competition scene and the outdoor scene within climbing will continue to diverge and grow into separate spaces. I cannot relate climbing in Yosemite to climbing a gym route in a competition.

ice climb

CXC: I remember running into you at CRG in Watertown, MA at the 2015 SCS Nationals, following a tough go at the route where you fell pretty early on, surprising everyone. You said you were devastated. Can you talk about that moment and what you were feeling?

SD: In this moment I realized for me, personally, I cannot be just climbing outside and then show up to a competition, not having really frequented any part of the circuit, and expect to win. Climbing competitions have taken on a characteristic of their own. In order to really succeed you need to concentrate on training in a gym and replicating competition-like climbs.

CXC: You have often been portrayed as living this perfect sunshiney, beautiful life, perfectly tied together with a pink ribbon. Yet, we know that this isn’t always the case and occasionally we get glimpses that even you, Sasha DiGiulian, struggle. Can you talk about your own personal highs and lows in climbing?

SD: Like in any sport, we will always have our ups and downs. I go through times when I feel really unmotivated to train or I feel bad about not performing at the level that I want to be. I get stressed out about time and sometimes feel like I over commit myself. Though, it is all part of the journey. I will fall again and again before I really succeed. And then, I’ll fall again on the new endeavor :)

CXC: Will you be graduating from Columbia this spring? And the dreaded question: Do you have post-graduation plans?

SD: I will be graduating after being a full-time student at Columbia in May, 2016 :) I am SO excited! My immediate plans after graduation are to focus on my career as a professional climber. I will write a book and I am developing a signature shoe as well. I have a few side projects in mind, but mainly I would like to concentrate my energy towards traveling and improving as an athlete. I am also driven to work more with the nonprofits that I am involved with. I am a spokesperson for the Women’s Sports Foundation, Right to Play, andUp2Us Sports. Doing more work with these organizations is definitely on my agenda.

CXC: And we have to ask, although obviously you do not have to answer 😉 are you dating Jared Leto?

SD: I keep my personal life confidential. Though, I will say that despite injury, Jared has a lot of natural climbing talent and exudes passion: he is an inspiring friend to have.

CXC: Thank you Sasha for so openly chatting with us. Best of luck with your final semester at Columbia and with all of your future endeavors!

Climb on!
Mary