Sylvia Hoffman: Unlikely Team USA Bobsledder Prepares for Olympic Debut | Winter Olympics 2022

JThree years ago, Sylvia Hoffman tried out for NBC’s second season of The Next Olympic Hopeful for one last chance to become an Olympian. After the tryouts, she lay on a foam roller, stretching, when she heard two other athletes next to her talking: “Last year’s show was so awesome”, said to each other. they said.

Hoffman sat up. A show? She thought it was just a scout camp. When she asked the two athletes, they told her, “Yeah, they’re going to do a documentary about it.” Still confused, Hoffman Googled what she had just signed up for. Indeed, it is a show with already a season. “Wow. OK, cool,” she thought. She had been so focused on the word ‘Olympics’ that she didn’t care about anything else, let alone that it was about the Olympics. a documentary. “Well, luckily I did my best,” she said.

Although she entered the show without winning it, she was invited to train with the US bobsled team. A former college basketball athlete and Team USA weightlifter, Hoffman had been briefly introduced to skeleton but knew nothing about bobsledding. When the coaches asked Hoffman to push, she did. When she was invited to rookie camp, she won the rookie thrust championships. When she was invited back to the National Thrust Championships, she won again.

A month later, she had the fastest push times at trials for Team USA, earning a spot on the team and a ticket to Canada, where she won her first international medal with the three-time Olympic medalist. Elana Meyers Taylor as Pilot. After that, Hoffman went to Latvia, which led to a tour of Europe. Since then she has won multiple World Cup medals, raced with Kaillie Humphries and last week secured her spot on the team heading to the Beijing Olympics.

Sylvia Hoffman Photography: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

“It’s been a crazy three and a half years, but it’s somewhere I feel like I should be,” Hoffman told the Guardian. It may seem like an overnight success, but it’s far from true.

Born in Philadelphia, Hoffman was a very active child, always playing outside. From an early age, her father introduced her to many sports, including football, basketball, and softball. “I loved that I could be good at anything I did,” Hoffman said. Like many elite athletes, her Olympic dreams were sparked by watching the Olympics on television as a child. Immediately, she fell in love with the idea of ​​becoming an Olympian: “I think deep in my heart I always wanted to represent my country,” Hoffman recalled.

Her family moved to Texas when she was four, and by six her parents had divorced, leading Hoffman to move back and forth between Philadelphia and Texas, often changing schools. It wasn’t until high school that she was able to stay at the same school, where her basketball team won statewide when Hoffman was a sophomore. She continued the sport in college, where she majored in computer information systems, but realized that while she could have played in the WBNA one day, it wasn’t a dream. for her.

Eventually, Hoffman joined USA Weightlifting. “I ended up making my first international team in a year. I thought it was just something a little bit magnificent, and it was very unexpected,” says Hoffman. For the first time, Hoffman boarded on an international flight. It was in Eilat, Israel, for the world championships. “I thought it was the most awesome thing I could do. I knew it was something I wanted to keep pursuing,” Hoffman says.

Not only did she enjoy wearing Team USA gear, but Hoffman grew as a person a lot during her weightlifting years. “I think weightlifting is a spectacular sport,” says Hoffman. “It not only provides you with physical appearance or stability, but it can also provide you with mental stability, something that is overlooked in weightlifting.” Weightlifting, as Hoffman explains, is about trying over and over again to complete a movement: “It’s the most rewarding feeling when you push yourself past it and say to yourself, ‘Wow, I’m stronger. than I think.’ ”

At the same time, it taught Hoffman when to hit pause. “It’s about knowing when to step on the accelerator and then knowing when to pump the brakes. And for me, it was more about overcoming a bunch of mental hurdles,” says Hoffman. It was his weightlifting coach, Zygmunt Smalcrez, who first pointed out that Hoffman could benefit from taking care of his mental health. “You’re very athletic but I feel like there’s something going on with you mentally where you’re not able to concentrate,” he told her.

Many of Hoffman’s mental issues date back to his childhood, when health seeking for mental health was far from encouraged. “I remember at the time if you even talked about a psychologist it hurt everything in your career,” Hoffman recalls. Now a Team USA bobsledder, Hoffman is grateful to the sports psychologist who works with his team. “Dr. Mara Smith was amazing. She listens to all the athletes, she watches us. She’s in our group chats when we compete overseas,” says Hoffman.

Hoffman discovered NBC’s next Olympic hopeful while working from home one day. She worked as an engineer for her day job until the pandemic hit and her company suffered a huge layoff. “I’m looking forward to getting back into the workforce after the season,” Hoffman said. For the past two years, she has only focused on her sport, but she also loves her job. “I like the work-life balance. Everyone has their thing, and computer science is my thing,” says Hoffman.

For now, however, her focus is on the Olympics. Hoffman wears a Superman logo pendant around her neck, paying homage to her nickname, Superwoman. “Giving people hope is what the symbol really means and it’s something that resonated with me,” says Hoffman. The necklace used to be silver but has since been changed to gold to match its current purposes. “I’m going for the gold these days. I feel like that should match the tone I’m trying to compete in,” says Hoffman. “I am in competition to be number one. That’s my number one goal, to make the Olympic team and go for gold,” Hoffman said.

The ambitions of the engineer and the athlete are even reflected in musical instruments. Hoffman is currently learning to play the piano. She originally taught herself in college, but stopped when she noticed that what she had gained in piano skills she had lost in Guitar Hero ability. “I don’t think Guitar Hero is going to be released anytime soon, but if so, let me know ahead of time,” Hoffman jokes. While she may not go down in history for her video game skills, NBC’s next Olympic hopeful may finally realize her dream of becoming an Olympian very soon.

About Kimberly Alley

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