SOCHI, Russia – For many athletes, the Olympic Games are the most hectic, stressful, frenetic and exhilarating time of their lives. For Noelle Pikus-Pace, they are a chance to get some much needed rest.
The 31-year-old from Utah is many things. First of all, she is a gold medal contender in the women's skeleton competition, having won six of seven races on the international circuit this season and with a fervent commitment to what will likely be her last Olympics.
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She is also the mother of two children, Lacee, 6, and Traycen, 2. And just in case that wasn't enough, Pikus-Pace runs a budding business selling colorful headwear with fake hair coming out of the top.
Such a seemingly impossible workload would surely crush most people, but not Pikus-Pace, who missed the Torino Games in 2006 through injury and finished narrowly out of the medals in Vancouver. She thrives on energy and activity, loves the role of "supermom" and believes the happy distractions of family and business life actually help her stay more relaxed on the track.
The biggest challenge, she says, will be what to do with the unfamiliar amount of down time she will see, precompetition, in Sochi. She will have no diapers to change, no meals to prepare and no invoices to process.
"I am definitely looking forward to competing in the Olympics, but it does bring a different element to competing for me," Pikus-Pace told Yahoo Sports in an email. "I am used to having my family around me nearly 24/7 and my husband is really good with making sure I have the time I need to prepare for my competitions, but the Olympics will be completely different.
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"My family can't stay in the village with me, so I am going to have a lot of time on my hands that I will need to be prepared for. I do better with distractions, so I will be making lists of things to do during my down time when I'm not training, working out or preparing my equipment."
Pikus-Pace retired after Vancouver but returned to the sport after suffering a miscarriage while 18 weeks pregnant with a baby girl in 2012. She is expected to battle for the gold medal with Great Britain's Lizzie Yarnold and Shelley Rudman.
Getting back into world-class shape in order to compete with younger opposition ― and maintaining that condition ― has required time management skills of a truly Olympian standard. Every segment of every day has to be compartmentalized and used to maximum effect, especially with much of the family's time spent in Europe, where most skeleton competitions take place.
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Pikus-Pace shared with Yahoo Sports a snapshot of a typical day in her life, which was also published on the United States Olympic Committee website. Here is a condensed version:
"Wake up, eat breakfast, run short sprints up my neighborhood streets, say hi to a neighbor, lift heavy weights in the basement, change a diaper and get the kids dressed, make breakfast and clean up, shower and get ready, clean up Play Doh, run to the store for groceries, come home and make lunch. Change a diaper, clean up the dishes, read them a story and sing some songs before "nap time" for my two-year-old, pull weeds/pick vegetables from our yard and start making dinner, do laundry while dinner is cooking, reply to 30 emails, kiss my hubby when he gets home, eat dinner as a family. Go to a church meeting, change a diaper and get the kids ready for bed, family prayer, read a story to the kids for bedtime, sit down for a few minutes with my hubby and talk about our days, reply to more emails or social media, read in a book for a few minutes and finally go to bed …"
So in Sochi, things will certainly be different for Pikus-Pace. That is why she brought books and work and a long list of items to check off to keep her busy leading up to her first day of competition on February 13.
"I always have goals set and something to look forward to," she said. "That way, when the current task is accomplished I am ready to move on."
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- Noelle Pikus-Pace