SKELETON RACER (Tricia Stumpf)
With the 2002 Winter Olympics just months away, skeleton has reemerged as a medal event and BFS trainee, Tricia Stumpf, is one of the top contenders to race for America.
By Greg Shepard
Published: Fall 2001
Tricia grits her teeth as she picks up her 75-pound skeleton sled. At the right moment, she executes an explosive start, sprinting full speed on treacherous ice. As she reaches top speed, Tricia vaults herself forward coming face down on top of her sled. Her chin is now only inches off the ice. Tricia careens down a winding ice path reaching speeds of 80 miles per hour and up to 4G’s. She relaxes every muscle and tendon because one false move can send her crashing into the icy sidewalls. She must have the speed of a wide receiver, the poise of a seasoned quarterback and the toughness of an NFL linebacker. Lack of any of those elements could land her in the hospital. Maybe that’s why they call it skeleton racing.
The first question you might ask is, “Are you nuts?” Tricia just laughs. “I absolutely love speed and medaling in the 2002 Olympics is my dream, my biggest dream.”
Skeleton, the world’s first sliding sport, was organized in the late 1880’s in the village of St. Moritz, Switzerland. Men and women descended down the icy slopes from St. Moritz to the town of Celerina. The invention of the Bobsled was actually two skeleton sleds tied together. Skeleton appeared in the 1928 and 1948 Olympic Games but faded from popularity in the 1970’s. It regained it’s stature in the mid-80’s when the World Cup competition was reinstated.
The International Olympic Committee in October of 1999 voted to include women’s Skeleton into the Olympic Program for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. That historic event marked the first time women in the sport of Skeleton were to be included in the Olympic Games.
Tricia grew up in River Falls, Wisconsin where she participated in Tennis, Softball and Skiing. As a tennis player, she finished in the top 16 in doubles and as a three-year starter in softball she was an All-State shortstop. However, Alpine Skiing is where Tricia really excelled. She maintained a 3.5 GPA and accepted an academic scholarship at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls.
“I didn’t train with weights in high school,” Tricia said. “The weight room was thought to be for the guys only, especially football. Now I know better. Girls should lift. I could have done so much more had I lifted in high school.”
Tricia’s mother died when she was only a junior in high school. “It was hard for me to focus,” remembered Tricia. “So I took a break from serious competitive skiing.” Tricia was ranked 30th in the nation at only 15 years of age. The death of her mother slowed her down some but then she decided to channel her energies into coaching along with some competitions. Tricia drove from River Falls into Minneapolis to coach Slalom and Giant Slalom for the women’s team at the University of Minnesota.
Tricia also coached kids on Saturdays. She was a level three ski instructor at age twenty, the youngest to ever achieve that level. Her next move was to Salt Lake City in 1990 where she finished a B.S. degree in Communication and Marketing at the University of Utah.
“I was active in everything you could jump off and ski between,” laughed Tricia, who came to Park City to be a race director, also at age twenty. She supervised 13 coaches and 120 athletes who raced. Tricia then decided to use her marketing degree for the ski industry which she did for three years. During this experience, Tricia was still active on a women’s soccer team, extreme mountain biking and loved tele skiing.
Lincoln Dewitt, a good friend, introduced Tricia to Skeleton towards the end of 1997. “I just did this sport,” exclaimed Lincoln, “and Tricia, you are going to love it. You’re gonna freak.” When Tricia saw Lincoln do Skeleton, she thought Lincoln must have had some serious brain damage. But, then she tried it. Her natural abilities and skills developed in other events helped her to become a quick learner. “By the third time, I was saying, ‘where do you sign up - I want to do this thing,’” Tricia demanded. She was hooked.
The first item on Tricia’s agenda was to attend driving school. No, this isn’t where you learn to drive to get a car license but where you learn the elements of driving a skeleton sled. Tricia was a fast learner. After only five days in school, she placed 5th in a national race and qualified to be on the “B” team. “I loved it,” gushed Tricia. “It was a huge rush. I loved it more than skiing.”
In February of 1999, Tricia placed 2nd in the nation. “Then, I’m like ‘wow’. I began to lift and sprint but I was still working full time.” It was at that point the stunning news came to Tricia: Skeleton was going to be an Olympic sport. Now, she became really serious. In the year 2000, Tricia placed first in the U.S. Skeleton and was on the U.S. team. Tricia was on a roll as she participated in her first World Cup and earned a bronze medal.
Tricia began to think in higher terms. “I took a leave of absence from work,” remembered Tricia. She never returned. “I felt I had a chance to achieve a medal in the 2002 Olympics. In May of 2000, I met Eric Snowden, a BFS Certified Coach and President of Pro-Elite Strength Systems. Eric asked a thought provoking question, “Tricia, how serious are you?”
Tricia replied, “I’m serious. I quit my job.” Eric decided to train Tricia. “I began the BFS Program and what a difference. I went from being ranked 10th to 4th in the world. And, of course, with skeleton becoming an Olympic sport, many new people entered the arena of competition. With my BFS Training Program, I was absolutely able to tell the difference. For the first time, I was able to sustain my strength during the season. I competed in Germany, Canada, Austria and Japan. I not only made positive changes in my training but Eric also helped me with my eating habits and rest.”
“It was important for Tricia to compete internationally,” said Snowden. “She earned World Cup points. Tricia has been to all but one track now on the international circuit. She will hit that remaining one this year.”
“This helps in the development of new skills,” said Tricia. I race better at Park City because I know the track. Also, the more World Cup points you earn, the more spots you get on the team.” Also, Tricia needs to compete to help with her chance to make the U.S. team. And compete she does - Tricia is becoming an international sensation. She won the U.S. National Championship again in 2001 while setting the Park City Olympic track record at 50.74 seconds. Tricia finished second at the World Cup event in LaPlange, France last December and third in Ingls, Austria. At the 2001 World Championships in Calgary, she repeated her third place finish from the previous year. All these competitions vaulted Tricia to 4th in World Cup overall points for the 2001 season.
Tricia is leaving no stone unturned in her bid to make the Olympic team. And should she make it, she’ll represent our nation with honor. She has gone to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and spent time with the team’s sport psychologist, Kirsten Peterson. “She has good insight into my performance personality,” said Tricia. “We focused on where my challenges are in sport. She gave me concrete things to try in an effort to create an environment where I can be my best.”
While in Colorado Springs, Tricia received active release therapy (ART) to help a long-time hamstring injury. Dr. Leahy created this approach to muscle healing which strips off scar tissue and allows the muscles and tendons to move. “Essentially he digs his thumbs into my hamstrings as deep and hard as he can.” Ouch! The process only takes about fifteen minutes and it is working. Tricia is more flexible than ever and Coach Snowden is able to do more and more hamstring exercises in the gym.
“I admire Eric more than anyone I know,” offered Tricia. “He has inspired me more than anyone else. He is 100% dedicated to hi