Climber Colin Duffy, 17, on How School Going Virtual Has Helped Him Find Training Time for Olympics

People Magazine

Homework, prom and … gold medals.

Colin Duffy, 17, is opening up about how he’s managed to juggle being a high school student with his climbing career, especially in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“It’s not super easy to balance everything,” Duffy, of Broomfield, Colorado, tells PEOPLE during the Team USA Tokyo Olympics Media Summit, “but I just have adjusted to a pretty busy schedule, I manage my time well through training and climbing and getting assignments done.”

The high school junior adds of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Olympics delay, “Through these hard times I’ve been able to climb lots and also succeed academically. So, I’m fortunate enough to just be able to manage everything.”

Duffy, who is the youngest member of the USA Climbing team, also notes that his school’s shift to virtual learning amid the pandemic has afforded him more training availability. He explains, “School being online for the majority of this year has also been super beneficial since I have a lot more free time than I typically would.”

The athlete started climbing when he was just five years old, learning at ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder where he still trains today with Brooke Raboutou, a fellow USA Climbing team member.

Duffy is now a 10-time Youth National Champion, and won gold at the 2020 IFSC Pan-American Championships.

This year marks the first time that climbing has been a sport at the Olympic Summer Games. Men’s and women’s climbers will separately compete in three disciplines — speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing — to be in contention for a medal.

Michal Smolen – Canoe Slalom

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • 2019 NHK Cup: 1st
  • 2019 Oceania Championships: 1st
  • 2017 Oceania Championships: 1st
  • 2016 World Cup No. 5: 9th
  • 2016 World Cup No. 4: 10th
  • 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion
  • 2015 World Championships: Bronze
  • 2015 Pan American Games: Gold
  • 2015 U.S. National Team Trials: 1st in K1 and 3rd in C2 
  • 2014 World Cup No. 3: Bronze 
  • 2014 U-23 World Champion
  • 2012 U.S. National Champion
  • 2012 U-23 World Championships: 5th 
  • 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials: 2nd
  • 2010 Junior World Championships: 4th 

Background

Michal Smolen’s Olympic dreams started early, as both of his parents were part of the Polish National Team, his father for kayaking and his mother for team handball, but fell just short of the Games. He was born and raised in Krakow, Poland where he lived until he was 10 years old before moving to the United States. 

While Michal was growing up, he desperately wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps in his love for kayaking, unfortunately Michal had a fear of the water. In an attempt to get over his fear, he took up swimming, as he felt he was more in control. As he became more comfortable, he started training as a competitive swimmer. Training and discipline became an everyday routine and he slowly fell out of love with swimming and decided to give kayaking another try. This time his fear had vanished and he became completely captivated by becoming the best kayaker he could be. This is when Michal was faced with his next challenge. 

One morning Michal woke up in the hospital and was told he had endured a seizure in his sleep the evening before. Soon after this incident he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Over the next few years, Michal faced many new challenges with his health conditions, but was thankfully able to continue competing. Three years later, at the age of 16, Michal was racing in his first Junior World Championships in Foix, France. He came up just short of the podium, but this motivated him to work even harder and showed him that he was in contention with the best of the best. 

Michal was becoming competitive with the best kayakers in the country and won the 2011 U.S. National Championships. However, Michal’s US Citizenship had not yet been passed, therefore he was unable to race in 2011 and in turn unable to go out for the 2012 Olympic Team. Again, this did not discourage Michal’s Olympic dream, as he officially became an American citizen in 2013 and began competing with the U.S. National team. 

He represented Team USA in the 2016 Olympic Games in the single kayak, and has only continued to grow as an athlete since, competing in international competitions in preparation for Tokyo 2021. 

Facebook: Michal Smolen            Instagram: @instapaddler        Twitter: @michalsmolen

AJ Edelman – Olympic Bobsled and Skeleton

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Created “BobTeam Israel”, targeting to create Israel’s first Winter Olympic Medal
  • 4x Israeli National Skeleton Champion
  • 2018 Olympian, first Orthodox Jew to compete in Winter Olympics
  • 2x international IBSF medalist
  • Currently pursuing Yale School of Management M.B.A (2023)
  • 2014 MIT, B.S. Mechanical Engineering

BIO

AJ Edelman (March 14, 1991) is an American-Israeli four-time national skeleton champion and 2018 Olympian, currently fielding a 4-man bobsled team that he intends to pilot in Beijing 2022.

Edelman was born in Boston, MA and raised in a Jewish, Modern Orthodox home. Edelman started his sporting career at age 3 as a hockey player, eventually playing for his hometown team through high school. His hockey career continued through his time at MIT, and ended after he turned down an offer to join the Israeli national team.

In 2013, Edelman decided that he wanted to pursue a goal to empower Jewish and Israeli youth to break the self-fulfilling vicious cycle of abandoning elite sport dreams by starting a foundation to provide resources/coaching to youth in need from those communities. He believed the best way to attain a platform to speak on these issues was to make an impact at the elite level of sport, qualifying Israel for the Olympics in a sliding sport. On March 14, 2014, Edelman was given a scouting report at the Lake Placid skeleton school that he would “never be competitive…not what we’d call athletic” and would “get down the track but that’ll be the most of it.” Edelman’s complete inability to sprint at an elite level, scoliosis (preventing effective stabilization on his sled,) was considered effective death-sentences to his chances. Upon hearing the report Edelman decided to pursue Olympic qualification in skeleton, resolving that it would be his life’s mission for at least the next 2,884 days (the time in which remained until Beijing ’22) to qualify Israel for the Olympics in skeleton.

Edelman was self-funded and could not afford a coach. He self-coached by watching 10-12 hours of YouTube World Cup footage daily and took on average 2-3 times the daily training-run volume of a typical skeleton athlete. Throughout his journey, Edelman established a number of traditions including that of having an Israeli athlete light Hannukah candles at the Koenigssee bobsled track each season. Edelman qualified for PyeongChang 2018 by securing back-to-back medals in his final two qualification races. He is the first Orthodox Jew to compete in a Winter Games, the first Orthodox Jewish male to do so in any modern Olympic iteration. Edelman competed in two World Championships representing Israel, and retired from skeleton as Israel’s most decorated slider, winning four Israeli national titles and two medals in IBSF-sanctioned international competition, the most of any Israeli sliding sport athletes.

In April, 2020 Edelman took a leave of absence from the MBA program at Yale School of Management to found, manage, and compete as part of “Operation Medal ’26,” an effort to build Israel’s bobsled program to medal contention at the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. OM26 seeks to field both men’s and women’s teams, a first in Israeli Bobsled history, under the collective team name “BobTeam Israel”. BobTeam Israel has representation of Israeli Arabs, Jews, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Additionally, Edelman has said he is a supporter of anti-bullying and mental health initiatives, and that his motivation for continuing in sport is largely a desire “to use my Olympic journey as a platform to promote further Jewish and Israeli involvement in sport. As member of the LGBT community, Edelman also takes the opportunity to talk to students and young adults who approach him with questions of how he has dealt with his personal identity as both a private and public individual.

Twitter: @theajedelman       Facebook: @israelbobsled        Instagram: @AJEdelman

KT Tape signs Olympian Steele Johnson

KT Tape®, the leader in drug-free pain relief products, has announced a new partnership with USA Diving, making KT Tape the Official Kinesiology Tape sponsor of USA Diving’s athletes and programs, and supporting divers to go for the gold in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The company has also signed three U.S. Olympic divers to its impressive roster of athletes: Olympic Silver Medalist Steele Johnson; 10-time national champion Kassidy Cook; and World Championship Bronze Medalist Katrina Young.

“We are thrilled to have KT Tape as our partner to support our High Performance Squad and the entire USA Diving community,” said Lee Michaud, president of USA Diving. “Our athletes train extremely hard and having the ability to work hand-in-hand with KT Tape to maximize their recovery, support their journey and help them to perform at their highest level is invaluable.”

USA Diving is a not-for-profit organization that selects, conditions and trains teams to represent the United States in major diving events including the Olympic Games, World Championships, FINA Diving World Cup and the USA Diving National Championships. KT Tape products designed for muscle, ligament and tendon pain relief and support will be made available to USA Diving athletes at their competitions and stocked in their team medical kits.

Steele Johnson: Johnson, a native of Carmel, Indiana, earned a silver medal in the synchronized 10-meter in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and 13th in individual 10-meter. His career highlights include three World Championships and diving as a four-time World Cup team member and a 2019 Pan American Games team member.

“I’m very excited to partner with KT Tape as I continue to pursue my goal of competing in my second Olympic Games,” said Johnson. “KT Tape has been a major help in my training and competing over the years as I have battled multiple injuries. I’m feeling strong going into 2021 and KT Tape is helping me stay strong through my training!”