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Emily Cook reflects on her Olympic Experience

Emily Cook reflects on her Olympic Experience

AFH recently had the unique opportunity to catch up with three-time Olympian and AFH member Emily Cook, who placed 8th in the Freestyle Aerials in the Sochi Olympic Games.

AFH: What will you take away from your experience in Sochi?

EC: Sochi was such an amazing experience. I think the biggest thing I will take away is that every athlete came to Sochi with a story. We all face unique challenges and learning from each person what kept them going when things were tough is one of the coolest things about living in the village and interacting with everyone there. It made my own life challenges seem surmountable and I was totally inspired by each person I spoke with.

AFH: What is the best part of being an Olympian?

EC: There are two answers to this question. It is so fun. What an amazing life we live, getting to do what we love everyday. Getting to work towards our goals and learn from so many cool experiences, travel the world and get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures. I absolutely love being an athlete.

My other favorite part of being an Olympian is the platform we get to make a difference. I came home from Sochi and sat in front of my computer with tears in my eyes reading messages from the teachers and kids in schools I interact with through a program called Classroom Champions. Doing flips on skis is fun, but it signifies so much more and gives me an opportunity to teach the kids in our world that they too can reach their dreams. This Classroom Champions program provides me with a consistent a system of communication to teach these kids how to set goals and how to achieve them, and how to have fun while doing so. Who knows what these kids will achieve in their lives!

AFH: Who inspired or encouraged you to become the best in your sport?

EC: My dad taught me how to overcome obstacles and to find passion in life. When I was very young, my mother passed away in a car accident, and my father faced the challenge of raising a little girl on his own. He did such an amazing job, provided me with so many opportunities and encouraged me to pursue whatever it was I loved. That turned out to be freestyle skiing. His perseverance, and unwillingness to let circumstance direct his path taught me how to work hard and to play hard and his foundation of support molded me into the athlete and person I am today.

AFH: What would you say to kids that are interested in your sport?

EC: First, have fun! This is the foundation for success and for living a life you love. Then, pursue your dreams with all your heart. This to me is the best way to be fulfilled in life. If you know you have done your best and put everything into achieving your goals you will be a happy and successful person. Work hard and play hard. Do what you love and love what you do.

AFH: Any other thoughts you would love to share about your experience as an Olympian/or the message you would like to share with others?

EC: Sport is a catalyzing agent. It nurtures development in the best ways possible and it is like a magnifying glass to life outside of sport. It is the perfect way for children and adults even to develop life skills beneficial to success in all areas. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Olympic movement and especially am thankful to have the chance to pass these life lessons on locally through organizations such as Classroom Champions and throughout the world with Right to Play and Kids Play International.

My most memorable and impactful experiences as an athlete have come through participating in programs such as these. Athletes for Hope is an incredible resource to help athletes find areas of contribution that make sense to each individual and to me that is priceless. My life has been so enriched by these opportunities and I would encourage everyone to find an outlet to make a difference around the world.

Highlighted Athlete Connections

Nick Hundley

Professional baseball player, Nick Hundley, spent his off-season building a relationship with Habitat for Humanity of Las Vegas. On January 2nd, Nick put down his baseball glove and picked up his paint brush and hammer to help at a Habit for Humanity build. In a few weeks, Nick heads to spring training, but during the next off-season, Nick looks forward to continue working with Habitat for Humanity in his home of Las Vegas.

Ashley Weinhold

Last month Ashley Weinhold of the Women’s Tennis Association took time out of her busy schedule to visit with the Boys and Girls Club in Austin, Texas. Ashley spoke to the club member about her story, her sport and talked answered questions from the kids. After their talk, Ashley led the group in a traditional tennis workout to get active on a beautiful Austin day. This was Ashley’s first visit with the club and she looks forward to growing the relationship in the coming months.

Kori Carter

In December Athletes for Hope presented its annual workshop to USA Track & Field, and the message resonated well with Olympic hopeful Kori Carter. Since the workshop Kori has become involved with two nonprofit organizations in the Palo Alto area: Girls to Women and The Riekes Center for Human Enhancement. For Girls to Women, Kori has joined the planning committee for the upcoming Girls to Women 5K run on March 22nd. And, with the Riekes Center Kori will be assisting with a high school track team that trains at the center, and she plans on mentoring young Paralympic athletes.

Five Questions with AFH Athlete and Sochi Olympic Luger Preston Griffall

We are so proud of the inspiring AFH Athletes competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. We were lucky enough to get a moment with Luger Preston Griffall before he took off to compete in the Doubles Luge. Wish Preston and the other AFH Athletes good luck on our Facebook Page or follow them by subscribing to our Twitter List.

  1. What is the best part about being an Olympian?The best part about being an Olympian for me is that it gives me a platform to stand on to be a role model for younger athletes.  It’s important for me to be able to leave some kind of legacy behind after i’m done with me athletic career and to be able to inspire the youth of the world to never stop dreaming; no matter what your dreams may be.
  2. Who inspired or encouraged you to become the best in your sport?There are too many people in my life that have inspired me along my athletic career for me to just name one….. my dad always encouraged me to follow my dreams and above all have fun, my mom was my number one fan and inspired me to never give up and to always believe in myself and my long time coach Klim Gatker has always pushed me to the limit and made me trust that I had the ability to accomplish anything in sport.
  3. What would you say to kids that are interested in your sport?To any kid out there that’s interested in Luge I would say; you will find no sport that will give you the same thrill!!  If you love speed and adrenaline pumping through your veins then luge is the sport for you!
  4. Do you have plans to see any other events in Sochi? Which ones?After i’m done with my competitions I will absolutely be cheering on my fellow Team USA athletes!  I grew up skiing in Utah so naturally i’m a big fan of all the skiing events!  I love all the freestyle events so I plan on being at the aerials competitions and definitely trying to see the new slope style events!
  5. What charity would you like to give a “shout out” to and why?I’d like to give a shout out to the Youth Sports Alliance because they have done a tremendous job introducing the importance of sport to the youth around the Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah area.

Want to know what it is like to speed down a luge track at up to 80 miles an hour? Check out Preston and his USA Men’s Doubles Teammate Matt Mortensen on a training run. Wow!

Who Inspires you?

Many of us have achieved so much in our lives as individuals, but we did not find the strength of character alone.  We were all inspired to push ourselves harder to achieve greatness by someone – a parent, a coach, a teacher, a mentor.  This holiday season, Athletes for Hope asks each of you to:

Share who your biggest inspiration is on your twitter, facebook, instagram, and other social media accounts –  remember to use the hashtag #AFHInspire

Sign up to stay informed about AFH’s work in the community here.  We will give away a signed Tony Hawk skateboard to one lucky person who signs up between now and December 21st.

Support Athletes for Hope.  AFH is able to touch the lives of people across the globe because of your generosity – no donation is too small.  You can donate to AFH here.

Learn more about what we do here.

Cleveland Cavaliers Star Kyrie Irving visits Beech Brook

This past weekend, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving participated in Athletes for Hope’s 9-11 service week by visiting children and families at Beech Brook, a foster care and social services charity that serves over 22,000 people in Cleveland each year.  Although the visit had been scheduled for a few weeks, the children had no idea that Kyrie was planning to visit them and were excited beyond belief when he unexpectedly walked into their classroom!  Kyrie spent some time answering a variety of questions before heading to the basketball court to shoot some hoops and take pictures with each person.  The kids loved meeting him and had much to say after the visit.

“Dear Mr. Kyrie:  I appreciated you coming and talking to us young folk.  Maybe you can get dunked on another time as well.  But in all seriousness, you could stop by again to give some of these children something to live for,” Chris said.

After visiting with kids in the classroom, Kyrie headed over to meet with over 100 kids and families who participated in a Beech Brook fashion show which featured all sorts of fun, colorful, and exotic costumes.  Kyrie spent time sharing insight about his own journey, such as the importance of his father’s influence in his life and all the hard work he put into achieving his lifelong dream to become a pro basketball player. He then spent time with many of the individuals while signing autographs and taking pictures.

Kyrie left quite an impression on many of the people who met him.  One of those children is Joshua, who said, “Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come see us.  I will never forget that day.”

To learn more about Beech Brook and the incredible work they do on a daily basis, visit their website here.