In our new espnW series, elite athletes look back at their rookie days.
I was a gymnast growing up, and took my first stab at freestyle skiing when I was 13 and went to a training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY. I made the Olympic Development Team, and the next summer I headed back to the camp, where I was put in a room with three-time Olympian and six-time U.S. champion Emily Cook. I walked in and was like, “Wow, it’s so cool that I’m 14 and you’re twice my age, and I get to room with you!” I’m pretty sure she didn’t think that was funny at all!
We had a great kid sister/big sister thing going, though. She set rules for me, like I couldn’t drink caffeine after a certain time. And we had specific naptimes and bedtimes. She had a well-developed training schedule and wasn’t about to let a 14-year-old mess that up!
So it was, “OK, Caldwell. We’re going to bed at 10, lights off. That means no ice cream past 8 and we start calming down around 9.” She may have gotten stuck being my team mom, but I learned from her how professional athletes trained.
I went on to room with Emily at the 2010 Olympics, where I was so so so excited all the time just to be at my first Games, and she had to regulate again. I was jumping around like any normal 16-year-old would have, and she would tell me, “You need to sleep. If you don’t sleep you’ll be terrible.” She was right, and I’m so grateful!
Emily and I became close friends as the years passed, and as we trained for the Sochi Olympics. We’d make dinner for each other, and I even lived in her house in Park City until I got my own place. I love to bring up the time we went bowling last summer, when she’d hurt her shoulder and had to bowl left-handed. I bowled as a leftie, too, and won (hey, I didn’t want an asterisk after my name).
I credit Emily for teaching me the ropes of the sport. I was a responsible kid, and serious about skiing, and I’m sure I would have figured it out myself sooner or later, but she saved me from having to learn those lessons the hard way.
Nowadays my sleep routine is very solid, and it has been ever since she implemented those rules at camp. I know I’m a better athlete because of it, and I should thank her more often for everything she’s taught me.