Larry and his friends attend the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy and have a great time. Larry goes on an Olympic spectating binge with ’08 Beijing summer, ’10 Vancouver winter, ’12 London summer, and ’14 Sochi winter..
Meanwhile, he and his brother Big George have a fun excursion at a “sliding school” in Salt Lake City, where participants can learn to ride the skeleton on the Olympic race course. The Skeleton is that newer Olympic event where you race headfirst down the track in a manner similar to the bobsleds and the luge (feet first) competitors. Yes, you are sliding down the twisty-turny icy track at 85 miles per hour! This was the genesis of Larry’s Olympic dream, where he literally emerged from the crowd to pursue a longshot opportunity to represent the great nation of Israel in the Skeleton at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea.
Never mind that Larry is in his mid-40s at the time; he went all-in with this odyssey where he traveled the world to compete at the various international competitions where one accumulates points and angles for a precious few spots in World Cup events and eventually the Olympic field. This conversation will get you inspired to dream big and go for it! Regarding his age, Larry decided to turn this to his advantage, stating that he wanted it to become an inspiration to others rather than a handicap. While he fell short of his stated goal of competing in the Olympics, you will gain a deep appreciation for the true value of chasing one’s dreams, namely the self-satisfaction that comes from doing your best and inspiring peak performance in others. Larry relates an exciting anecdote about a breakthrough performance where he enjoyed what can only be called a “third place victory.” What’s more, a member of Larry’s Israeli Skeleton crew became the first athlete to represent that country in any sliding sport. Larry’s devotion to the Israeli program earned him a spot as a team assistant coach for the 2018 PyeongChang, Korea games. Enjoy this great show about pursuing peak performance goals throughout life and appreciate the most important lessons of the competitive experience.
We find how Larry discovered, at an advanced age, his passion for the sport of Skeleton in the Winter Games and how this applies to all sport endeavors. [04:11]
What is it like to go downhill Skeleton style? [17:20]
He made the Israeli Olympic team. How does one qualify? [22:24]
On the different teams, are you helping each other or competing against one another? [38:05]
While teams are in training, the competitive nature can cause problems. [41:42]
One of the biggest parts of the Olympics is competing for something bigger than yourself. [47:02]
Age is not a reason to fail. [53:07]
Skeleton is the slowest of the three speeds: Luge, Bobsled, and skeleton. [01:02:33]
What was the process of Larry qualifying for the team? [01:03:20]
The dream happened. [01:09:08]
The lessons learned of giving 100% to get back 100% apply in all walks of life. [01:14:11]
- “How much do I give to, to the people around me, how much do I keep to myself?“
- “Age is not a reason to fail.”
- “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Brad: 00:00:00 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author, an athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high stress modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balance that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go.
Brad: 00:04:11 Hi, it’s Brad to introduce my conversation with Larry Sydney. Oh my gosh. This is a true story of a gentleman who literally came out of the crowd to pursue an Olympic dream at the advanced age of 44 45 46 who’s counting, but he was on an Olympic spectator binge. He was captivated by his first live attendance of the Games. He and his buddies went to the 2006 Winter Games and Torino, and then he went on this binge where he went to the Summer Games in Beijing in 08. And then the winters in 2010 back to London in 2012 back to Sochi in 2014 and also became captivated by this death defying event in the Winter Olympics known as the Skeleton. You’ve seen these guys sliding headfirst down the icy course that you’re familiar with from the Bob sledding and the luge where they’re lying backwards. Yes. He decided to try for the Olympic Games and Skeleton after going with his brother Big George, who we’re gonna hear all about, had his own podcast, but his brother, this master of all things water and winter sports, took him over to a training camp that they had for the public in Salt Lake City where there’s a Skeleton bobsled luge track.
Brad: 00:05:35 So they paid their fees, uh, took a few classroom courses I imagine, just like the race drivers do. And then that first fateful ride kicked off an amazing journey where he basically went for it, man, he did the real deal, went all in, uh, arranged for an opportunity to compete for the great nation of Israel, uh, for some precious few spots in the Olympic roster. And as we go through this conversation, I think a lot of reflection and insights will come up for you. I love this thing because you know, that I’m pushing this idea of pursuing a competitive goals with high intensity throughout life, calibrating them and adjusting them for your age and for your lifestyle circumstances. But here was a guy who did not think he was too old. In fact, he turned that concept on it’s ear and decided that he was going to be an inspiration for older guys everywhere going forward and competing against those obsessed Olympians who dedicate their life at a young age and go all in and wow, the, the ending. Uh, an interesting twist. There’s a lot of fun stuff in the middle. I think you’ll notice that he gets very technical and precise as it describes the qualification process and the standards that you have to reach a, to progress toward a precious Olympic spot.
Brad: 00:06:57 And it’s interesting to note if you’re not interested in the Skeleton and you might zone out over, uh, the nitty gritty details and this may not be of tremendous interest to you if you’re not a Skeleton fan or a big time athlete with interest in the Olympic Games and how athletes qualify. But I think it’s important to notice that his thought process reflects the importance of a methodical approach to pursuing goals where you not only sweat in the gym and unleash your inner dragon beast when it’s time for competition, but also that you know what the f you’re doing and you pursue your goals with expert guidance, people helping you that have experience and are guiding you so that your energy output goes toward a good cause and is not wasted. And the spirals of overtraining or misplaced competitive intensity where you’re not harnessing those wonderful competitive instincts to put to good use and perform when it counts.
Brad: 00:07:55 Yes, we get into some interesting dilemmas like the importance of the athlete to be self focused and self directed and managing some of this give and take that occurs where you’re trying to be sportsmanlike but you’re also competing against people for some scarce competitive opportunities, Olympic spots. You always have the politics when it comes to Olympic sports. Interesting and tough things to navigate and then take these lessons that you learned in that intense competitive environment and apply them to peak performance goals in all areas of life. And today Larry is off the rails with his Olympic dream. He’s off the course and onto the next phase of life. He’s a new father settling in podcast host fantasy football, podcasts, and fun, interesting guy. Let’s hear from him about his wild Olympic dream in the sport of Skeleton. Larry Sydney. Thank you for sitting in this beautiful location. We’re looking at Lake Tahoe, Nevada right now. Your new home, you’ve had quite a journey. Uh, most fascinating to me is pursuing this Olympic dream at the advanced age of what you were fortyish dude. And he did this, we’ll say for a yep. Crazy Skeleton thing. So I guess we should back up to, um, you’re, you’re a long time educator, uh, out there on the east coast and then, uh, some stuff changed in your, in your life path and you start to get these crazy dreams formulating. So tell me, tell me where the starting point was and we’ll, uh, we’ll get the, the listener pumped up for pursuing, pursuing your goals and dreams, even if they’re crazy.
Larry: 00:09:32 Right yet. Brad, thanks for having me on the, uh, on the podcast today. Um, well if I’m gonna, if I’m gonna do justice to this, I’m going to go back to 2006 on a whim two friends who lived in different parts of the country from me. Um, w the three of us decided to go to Torino, see the Olympics and um, we just kind of winged it. We didn’t have tickets, we didn’t have hotel. All we had were flights and all three of us were coming into different airports. We had flights and we had a rental car. Um, and this was kind of pre-cell phone too in terms of international travels. So we are just winging it. And, um, just had the most amazing time blown away by what the Olympics were, the collaboration, people from all different countries cheering for each other’s athletes. And I’m just blown away by the whole experience. And again, repeated in 2008 went to Beijing, saw the Olympics.
Larry: 00:10:23 Oh, you get that little bump there, the two year when they, uh, oh no, you went to summer, Summer Olympics in Olympics. Yeah, yeah. In the 90s they had the winter Olympics switch. Right. Those, those fortunate athletes had a two year window. That’s when, you know, two years, four years. That was great. Oh, so that was the first Olympics you ever saw live.
Larry: 00:10:41 So Torino I saw live and then went to Beijing and then went to Vancouver and then went to London in 2012 and, and Sochi in 2014.
Larry: 00:10:49 So wait, so that is, that is gangster and you’re just like Olympic Olympic guy.
Larry: 00:10:54 Yeah. Yeah. And, and if you’ve never been to an Olympics, um, for someone who’s a fan of sports or for someone who isn’t, it’s, it’s just an incredible experience. And so and so I caught the bug and it, and it really wasn’t at that point. It wasn’t like, Hey, I want to be an Olympian because it was, hey, I’m a, you know, by the time, by the time London came in 2012, uh, I just turned 40. And so I’m like, all right, I can’t do this as an athlete, but I can, I can be part of it as a fan. Um, maybe I get to get to meet some athletes and throw my support around and, and, you know, just enjoy what this really is. Um,
Larry: 00:11:32 By the time you’re like, meeting Bob Costas us like you again. Hey, what’s up dude? You, Bob Costa, send your, did your, did your friends join you on this binge from Oh, six to 14, so no, no, just you’re the last man standing. You had Bob Costas.
Larry: 00:11:46 Yeah and I, Bob and I, actually 2012 was, it was a breakthrough because I actually got to go on the u s a house and met Carl Lewis and got to, got to talk for a couple of minutes to Carl Lewis who was, um, for someone who was, who was from my era growing up in the 80s. And I was a track and field athlete and this, this was God. I mean, there’s, you know, there’s kind of no other way to say it. This is who this guy was. And then to get to meet him in person, um, just, just a huge treat, you know, just like, wow, this is, this just keeps getting better and better. This Olympic thing. So in 2012, I was getting close to wrapping up my 15th Year of teaching in Connecticut and, um, got connected with a group out here in the Reno Tahoe area, the Reno Tahoe Winter Games coalition, who was angling to earn the right to host an Olympic Games for the United States. And the offer came to me. Uh, Hey Larry, why don’t you move out here? Why don’t you come work with us and help us get a bid together so that we can host an Olympic Games here and 1960 squaw valley for those who aren’t from the area here. Squaw valley is part of Lake Tahoe that’s part of this region. And so it would really be, um, getting the Olympics back out here a second time. So I was thrilled and, um, finished my last year of teaching, moved out here three days after I got out here. And Mind you, I drove cross country, you know, with the luggage rack on top of my car and all this.
Larry: 00:13:16 Did you have like the rings, like, you know when it says just married on the back window, you got your lip, it grades like I’m going for the gold, maybe I’m leaving my life behind. And Are we going to guess where this, where this, the end of the sentence goes two days after you got out here? What happened?
Larry: 00:13:29 Yeah, I get out here and the US Olympic Committee puts out a press release. Hey, um, for the next few years we’re only interested in pursuing summer Olympic bids. So, um, again, you know, this is like Tahoe. This is not, I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re sitting out here summer, we’re on the lake. It’s gorgeous here. There’s nowhere you’d rather be. But this is not a community that’s set up for a summer games. This is a community that is, that is clearly in the thick of the winter games chase. This is a, a ski haven. And um, you know, that’s what, that’s what this is, that’s what this is. Lake Tahoe is all about, um, you know, a place that could have a great Olympics. And so, so your, I wasn’t, I just got out here and a couple of days later, all of a sudden my job’s gone and my opportunity to be part of this group chasing Olympics, um, to bring it here has gone. And so, uh, it just, it just was a huge life change that happened. First. My choice to to leave Connecticut and come out here and change my life once that I decided to do. And then a second time where I didn’t really decide to do this, it kind of got thrown at me. It was a curve ball and it got thrown at the whole group. And so, um, so it just put us on in a hibernation mode in terms of chasing Olympics. There were other things we could do as a group. Um, but in terms of the sponsorships, financials, um, job prospects, all those things he was, it was basically being put on hold.
Larry: 00:14:58 So, um, so anyways, so I was out here in Tahoe. Um, my brother’s out here and, and thought let’s, let’s make the most of this. And so in the wintertime, um, we talked about going into Park City who, you know, Salt Lake City had hosted the Olympics in 2002 and park city is where they had held the bobsled, the Skeleton and the illusion events. So my brother Ray and I said, hey, um, we should go out there. They had these driving schools where someone who’s never done it before, it can go, you can spend a week there, try it out, learn how to do it, kind of work your way up the track. And a, I have some fun out there. And so we decided, yeah, let’s go for it. Heck, why not? So here I am, 40 years old and Ray is a couple of years older than me and um,
Brad: 00:15:43 But the listeners should know you guys are extraordinarily talented athletes and uh, your brother Ray here in Tahoe was a big philanthropist and noted original gangster on all manner of water and snow sports doing these tricks on. If you look on my Instagram, his tricks on the, uh, the wakeboard this morning were like blowing and then out on the ski hill. So these guys are like, uh, they’re fierce listeners. They go crazy, they’re fearless. And that, I guess that’s going to help when you go to, is it actually called like luge riding school or Skeleton school
Larry: 00:16:14 Sliding school, sliding
Brad: 00:16:16 Skeleton let’s call it Skeleton university So y’all to you, you went to sliding school.
Larry: 00:16:21 We went to the U. Yeah. And um, and we went in and you know, it’s a funny thing too because in the end of this story we’re going to talk about, about my attempt at making the Olympics in the sport of Skeleton. But at this particular time we’d never done it before. It seemed pretty crazy to go down a sheet of ice head first and um, I’m afraid of heights. So there was this whole other piece of it like, Gosh, what’s, what’s it really going to be like and is this something I want to do? So, um, we got there and we started school. They gave us a little introduction and we’re in Park City, the same place where they had the 2002 winter Olympics. Um, Jim Shea from the U S was a gold medalist, so just a, an amazing place to be and the history there. And uh, my brother went down first and so then it was my turn.
Brad: 00:17:16 And you guys chose the Skeleton of all the things
Larry: 00:17:18 We chose skeleton.
Brad: 00:17:20 Listeners, you, you probably familiar with the, um, the guys sliding down the track in the big bobsleds and on the same track they have the luge, which is the guideline down on his back and pointing the toes and Tony and then the Skeleton is that, is that headfirst thing where they dive onto the sled and your arms are behind you, right?
Larry: 00:17:38 Yeah, they’re down at your side.
Brad: 00:17:39 That’s crazy shit man.
Larry: 00:17:40 Yeah.
Brad: 00:17:40 So that was the one you chose?
Larry: 00:17:42 Yeah,
Brad: 00:17:42 Ray went first. Did you draw straws or did you just say the, the um, the older brother goes first? I don’t know.
Larry: 00:17:48 You know, I don’t even remember how it was decided. I think, um, our, our Skeleton coach was Lincoln, so he, he competed in the, in those same Olympics in Park City and now he’s, he’s the head Skeleton coaching in park city. And um, he was just kind of, we, we had, I don’t know, we had about 10 of us maybe in the Skeleton school in that particular class. And so he was just sending us, you know, hey, a next guy, come here, get on your sled. Let’s get your position and I’ll give you a little push down the hill and let’s go. And um, and we were starting halfway down, halfway down because, um, it just be way too dangerous to put someone at the top who’s never done it before.
Larry: 00:18:23 Um, but nevertheless, you’ve never done this before. Uh, it feels a little crazy. So, so my brother had gone, he’s down at the bottom and now Lincoln is looking at me and he’s like, all right Larry, I get on your sled. And so part of me is thinking, and maybe, maybe I just want to watch my brother this week, but the bigger man in me realized that because my brother had already gone down, I kind of didn’t have a choice. I had to go down and, um, and really I had to go down better than him, whatever the heck that even meant at the time. So, uh, so for that reason I did it. I got to the bottom. Um, my throat was completely dry, completely dry, just, just parched. Um, to ride was amazing, you know, the energy of it, the thrill of it. Um, and so at that moment I knew like, okay, I’m good for this week because, because this is going to be awesome.
Larry: 00:19:18 I’m just going to have so much fun if you’ve ever bungee jumped, which I haven’t cause I hate heights, but from what I know, bungee jumping, it’s kind of thing that if you do it, you might want to do it again because it’s just a really cool energy rush. And this was that opportunity to just do it over and over and over. So I’m, so we finished schools, Skeleton school, the Skeleton U,
Brad: 00:19:39 so you’ve got quite a few runs?
Larry: 00:19:40 Got a bunch of runs, worked our way up the track. We got to the second highest start. So we did not get to go off the top. Um, we went off what’s called a women’s start. Um, that’s not a Skeleton term because in Skeleton the men in the women’s start at the same place, but in Luge, the women’s start a little lower down the track for history. You know how to know, probably kind of like tennis. The men play five sets. The women play three. I don’t know why it is. It’s just that way. Anyway. Um, and then in, and then that spring, I guess, I guess February really we went to the other track in the United States, which is in, you know, where that is., Brad?
Brad: 00:20:19 Lake Placid, New York would be my guess.
Larry: 00:20:21 Yes, yes. Lake Placid, New York. Um, another awesome site just with oozes oozing, oozing history I should say. Um, and we went there and, uh, we did another Skeleton school, so we did Lake Placid Skeleton U, um, little different setup but the same idea. Um, but also we had new people in the class, so we didn’t make it up to the top of you there. We got to the second highest start and did again. Um, and, and that was our first season. That was the first season. And we did that together, my brother and I. And then the next year, um, we just did kind of some recreational, like, hey, we’re up skiing in Whistler, let’s see if we can rent sleds and go on the Whistler track. And is that a possibility for the public? Um, so whistler has a tourist run, uh, that the public can sign up for in our case because we had completed driving school and we had sort of this, this license, if you will. Um, it, it kind of gave us permission to get on some tracks, um, and, and buy some time on the track. And I say buy some time, I mean they charge you per Ron, I don’t know if it’s $50, around $25 a run. Um, and so we did that and we didn’t go off the top of whistler cause that would’ve been crazy.
Larry: 00:21:39 Um, but Ray did that and we went back to park city. We did some more runs there. So that was kind of the first, the first two seasons of it. Um, I, I, concurrent with all this going on, I was doing an MBA degree. Uh, and so in December of 2014, I finished school and in January of 2015 I moved to Park City for the rest of the winter so that I could just train full time at the Skeleton and kind of see where it went.
Brad: 00:22:10 So how does that work? I mean, is this a facility run by an Olympic, uh, entity or is it a private facility where you just negotiate and get time on the hill? Do you have a coach yet?
Larry: 00:22:24 Yeah, Good questions. All so, so it, it varies by track, but typically what happens is, um, if you’re sort of cleared to go off to, to train at a track, there are different types of sessions. There’re international sessions where you have athletes from the different countries who are licensed athletes competing on the world tour. Um, and they can train at that certain time. Park city has this, um, this local program that is mostly in the evenings and in limited numbers you can show up and get your two or three runs and night on the nights that they’re having it. And so that’s what I was doing. And this same coach Lincoln who had been at our driving schools, also the guy who was overseeing that program. Uh, and so, you know, essentially we take around and at one point on the track he’d be videoing us, are watching us and then we get to the top and he’d say, all right, this is where you’re screwing up or this is what you’re doing really well. And so you actually get a little little bit of coaching.
Larry: 00:23:24 It’s kind of informal at that, at that level. Um, but those are the developmental steps that you take. You know, you start a new sport and, and you know, it’d be pretty unusual that your, your first time playing soccer in seventh grade that your parents would hire a full time coach for you. Right? You just, you kind of play around at first. And so, um, that was kind of kind of how it was going. And at that time I had entered into some discussions with, in a roundabout way, I’d gotten in touch with the head of the Israeli Skeleton and bobsled program, David Graves. I had no idea that program existed. It was random chance that I came upon this information. And, uh, and he and I started talking and, and I said, well, I mean, I’m, I’m kind of doing this anyway and I, I want to compete. Um, and I had qualified in the US program, um, through one of their, one of their test sessions that they do. It’s called the combined session. And I had hit a set of standards that allowed me to train in Park City at a very reduced rate. This guy, I think it was called elite developmental programs, something like that. So they weren’t paying me, but I was not paying a lot to do this. Um, and based on that information and based on that, I was getting ready to compete. Um, the head of the Israeli federation had had interest in me competing as an athlete and I was really interested in doing that and representing Israel where I have, I have a lot of family and, um, you know, I’m, I’m Jewish and I’m Jewish athlete. And so, uh, so that’s, that’s kind of one of the
Brad: 00:25:02 … at the dreams to represent, say Jewish athletes is their Jewish athlete and not know this, this seemed credible.
Larry: 00:25:11 And, and I think of Airplane, right? Right. Hey, do you have any light reading? Oh, famous Jewish athletes and a little two page pamphlet. Right. So, uh, you know, and, and, and we can joke about it and I, you know, I think it’s hilarious. Um, but at the same time, uh, there, there is, this program Israel, has this program historically it usually was either one bobsled team or one Skeleton athlete. Um, but it happened that right at the time that I came on board, that Israeli program, another athlete came on board at the same time and the next year, um, another athlete came out of retirement. So we actually had four of us all of a sudden competing for Israel and trying to make the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. So it just sort of, things grew kind of organically. Um, and next thing I knew I was part of this, this four man team, uh, try and try to make it happen.
Brad: 00:26:05 That’s cool. Your training have a chance to train together and kind of support each other. Are you battling for one or two spots and competitive? I mean, how did that work?
Larry: 00:26:15 Yes. So, so it’s an interesting dynamic. Um, and you know, Brad, like what I’d like to say is, because I was a Phys ed teacher for 15 years, soccer coach, track coach, you had that background and track
Brad: 00:26:28 You were sprinter in, in high school and the high hurdler hurdler you needed some high jumping. You had that athleticism, which in Skeleton it seems like the essence of it is that explosive start, right? And then getting competency on the sled so that you can, are you making subtle turns with your body movements as you navigate that?
Larry: 00:26:47 Yeah. Yeah. It’s subtle and sometimes not so subtle movements to get you around the turns.
Brad: 00:26:51 So it’s kind of like wake surfing out there in the boat this morning, where if you just put the tiniest bit of pressure on your arch, that’s it’s, uh, it’s the, you know, it’s the success or failure, right? They’re doing incredibly a nuance a, but having that initial burst of speed is what’s gonna get you into the game. Otherwise, I would imagine you’re just not gonna, you’re not gonna be competitive.
Larry: 00:27:13 Right, right. So, um, and being competitive, you know, we can, we can measure that in different ways, but probably about half of the race is that first 30 meters when you’re, you’re pushing off your sprinting as fast as you can, getting up to speed and diving on the sled. That’s probably half of it. And then the other half of it is, once you’re on this sled, um, making your way down the track in the fastest way possible, getting the best lines, um, not having to drag your toes for big turns, you know, timing your turns just right and all those sorts of things. Avoiding hits and, and, and, and that sort of thing. And so, so it’s kind of a half and half. So there’s, there’s this pure athleticism, this kind of animal. First 30 meters is the first five seconds of your run and then it’s get on your sled, get in position, get as aerodynamic as you can, be as relaxed as you can and make your way down the track.
Brad: 00:28:08 I guess similar to bobsled, when we saw this was now many years ago, the US getting smart and attracting, uh, athletes from other sports like Hershel Walker, the most famous example where they realized if they had some, a worldclass sprinters as, as riders, of course, not the driver because that guy’s an extremely competent driver of the bobsled, but they needed some raw power. And I think even to this day, you’re seeing some, uh, uh, summer Olympic Olympic level athletes crossing over and joining the US bobsled team.
Larry: 00:28:38 Yeah, you have a Lola Jones was just the yellow and of course she was, she was pushing and, and, and so one, one big difference between the Bobsled in the Skeleton because there are actually a lot of similarities, but one of the big differences is you can really be a specialist in bobsled in the sense that if you are not the driver you’re pushing and, and there’s certainly a lot of technique to how that push happens, but it’s, it’s a lot of raw power and athleticism.
Brad: 00:29:03 Duck your freaking head. You don’t even hand, you don’t do anything. Just shut up and duck your head. Close Your eyes too so you don’t scream.
Larry: 00:29:09 Do not look up and see what’s going on. You don’t want to see it and you’re just going to slow down this lead. So yeah, so I’m, so it’s different where Skeleton, you, you have to have that sort of beast mode to really rip into your start. Um, if you’re going to be elite and then you have to be able to get on the sled and relax and steer your way down the course. And one of the tricks for a Skeleton driver is you don’t want to look up because it kills your aerodynamics when you look up. So while you’re trying to do, if you can picture is you’re trying to keep your in a neutral position in front of you, which means your face is basically pointing down at the ice and just kinda like, like get your eyes looking up as much as you can without having actually lift your chin per se. So that’s the idea. And we say that, you know, people who do Skeleton for a lot of years are going to have those lines on their forehead from the furrowed brow of, of looking up without lifting your head up
Brad: 00:30:03 like a surfer with your neck craned for the, the waves. You know what sport that’s reminds me of, you’ll probably get this, the combination of beast mode and then being able to relax and execute. What is speed golf, man? Oh, you gotta ride hard, you’ve got gotta be an endurance machines and then you have to go execute this precise shot. I didn’t know we had that simulator to exactly right.
Larry: 00:30:27 That’s absolutely fabulous insight. You’re exactly right. It’s, it’s that ability to push your body to its absolute physical limit and then just completely relax it and focus in the moment.
Brad: 00:30:40 I mean, when you dive on the sled, you’ve gotta be tremendously out of breath and full of lactic acid where, you know, you’re exhausted in a way and now you have to quickly get into that, into that chill mode. That’s, that’s fascinating.
Larry: 00:30:53 The other, the other sport, Brad, that, uh, that, that is similar to that same idea in an Olympic sport is the biathlon.
Brad: 00:31:02 Exactly. Yeah.
Larry: 00:31:02 Right. And those, those athletes, I mean, they are so finely trained that they’re, they’re buzzing around the course and then I, I’ve heard at least that they can actually, uh, skip a heartbeat sometimes when they are slowing their breathing to focus on the target for their shot. So it’s, it’s kind of that same idea between that, the speed golf Skeleton, they all have that similarity. Right. So I love it. Yeah.
Brad: 00:31:28 So now you’re in the mix with the other Israelis, right? The Jews are storming the Olympic Games. It’s all happening. So, uh, how does it work to qualify? What do you have to do?
Larry: 00:31:38 So, so to qualify at a minimum, you have to, you, you have to be in the top 60 in the world at the time when they caught off scoring for qualifying. So in a normal year, uh, we race through the end of February, beginning of March. In an Olympic year, you only have til mid, mid January because then you need three or four weeks of time for all the athletes who qualify for the Olympics to accept their bids, or technically their company or their country accepts the bid. And then you need to get accredited for the Olympics. You need to get your id, you need to get the travel plans, you need to get all this stuff. So, um, so in the Olympic year, it, it happens really fast. We started, I was on the ice training in September this last year.
Brad: 00:32:22 Where did you find the ice?
Larry: 00:32:23 Uh, we were in, we were in Calgary to start.
Brad: 00:32:26 Oh, they had ice.
Larry: 00:32:26 So ice, the course of Calgary opened early this year. Whistler was open the first day of October. Um, in Europe, Lillehammer inNorway. I mean there were, there were a number of tracks that opened really early this year so that they could, they could get athlete’s training and then, and then get the races on. So you have to be top 60 in the world. Um, and then the way they have it set up right now is there, there’s a quota system. So on the men’s side, 30 people can, can be in the Olympics for Skeleton. So that’s it. That’s all you got is 30 spots. Um, the top three nations will be allowed three athletes each so, and by top three nations basically. Basically they rank that based on your third athlete’s world ranking. So if the USA ‘s third athlete is ranked 50th in the world and Canada is 18th in the world and Israel’s his 20th in the world, the now means the US has the top ranked third athlete. So the u s would be the first country to qualify and get three athletes. So three countries get three athletes in the Olympics. And I’m trying to think this year, it was not the US they just missed it was, it was, um, Canada. It was Germany who has an awesome sliding program. Um, oh, and the third one escapes me.
Brad: 00:33:47 Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan?
Larry: 00:33:49 It may have been mother Russia, may have been mother, Russia. Um, anyhow, whatever. So, so three countries. So that’s nine spots. And then six countries.
Brad: 00:33:59 Oh, the spots are going quickly, man. Shoot.
Larry: 00:34:02 Six countries get to spots each. And that’s, that’s the same format. Whoever’s got the highest second ranked athlete. So that’s 12 more. So all of a sudden 21 spots are gone. Now in addition, the host country is guaranteed a spot. So South Korea gets a spot. Right?
Brad: 00:34:18 So we’re going to talk about that later.
Larry: 00:34:20 Yeah. What that spot, how many times that spot gets to practice versus the other athletes. Okay. Carry on. Carry on. So you have that. And then, um, it’s, it’s almost like, you know, the sport a little proud. It’s almost like you’ve, uh, you’ve heard of, we were rooting for you. Yeah. So, um, and then in addition, they have what’s, what’s called a, um, a continental spot. And so essentially every continent that has a viable athlete who meets that top 60 in the world standard gets to have at least one representative at the Olympics. Right?
Brad: 00:34:51 So this is no longer, I imagined it’s been modified since the days of the Jamaican bobsled team. Hey man, we’re going to try this. And that was so cute. And Eddie, the Eagle member, the ski jump that was hapless, but he captured the hearts of all the Olympic fans for a ski jumping 47 feet when the other guys are going 200. And so now they have this baseline qualification obviously in track and field to where you have to meet this basic standard. So we don’t have the, the lady coming in at four hours in the marathon from, from a random country, which is, you know, it’s kind of an interesting, it’s adding labels. Yeah, it was cool. But now it’s, it’s, you know, it’s more legitimize where every guy out there is, has, has done some hard work to qualify regardless of what country.
Larry: 00:35:33 Yeah. Yeah. So in the, in this particular case, 2018, um, you have, well, so, so interestingly they count the Americas as one continent. Uh, so for instance, I have a friend from Colombia and he, he was not able to qualify because he, he would have had to beat all the Canadian and American athletes, so he would, he would not have gotten it. There’s no like South American or Central American. Um, but this year for the first time ever, Africa had an athlete who made it in the top 60. And so he, uh, uh, was competing for Ghana and therefore he received one of those continentals spots. So based on world rankings, he would not have been invited, but based on the continental spot he won that spot. And so, and so you had the 21 athletes from the quotas, then you had the South Korean was 22, and then you had an athlete from Ghana.
Larry: 00:36:29 So that’s 23. So that basically left all the rest of the countries in the world, seven spots to qualify for the Olympics. Uh, and so that’s where Israel fell. We weren’t, we didn’t have people ranked high enough where we could qualify two or three athletes and um, that put us in the mix for one of those seven spots. So in terms of my personal, uh, season and qualifications and training, that’s what I was going for. And it was pretty evident before the season started that that’s where we would fall. That it was really unlikely that we could crack into those top nine countries. Just, just, uh, you know, didn’t have the resources, didn’t have the experienced and have, didn’t have the right, the right athlete in the sense that, as you pointed out earlier, if you have one of these incredible track athletes, right, if you have someone who can, who can throw down at 10, five, 100 meter dash on the track, that might transfer pretty well to a hot start in the Skeleton.
Larry: 00:37:26 Um, we don’t have anyone who’s at Aleppo who’s 10, five. I don’t think we have anyone who’s an 11 five. I think we’re more around 12 second guys. In terms of the raw sprint. Um, the driving was the piece where we were improving a lot and we had guys who were, who are doing well. And so if you look at that score sheets at the time sheets for races, you’d see where one of one of our guys, whether it was me or one of my teammates, um, you might see a start 28th in the race and then on the next time check we’re in 26 place and 25th and then by the end of the race maybe were in 17th place will still, they haven’t asked,
Brad: 00:37:57 they have a start check like a 38 or 30 minutes start tick. So you can see how much you’re giving up to number one in the world versus the rest of the driving.
Larry: 00:38:05 And it’s cool all the way down the track. You can see, you can see your splits at different places down the track. Yeah. So it really lets you like in training it gives you an idea of hey, where am I really losing time here, you know, or where am I looking really good with my lines? So it’s helpful that way. So, um, so we’re in the fight for seven spots and, and that’s where this season started. Spot fight for seven spots. Okay. Um, there’s, there’s another piece of this within my team and, and, and you said like, well how does it work with a team? Are you guys all teammates? You’re all helping each other out or are you competing against each other or a, and it’s a combination of that. And, and because I was a teacher for a long time and, and a coach of teams and all this, what I’d like to say is, you know, what, the four of us did everything we could possibly do to help one another to get the best times, et Cetera, et cetera. The reality is, um, that, that, that, that’s not always the case because we were competing against everyone else in the world, but we’re also competing against each other. Yeah. And if I could be all the other guys in the world, but my teammate beats me, he gets a spot and I get to watch might end the goal for all of us. Clearly at the start a season. The goal for the, for, for all of us who are doing this is we want to make the Olympics right. So that’s the dynamic is you’re, you’re trying to balance. On the one hand, this is my teammate, this is someone who I want to see succeed and on the other hand, um, you want to succeed even more. Okay.
Brad: 00:39:32 That’s really cool concept to talk about and how that it’s possible to do this in a healthy manner. And I think people screwed this up so much. I remember when I was thrust into the division one NCAA collegiate running experience at UC Santa Barbara and we had 21 guys out for the cross country team and like the first day the coach said welcome everyone. It looks like we have a nice turnout. Seven of you are going to be able to make the traveling squad and get the cool sweatsuit and be seen as you know the actual guys that are scoring points for the team and the rest of you are going to, you can work out with us if you want and run these random home meets. And so it fostered a, in many ways an unhealthy competitive environment. Especially like when a kid would skip a workout because he had a class and then he’d show up the next day and push the pace too hard for the people that worked really hard the previous day cause he wanted to show his metal if the coach was watching or whatever was going through the mind of these young athletes. But then we have other examples where the warriors that practice where they’re having the three point shooting contest after and Klay Thompson and Steph Curry are probably the two greatest shooters in the history of the NBA. Does it? Is it a coincidence that had been playing together for seven years? Of course not. They push each other to the greatest heights of excellence. And sometimes it can get intense. But I think in, in, in your sport, it wasn’t a boxing match, right? You’re not going to fight the, the two last standing Israelis. So in many ways you set yourself up for an intense competitive environment, which is the only freaking way you’re going to get the very best out of out of your body is to see though that guy put up the times that you’ve been training with and going, ah, you know, or like, you know, ray starting this whole journey with that first trip down the down the course. And I would celebrate that except for in general, don’t try to follow Ray and doing a thing. And you can go on Youtube and I forget what the name of that youtube videos, uh, big George wiping out on the high chair where he had this contraption, this air foil. Yeah. He took the biggest wipe out of all times. So, you know, we’ll watch him doing a lot of stuff and then once in awhile we’ll follow him down the track. So back to the Israelis in the mix there for those final precious spots.
Larry: 00:41:42 Yes. So, so, and you, and you’re bringing up a very good point, which none of us had really been through the four full years, the full four year cycle where you’re training, you’re training each year, you’re a year closer to Olympics, and then finally the Olympic year is there and you still have to go through your entire season just to qualify to make Olympics. And so I had sorta sorta been told, so some of the other athletes from other countries who had been through it before had intimated like, you know, the Olympic season isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, you know, people can be assholes. Um, [inaudible] it’s kind of more stressful. People tend to be less helpful in an Olympic year than they might be in another year. Uh, all those sorts of things. And, um, and so in some ways the Olympic year truly was, was not my favorite year to be out there in some ways because there were times where I, where I felt that I felt that either that pressure, that judgment, um, I felt someone else who I had called friends not be there when I needed them to be there. Um, and I felt that, that paradox for myself of, um, how much do I give to, to the people around me, how much do I keep to myself? And, um, and at the same time, that’s a two way street. So am am I giving to someone all that I can and receiving less than they have to offer and, and is that a relationship that I want or don’t want? And there were, so, there were all these crazy dynamics going on out there and you know, I’ve got to think this is, this is not unique to Skeleton.
Larry: 00:43:22 This is what happens on, on all kinds of teams, you know, and you, you read, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s football off season and, and they’re, they’re back in training camps and, and you hear about these, uh, you know, veteran quarterbacks, um, Tom Brady, who, who kind of didn’t always want to help Jimmy Garappolo as much as he could of, you know, or at least that’s what’s in the news. That’s what’s in the news. And what’s going on behind the scenes could be totally different. I mean, um, maybe he was helping him for all he’s worth, but you hear these things and, and as a fan you say, well, that sucks because I want my team to be as good as it can be. But Tom Brady has, has a job and he has a contract and he wants to be the one out there starting and throwing the football and how much can you help someone else take his job? Right? And so these are the same kinds of dynamics that, that you have in Skeleton and in other elite sports like that.
Brad: 00:44:10 What about the workplace?
Larry: 00:44:12 Yeah, yeah. Right. And this is, and I love to hear like these evolve voices of today. A guys like Seth Goden who has that incredible, um, daily blog with a short message. You can sign up for his email and he’s always thinking in this, this grand picture.
Brad: 00:44:27 I often reference the, the Google guys, um, uh, Ray’s buddies, Larry and Sergey who, you know, they were, they were dead set focused on building the world’s greatest search engine for years and years and they turned down those.com riches that they could have become billionaires four years prior to the event that, that, that made them, uh, you know, hit this windfall. But it’s because they didn’t want to compromise their mission. So they were all about something that’s different than this short term success in this material. Uh, you know, pursuits that were, we’re going for. And I think the same for someone who plunges into a competitive environment and just gives everything, they got to help everyone around them. And could that person succeed? Or just like you have those moral checkpoints where it’s like, crap, you know, I, I timed this guy five times today and, and you know, um, we reviewed his video but he never bothered once to say, hey, you want me to film you the next time?
Brad: 00:45:21 You know, those kinds of relationships where it’s like exact, how long do I want to contribute to this unbalanced relationship? And I’m mostly referencing the workplace in case. Uh, we’re, we’re trying to have these insights pull out to all areas of life, which I think is one of the beauties of sports and what you went through. Um, but man, that’s a, that’s a tricky slope, man. And I love you bringing up Tom Brady. I like to pick on him a lot on this show for deflating footballs cause I don’t think he’s had nearly as much criticism as he deserves for that disgraceful act. That’s one of the worst examples of cheating because it was so stupid and petty and unnecessary. Uh, but yeah, what do you do? I mean, and you gotta I think when you’re trying to get to that highest level, uh, the Olympic competition, you’ve got to be so self focused and self absorbed. And I remember on the triathlon circuit where the struggling young up and coming pros would say, hey dude, you got a room at the host hotel. Do you mind if I crash on your floor? I won’t be in your way. I won’t bother you. And I’d be like, you know, I remember when I was that guy when I was just starting out and not making any prize money and now they’re giving me, you know, rooms and flights and appearance fee and boy I could, this is be a great chance to give back to the sport. And then I let some Mofo in there and then his girlfriend surprises him and she shows up and they’re snoring in the middle of the night. And I’m thinking, yeah, never again because I would rather buy the guy a room instead of having him Mooch my room and I got to stay focused on my mission, you know? So a constant, it’s a constant battle in your mind about how to navigate. I appreciate you bringing that up because it’s not just about putting up a faster time, but you’re navigating pressures and social interactions and a lot of times politics and all that nonsense.
Larry: 00:47:02 Right, right, exactly. And it’s exactly the same thing that happens. You know, we see sport is a microcosm of the real world. And so you take these things that you’re experiencing this sport and people are experiencing the same things, uh, in, in their own lives. Um, and even even to another level in a sport like Skeleton, because one thing that there is in Skeleton that hopefully there’s not in your workplaces that there’s, um, there’s a certain of, of physical risk and danger in the sport.
Brad: 00:47:32 Oh, forgot about that.
Larry: 00:47:34 So, so this, this is a sport where,
Brad: 00:47:37 Hey, Larry, you’re doing great. Speed up faster on that last turn and you’ll beat your time. Really? Okay, I’ll try it. Woo.
Larry: 00:47:44 No good. Right. So, so, you know, if I say like, Hey, um, how do you steer turns sex, right? And someone wants to screw around with me. And they say, well, it’s going to feel like you want to steer down here, but you really need to take the higher line, so steer up at that point. Right. And then the next thing you know, my sled and I are in the roof, uh, you know, with wood chips in my shoulder. So, um, so there’s a whole other element too, because, because it’s, it’s like, all right, if you’re screwing with someone, you’re not just, you’re not just helping them get a bad time, right. Or, or a lesser place. Like you’re potentially putting someone’s life in jeopardy in this sport if you do that. And so there’s a whole other moral moral, like, like, you know, level here of, of what is unacceptable no matter what my rationale. It’s right. And so, yeah, you would hope that you would hope that there’s no one out there who is that big of a jerk that, that he, he or she is going to say, I’m like, you know, they’re going to tell you to do the wrong thing.
Larry: 00:48:45 Basically. You’re, you’re hoping there’s no one who would do that. Um, but there are certainly people who will just say like, I’m, I’m not here to help you. This is your problem, you know, deal with it. So, um, so navigating all that stuff and, and so, you know, within my own team, um, here’s this interesting dynamic because there’s, there’s four of us and we’re all competing for the same thing, but at the same time we’re all competing for Israel. And so as soon as you have that, that, um, name associated with you, you know, the track is clear for Israel, uh, Larry, Sydney, Israel, and you hear that in and you’re part of that. Um, as soon as you are competing for something that’s bigger than you, which, which I think, I think that’s one of the most glorious parts of the Olympics is competing for something bigger than yourself. Um,
Brad: 00:49:33 Israel is a very, very small country, not bigger than you.
Larry: 00:49:39 So, oh, so you know, that’s, that’s a whole other thing is, is the public perception that’s out there and you have this sport and you’re a part of this sport. The sport is bigger than me. The country is bigger than me. The Olympic ideals, the Olympic ideals, the Olympic motto, every, there’s, there’s, there’s all of that layered on top of things. And so, and so, um, there, there’s also this whole element of, okay, what goes on behind closed doors between me and another athlete and what goes on in, in, in public. That’s a whole other piece of it. Right. And think about like cycling Tour de France, that kind of stuff. If we only knew what was going on behind closed doors, I can only imagine a lot of needles. I guess he knows a lot of checking each other’s butts out, um, usually with the needles.
Larry: 00:50:27 Um, but, you know, there’s that kind of stuff too. Um, my team was a team where were largely, we were able to get along and we were able to support one another. Um, you know, at different levels. I mean, was I a better friend with one person on my team then I was with another person on my team? Sure, sure. I think that’s, I think that’s natural. Um, but not to the point where I had any interest in, in hurting someone’s performance. My, my feeling has always been, um, especially, especially being a former track and field athlete, my idea is if my goal is to run a 450 mile, let’s say that’s not an elite time, let’s, let’s make it, uh, a four minute mile. I want to run a four minute mile. If I go out and run a 358 and Brad here runs a three 50 and kicks my butt, I am not upset with how that race went down.
Larry: 00:51:23 Okay. Uh, I had my goals, I had my standards, I put out as much as I could and I had a huge success there in that, in that instance. And if you can be better than me on that day, more power to you. Right? And so, so that was my approach towards my teammates was um, I want to prepare for this season like I’ve never prepared before. I hired a full time, I have a say full time. I mean it was kind of over distance. I hired a Canadian who had just retired from Skeleton, was, was coaching and I hired him as my personal coach for the entire off season. And the start of the season so that I could have every advantage possible. Um, I, I put myself through just, just more intense workouts than, than I had done in years and I started the season at age 45. OK where a lot of the athletes are in their 20s and some in their thirties on and, and you know, your, your body is not the same at age 45 as it is at age 25 is pure fact. It doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish some of the same things, but your body’s not the same.
Brad: 00:52:26 But, uh, your physique a very strong, uh, you have young woman, wife, you are very, very ready for perform everything.
Larry: 00:52:34 Yeah. I mean it was, this is,
Brad: 00:52:35 This is the amazing part is like you just jumped into this, uh, a lifelong commitment to fitness and all that. Absolutely. This is like a, it’s almost, you know, over your head at a certain aspect and you’re just fighting it out. Right. You know, I’m, I’m glad you mentioned your age at some point. I guess I should have asked you for the listener, but you know that that’s a phenomenal, uh, accomplishment to mix in the game. I don’t care what place you got, but you’re like, you’re on the starting line with a bunch of dudes that are going for their Olympic dream, which is consumed their life and they’re 23 years old.
Larry: 00:53:07 Yeah, yeah. So I mean, there, there, there’s certainly there’s the age piece to it and, um, and from that perspective, so, so age to me is, is not an excuse. It’s not a reason to fail. Um, but I hope it’s, I hope it’s a reason to motivate people. I hope it’s a reason for, for other people to look and say, hey, the fact that I’m in my forties or my fifties or my sixties, or for some people in their thirties and they’re feeling old or whatever. The fact is, you can still go out there and there’s a lot you can achieve. You know, and here I am, I’m sitting across the table talking to Brad, who has the world record in speed golf that he got this summer. And I’m not the old guy record, not the old guy, old record every that anyone, any age record. Right.
Larry: 00:53:52 And um, and Brad is, is also not in his twenties or thirties, right? Forties or forties. Um, amazing. So, so, you know, we’re sitting here in the, two of us are sitting across the table talking to one another and, and I hope that both of us can provide some inspiration to our listeners and the people who may hear the story years from now, who knows, or someone who happened to have been doing a little reading on the Israeli Skeleton team or on the sport in general who can say, you know what, man, Larry, Larry did not make the Olympics, which was the ultimate goal. Hey, oh, I guess we can stand in listening to the show. It was, uh, and, and, and it was an interesting story how that happens. Um, how close I got and why I did not get invited. Um, but you can take the positive out of it and say, that’s freaking ridiculous. That a guy was 45 years old and he was that close.
Brad: 00:54:47 I also think you just, that that could be the quote of the show right there. And the, the, the best way to twist that age issue in a positive direction is that your age is serving as an inspiration. So it’s like that’s driving you to be the best you can be. It’s not a handicap because I think some people in the back of their minds, whatever they’re doing, it’s like, Oh shit, I’m kinda old for this, this adult league. I buy better bumped down to the C division or the D. But you could totally take that and spin it the other way and saying, I stand here on the starting line with these young fools and my power and my, you know, my, my driving forces that I’m going to be an inspiration. I love that.
Larry: 00:55:25 Yeah. And, um, and I want to go back to something you said to a couple minutes ago. Um, and you, you mentioned this, this idea of, of, um, lifelong fitness of keeping your body in shape throughout your lifetime. And this is something that I do. This is something that you clearly do. My brother does. My wife does there. There are so many of us who do that. And it takes me back to one of my favorite quotes and I’m a big Dallas cowboys fan, so you’ll excuse me if, uh, if that rub somebody the wrong way. Many people from Connecticut or Dallas Cowboys fans, clearly Texas and Connecticut are very similar cultures. So, um, lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan and Tex Schramm from back in the day with the cowboys management. And he said, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Okay. And think about that. Let’s let that sink in. You know, we talk about luck. What is luck? Preparation meets opportunity. Okay. If I had not kept myself in shape all my life, none of this stuff we’re talking about, whatever happens, none of it would’ve ever happened. Okay. If Brad did not keep himself in great shape, the speed golf thing would, would be he’d be watching a video of the guy who set the record, which would not have been his video. Okay. And there, there are applicabilities in other areas. Um, in, in, in work, my brother was a very early Google employee. If he had not been so prepared and so good at what he did, when that opportunity came,
Brad: 00:57:02 Well most importantly going to Harvard and MIT and just pursuing the highest level of academic performance and Ge, it wasn’t he lucky to pick that company instead of Alta Vista search engine. I bet we’ll have him on the podcast and talk about this. But I think that’s a great example is like, you know, we have the, um, the, the people looking at people who are successful and then offering a quip, uh, in, in, you know, in the same breath is saying, oh yeah, that guy was, you know, he, um, he, he, he raced around and did the Skeleton. Oh, must be nice to have that much free time or whatever quip you want to offer up or about your brother and oh, he’s wealthy. Isn’t that amazing? Yeah, must be nice. He was, he chose Google and a blah, blah, blah. Instead of kind of taking ownership and saying, oh, preparation and opportunity, have I created opportunities for myself or do I slam the door on them because I have self limiting beliefs. And then speaking of the preparation, like, are you, are you doing all that you can do? And poof, that’s, that’s some heavy stuff for people that are sitting in a place where they wish they were further up the road. And I remember as an athlete wishing that I could beat the number one guy, Mike Pigg, Mark Allen, these guys. And then I remember taking off and uh, training with pig at his home base and realizing that this guy was committed at a different level than I was. I was able to verbalize that I was really committed and they want to be the number one guy and I’m so focused and everyone’s like, oh good. You go, you go, boy, you’re doing great. Isn’t that wonderful how hard you train? But when you expose yourself to someone who’s, who’s doing, you know what you wish you could, who then you, then you can look in the mirror and go, well, am I, am I okay? You know, being how I am or do I want to just, you know, go for it. Which is, that’s why, that’s why we got you on the podcast. At a talk about this dude who was teaching, teaching kids to excel in sports. And then then the next breath, he’s out there. Okay. So we left off with, there’s seven spots left. I’ve got to finish that story. The spots are taken so quickly though. Disappointing. Okay. Seven left.
Larry: 00:59:04 Seven left for the Olympics. So 30 athletes, seven left. So, um, so the first thing that happened in our season after, after some training, um, we had to have an Israeli team race off. The reason for that is, um, and most countries have to do that unless you only have one or two. Most countries have to do that. And the reason is because there are certain quotas for how many spots a given country gets on a given tour. And they’re three different levels of Skeleton racing. So at the top you have the World Cup and that’s something that from time to time is on, on TV. In Europe, it’s on TV all the time. It’s a big deal. The World Cup are going to be your top one or two or three athletes per country who have qualified at a certain very high level. The next level down is called the Intercontinental Cup and those races happen around the world. That’s just a touch below world cup. And then you have, um, simultaneously you have the North American Cup where you race on North American tracks in the u s and Canada. And you have the European Cup where you’re racing on the European tracks. Those are approximately the same level. So you have three different levels of racing. For Israel. We did not have a World Cup spot this year. We had to have someone in the top 60 last year to get that spot. We missed by a few spots. So we had one spot in the Intercontinental Cup and then we had four spots in the North America’s cup and two spots in the European cup. So if you do the math, if you have one spot on this Intercontinental Cup and you have four athletes, someone’s not getting erased there because only one person does. So we had to do a race off essentially to determine who gets the first choice of getting into those different levels of races.
Larry: 01:00:46 So, um, before we even got to the race off, one of our guys had a, just a brutal accident, um, suffered a collapsed lung, a broken ribs, a Skeleton accident or Skeleton accent, kind of a flukey accident. I mean this was, he was an experienced guy and um, Whistler’s a really tough fast track, uh, and really just a fluke accident. So I won’t get into the details. He’s fine. He’s healed up. He’s great. If he wanted to get on the Skeleton sled next year, he could do that. I know that’s not particularly his plan right now, but, um, but the point is we’re down to three athletes, so one, one athlete injured, um, in any sport, you know, this stuff can happen. And unfortunately for him it did. So the three of us went to the race off. Um, the first race off was in whistler.
Larry: 01:01:35 Fastest track in the world. Uh, I had gone, it was the only track I’d ever gone to 80 miles an hour on coming into this season. Um, when we did our race off, I laid down what I felt like was a pretty incredible run. I had, I had one notable, really rough turn but made a great comeback off that turn and um, hit 85 miles an hour on the track, 85 miles an hour. So basically like just shattered my personal record for how fast I’d ever gone. I was like two seconds faster than I’d ever gone down the track. It was, it was pretty phenomenal.
Brad: 01:02:13 How are they measuring the speed?
Larry: 01:02:15 So they have, um, just like they have these timing eyes that give you your splits. They have a couple of speed traps set as well.
Brad: 01:02:21 That’s why you see it on TV during the coverage.
Larry: 01:02:23 Yeah. So they are usually usually two, three, four points down the track where they can give you a speed. Um, so 100
Brad: 01:02:29 is that faster than, how does that compare to the losing the bobsled operations?
Larry: 01:02:33 So, so in terms of top speeds, Skeleton, it’s, it’s hard to even imagine Skeleton is the slowest of the three and they’re all pretty close. Um, bobsled, uh, usually is, is a little faster and I believe that lose, which I don’t know nearly as much about cause we don’t travel with illusion athletes. I believe they’re the fastest. I think somebody has gone over 90 miles an hour on that Whistler track on a Luge but not on a Skeleton. Yeah. That’s all comparable except for the fact that the other athletes don’t have their face three inches from the ice. So 85 so 85 miles an hour. Yeah. So I came down with a huge personal record on the track.
Brad: 01:03:12 Is that why your license plate says LS 85? No, I’m just kidding.
Larry: 01:03:17 Um, the 85 miles during the race off,
Brad: 01:03:20 This is during the national team race off. So this is your, your, you’re the biggest, most important event of your life. Most importantly under peak performance.
Larry: 01:03:27 This is, yeah, this is the first step towards putting myself in position to make Olympics. Um, something amazing at this at this particular time. I had my wife and, and we have a one year old, um, our first child and he was, um, he was, what was he at the time, six months old and he was traveling with us. We all traveling together. So I get to the bottom of my run and not only did I just have this incredible run, but I get up off my sled. And who’s standing there right at the edge of the track is, is my wife and my son, you know, there to congratulate me holding an Israeli flag. So incredibly special moment for so many reasons. And um, my two teammates came down the track and by the time they were done, I was in third place. So these guys laid down. Um, so by virtue of me being in third place, that means on the second run and it’s, it’s two runs for the race. On the second rundown, I go first cause we go last first. So I go first and I lay down a run that was, um, basically identical, like I think two hundredths of a second apart, which is pretty fantastic. Uh, and the other two guys came down ahead of me again. So in the end I got, I got third place in, in our Israeli race off. Now this was one race out of two because we then went to Lake Placid and spent a week training and did another race off in lake placid.
Larry: 01:04:48 Same results, same order of finished for the three of us. Um, but I go back to what I said earlier, which is, which is that in that moment after putting down an incredible summer of training, pushing my body in a way that it had not been pushed in 25 years, probably since I played college football, ran college track and I probably had not pushed my body to that limit since that time. Um, came down with a phenomenal run,
Brad: 01:05:15 so in Placid as well, um,
Larry: 01:05:17 and Placid as well. The rate runs great runs. Um, and so, and so, you know, at that point, all I can do is say, Hey, first race of the season, I had fantastic races. You guys beat me, Kudos to you, hats off. And now let’s get down to this and see who can, who can race. Cause now we’re going to have to compete against everyone else in the world. So ta that point racer selected, um, and I’m going to be in North America where I have the best chance to score points where I know the tracks well, my other teammates going to be in North America as well. And then the third guy, the guy who won the race off is going to go to this Inter Intercontinental Cup where he’ll race at a little bit of a higher level opportunity to score more points, but the competition is tougher. So as it happened the first half of the season, the intercontinental copper in concurrently in North America with our races on the North America’s cup. And then the second half of the season was in Europe. So, um, so as it happened, the three of us spent largely the first half of the season, all in the same locations. The training times weren’t the same because it was two different sets of races and the race times weren’t the same, but we were all on the same track at the same, the same time period.
Larry: 01:06:33 So, um, so that was interesting dynamic. Um, hard to compare across races because the ice conditions change throughout the day. And so sometimes in the morning the ice is a lot faster than it is in the afternoon. Sometimes we can flip that. Um, so, uh, so that was the scene as we went in the season. And, um, and at that point coming off the Israeli race, we knew our rankings within our country for that moment. Um, but no points were scored. You don’t get points for your national team races. All the points are internationals. So at that point, blank slate, let’s go at it. Um, I’ll tell you kind of the short story of how the next, the next month and a half went, it was basically a mirror image of how the, the Israeli training and races went. Um, I had my best times on tracks, my best starting times, uh, my highest places I’ve ever had in races. I got all the way up to fear from memory serves. I think I got 12th place in a race in Calgary, which was fantastic because in Skeleton, if you’re not in the top 20, after the first heat, you don’t get to do a second heat. And in past races in Calgary, I had not gotten to do a second heat. And this time, not only did I do a second heat, but I was 12th place, which means I had a whole mess of guys who I, who I beat that race. So, um, an incredible first half of the season for me. Best times, um, scored a lot of points, but my two teammates continued to outperform me. So, um, second half the season, same thing, continued PRs everywhere. Um, by the time, by the time we got to new years. I had two races left. I had scored more points this year than I had combined in the previous two seasons.
Larry: 01:08:17 Um, so my world ranking was in the 70s. I had finished over a hundred the previous two years. I was ranked in the 70s, uh, with, and the way they do the system is that I would have, um, I’ll get into that in a minute, but let’s just say I was in the 70s go to world ranking, but two teammates ahead of me. Um, at that point I knew, given the gap, there was no way that, that I could be, the number one Israeli slider because I only had two races left. And it wasn’t enough to close that gap. No matter how I did, no matter how I did, no matter how they did. So knowing the expense of it, knowing my family, my young son, and wanting to to get back to Lake Tahoe. And, um, we were, we were living homeless, we were on the road, staying, staying at rentals, didn’t have a home base, um, wanting to be able to give that to my family.
Larry: 01:09:08 So I said, listen, I’m going to give up the last few weeks of the season. Uh, I’m going to go back home, we’re going to find a house, we’re going to settle in. Um, and then I’m going to offer to be, to be a coach at the Olympics if one of my two teammates indeed makes it. So went down to the wire. My two teammates were neck and neck. Um, I did not raise the last two races based on how the results shook out. One of my teammates made the Olympics, so he got the, basically he got the 28th spot, two guys behind him got spots, including the, the gentleman from Ghana who was, um, continental representative and then an athlete. Funny enough that you’d said you’d said this country before, my friend Anthony, who competes for Jamaica was the 29th athlete to make it. Now at the time I stopped racing, I was ahead of Anthony and I was ahead of a quasi the gone an athlete. So in essence, I was in the same place internationally in the standings as my teammate who made the Olympics. But because he’s from the same country as me, he gets a spot and I can’t qualify for a second spot. So two of us from Israel actually suffer the indignity of essentially qualifying for the Olympics and not getting to go because our teammate was, it was ahead of us. Um, and it was really close between my two teammates, but obviously only one of them got to go. Uh, and I was a little further back, but again, very happy with my performance because I just blew away all the standards I’d set in the past and had a phenomenal season. Um, so, so I was kind of left holding this like, you know, people said, hey Larry, kind of, what’s your takeaway from the season?
Larry: 01:10:51 Are you pissed off? He didn’t make the Olympics? Are you upset? Are you happy? How do you feel? Right. I mean, this is like, because the ultimate measurement is I wanted to make the Olympics. I had a chance to make the Olympics and I didn’t make the Olympics. Um, and my take away is that I never did this sport feeling like the only way that I’ll be successful is making the Olympics because it is so damn hard to get there. And the athletes you’re competing against are, some of these people are started off as very high level sprinters who transitioned to Skeleton and then spent the next 12 years of their life doing this starting at age 18 or 20 or 21. Um, and I’m someone who started this four years ago at age 40 plus and made the most of it. So, so in the end, God, I get, I get, you know, I kinda like, other than if I’d made the Olympics, I just couldn’t be happier with how the season went that I had the season of my life, great time traveling with my wife and my baby.
Larry: 01:11:50 Something that I can’t imagine we could ever have that kind of experience again. How lucky we are to do that. Um, then got to go to the Olympics and serve as an assistant coach for my teammate. Um, and there are certain sort of alliances that get, get put together over the course of the season and at the Olympics so that there are extra eyes on the athletes and extra, extra video footage and stuff. So I was working with a couple of the other athletes to helping them. Um, but, but obviously it was there with my, my main motivation was, hey, I want to help my teammate do as well as he could. Uh, we qualified our first ever Olympic athlete in the sliding sports in bobsled, luge or Skeleton this year. My teammate AJ. So, you know, in so many ways it was just a raging success.
Larry: 01:12:35 And so I walk away from the experience, a feeling like all that I put into the, the sport and all that my family sacrificed for me so I could do this, you know, I get out twice that much. I get out twice as much. And as a Coda, I am now the vice president of the Israeli Bobsled and Skeleton Federation so that I can help the next generation of athletes come up through our system, help identify them, help put them on on the, the track, no pun intended, on the track to success pass on the experience that I have. And hopefully the next time that I’m at the Olympics in the winter, I’m going to be there alongside another of our athletes who’s qualified. Um, whether it’s, so hopefully it’s Joel who already has been through the four years and narrowly missed this time and hopefully he’ll be there or maybe someone totally new because we now have our first female athlete.
Larry: 01:13:28 We now have a para athlete who is gunning for the Paralympics in 2022 and we now have our first Israeli born athlete on the team. So, so it’s like, I, I’m, I’m going through this whole transition now, both back to like civilian life and, and, and working and that sort of thing and being, being a family man and, and also continuing on with Skeleton and with the federation and, and helping the next generation. So that the whole thing is just, um, you know, it’s, it’s kind of a dream and, and there’s that one little slice of the dream that didn’t happen, but the dream happened, you know? And there’s so much good that I take out of it. And so, so if someone asked me, you know, hey, good or bad, it’s all good. All good. Amazing.
Brad: 01:14:11 Wow, that’s a really beautiful way to close this. I mean, fantastic perspective. And I guess I should ask as you’ve had forward into these future challenges now, your MBA, right? Head first, head first. There you go. Dive head first into the rest of your life. But I do like that. Um, we talked a little bit in the middle of the show about this, you know, this whole experience of given it your all and having that evolve peak performance mindset where, you know, you’re out there setting PRs, the outside world’s going, oh, are you bummed you didn’t make the Olympic team? But I think you know, that the beauty of your story is that you, you absorbed all the, all the important life lessons and attributes that are going to serve you a in anything else that you, you face in the future.
Larry: 01:14:57 Right, right. And, and, um, and mind you, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll start by saying I’m, I’m not looking for a big company to hire me right now because I have some other things going on, but I’m the kind of person, somebody, somebody who has been through that and has taken those lessons and now can take the same lessons you learned in sport, the same lessons you learned about giving 100% to get back 100%. Um, those are the things that, that can make someone successful in other areas of their life. And so if you’re, if you’re, um, a business and you’re looking for, for amazing employees, you know, some of the people who I was competing with and competing against are exactly those kinds of people. And I see them, I see them transitioning to those roles in companies or I see them while they’re training, also working at some of these companies that support that.
Larry: 01:15:49 Um, and they’re just as just as amazing in the workplace as they are training for the Olympics and training in these sports. And I think that’s, that’s an amazing lesson for people out there. And if you’re a parent and you’re, you’re wondering, you know, Gosh, all this time I put into carting my kid around to the soccer games or the gymnastics, uh, you know, meets on the weekends, or he, you know, is this gonna be worth it if my kid doesn’t get a scholarship to college? And, you know, big picture. And my answer is, Oh my God, of course it is. And I have to imagine that, you know, that you have some thoughts on that too.
Brad: 01:16:23 Oh my gosh, that’s, yeah, you said it all. I mean we’re, we’re so fixated on the end result, I mean this is my entire recurring theme for the podcast, is to get over yourself and appreciate the journey and cultivate that pure motivation whereby you don’t attach your self esteem to the result and you don’t feel like a failure in front of your wife waving the Israeli flag in your kid and you’re like, Oh Dang, I got third place. It’s like you gotta you know, that was the third place victory because you’re just smashed a PR and went 85 miles an hour. So if you can take anything away, listeners, these last few minutes, I’m, you know, I’m inspired to maintain that focus on, on getting over myself and doing things for the right reasons. Going for it head first and Larry Sydney going head first down the track, headfirst into life. Thank you for listening everyone.
Brad: 01:17:11 Thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org and we would also love if you could leave a rating and review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews, and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars and it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves because they need to. Thanks for doing it.