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Fourth-Place Medal

U.S. Olympian Kris Freeman competes in Games' most grueling event despite Type 1 diabetes

Ben Rohrbach
Fourth-Place Medal

Most athletes try to calm their nerves before a competition, but for Kris Freeman it's a requirement.

The U.S. Nordic ski team's distance veteran is making his fourth Olympic appearance despite having Type 1 diabetes and being forced to monitor his blood sugar as many as 20 times before a cross-country race.

"Obviously, there are race nerves before an event," the 33-year-old New Hampshire native told Yahoo Sports. "Adrenaline and cortisol are stress hormones, and they react with insulin and glucose metabolism, so I have to try to deal with all these things and stay as calm as possible at the same time."

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As he does during his everyday life, Freeman secures a tubeless OmniPod insulin pump to his chest and a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor to his abdomen for races. So far in Sochi, he has placed 52nd in the 15-kilometer classic and 54th in the 30-kilometer skiathlon. His best performance at the Olympics was a fifth-place 4x10 relay finish in Park City that came soon after his 2002 diabetes diagnosis. While many wonder what might have been for the 15-time national champion, Freeman has a different take. 

"I don't really care, because I am diabetic and this is what I am — this is who I am — and speculating about what could be doesn't matter," he added of failing to win a medal in his three previous Olympic appearances. "So, I try not to be resentful of the situation. Diabetes is a huge pain. As anyone who knows, it's not a fun disease. It wll always be with me. I'm at the Olympic Games for the fourth time, so I'm hoping that people can see that it really doesn't have to have a negative impact on your life."

[Photos: Sochi stars of the Olympics]

Freeman's biggest test of the Sochi Games still remains, as the 50 kilometer looms among the final competitions in Russia. The last time around, he collapsed from hypoglycemia during the 30 kilometer at the 2012 Vancouver Games and could not participate in the 50 kilometer. Hearing Freeman describe what he calls "the most grueling" event in "one of the hardest sports in the world" makes you wonder how anyone completes the competition, which lasts more than two hours, let alone a Type 1 diabetic.

"You literally pace it so that you couldn't take another step at that exertion," he said. "Sometimes it's pride that makes you collapse, and sometimes it's just straight-up exhaustion. I've collapsed after winning a race and I've collapsed after being second to last, and that's because I go as hard as I can every time. You don't always have to collapse, but if you time it just perfectly, you're going to have to."

Just thinking about that event would stress out most people. Not Freeman. His health depends on it.

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