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Friday, June 13th, 2014
It’s been a busy year thus far for Olympic figure skating pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have competed in Sochi and on Dancing with the Stars. “This has been an amazing time for us. What’s been so great about it has been our ability to just live in the moment and enjoy what we’re doing,” said White, describing his year, which seems to keep getting better and better. Since speaking with Parents.com, White got engaged to girlfriend and former Olympic ice dancer Tanith Belbin!
Here, the two athletes discuss their role as Puffs SoftPack ambassadors, lessons they learned from their parents, and how they’ve been able to stay friends over the past 17 years.
P: How did you establish a partnership with Puffs SoftPack and what do you like about the brand?
MD: One of the things that we love most about P&G and Puffs is that it’s so family-oriented. Charlie and I are incredibly close with our families, and we love the ambiance of the whole company and how welcoming they are to both Olympians and their families and how supportive they are, so that’s really important to us. We also just believe in the product. We’re working with Puffs with their release of their SoftPack tissue, and we are excited about it as people who are on the road often. It’s the same great Puffs tissue that we use all the time—especially as skaters in the cold environment on the ice—but it’s so convenient now. It’s flexible, and it’s easy to transport with us, whether it’s in our skating bag or our suitcases, so we’re really excited about this new product.
P: Mother’s Day just occurred and Father’s Day is this weekend. What lessons have you learned from your parents?
MD: We’re blessed to have two of the most amazing sets of parents. It’s really cool because our parents are all very different, and yet they all have a very similar philosophy on raising their kids, and that’s definitely worked to our advantage in being a team. Respect, we always say, is one of the most amazing and useful things that we’ve learned from our parents, especially in our career and our partnership together. Respect for each other, respect for yourself, respect for the people around you, and for us that’s really been a key thing for the last 17 years.
P: How did your parents react when you began to skate and compete? What advice do you have for parents of child athletes—even those who aren’t at your level of competition?
CW: What was so great about our parents was their complete ignorance of the sport. My dad was a sailor, my mom rode horses growing up; they really were not figure skaters, competitively, especially. All they knew was that we loved to skate and that was our passion, so they wanted us to be able to have the opportunity to chase our passion as long we were passionate about it. I think what really set them apart is we could’ve retired right after winning a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics, where potentially we had a very bright future—if that was what we wanted, they would’ve been happy for us, and that was their philosophy for our entire skating career. I think in a lot of ways that separates them from a lot of parents, who want to see their kid succeed but have a tendency to push them into something that maybe they’re not comfortable with or that they’re not interested in doing. I think we’re going to be forever grateful for having our parents give us all the opportunities that we needed, because when you have those opportunities, that’s when you find your inner strength and want to work hard and want to be your best….When we’re standing up there, the National Anthem’s playing, and we’re receiving our gold medals, that’s what we think of. We reminisce on all the times when they had to make sacrifices so that we could become good figure skaters, and it is a lot of sacrifice, especially on the part of a parent.
P: What has helped you stay friends and partners over the years?
MD: I think it’s attributable to a number of things. First and foremost, we learned respect at an early age, and that’s played a huge role in how we relate to one another. Also just to be completely realistic, I think we are just incredibly fortunate to have been paired together at an early age. We grew up down the street from one another, we grew up with incredibly supportive parents who were able to help us really go after our dreams, so while a lot of our success is attributable to things that we were able to do, I think it also was just a little bit of fortune on our side, in terms of getting paired together, being well-matched physically throughout our 17 years so far together, and just having personalities that really work well together.
P: Other than skating, what activities did you enjoy while growing up?
CW: I grew up playing hockey, I played the violin, I played soccer, I was very active, but I also loved video games, I loved TV. I think both of us actually just had a really nice balance. We both learned to love learning and school, and I think somehow our parents were able to make everything fun….But we did a little bit of everything growing up, we certainly weren’t just focused on figure skating. We learned to love the outdoors and spending time with our family.
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Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
At the Olympics tonight, Gracie Gold, 18, and Ashley Wagner, 22, compete in the Ladies’ Short Program for Olympic Figure Skating (and again on Thursday in the free skate). But the spotlight isn’t just on the ice. Their mothers, Denise Gold and Melissa James, called in from Sochi to talk to Parents about raising Olympic athletes, courtesy of P&G’s Thank You Mom Campaign, which has been recognizing that no athlete reaches this level on her own (which all you moms out there already know).
P: What is it like to be the mother of an Olympian?
DG: It’s really just a dream. It’s amazing. To be a part of this group, all of these parents have dedicated their lives to helping their kids achieve this goal and that’s amazing.
MJ: I don’t know who has the bigger smile, the Olympians or the moms who have watched them get there. It’s just a very special feeling for all of us.
P: Tell me about the camaraderie between the moms of the Olympic athletes in Sochi. What are the emotions? How do you guys feel as a group?
MJ: All of the figure skating athletes train by themselves with separate coaches in different areas. Nobody knows each other, but suddenly we go to the P&G house to meet all of the moms from all of the sports. We are so fortunate to have a safe environment to sit and relax. I was chatting with [ski slopestyle bronze medalist] Nick Goepper’s mom, and I learned she has gymnastic daughters. We had a great talk on how to raise daughters in sports.
DG: I was at the team figure skating medal ceremony. Our kids were getting medals and it was really crowded. The Russian crowd is very enthusiastic—their signs and their chanting; the energy was amazing. I’m very short so I couldn’t see, but when our kids came out I shouted, “Gracie! Gracie!” and the Russian crowd parted. It just opened up and everyone pushed me to the front so I could see Gracie. I’ll remember that forever.
P: The Olympics come around every four years, so your daughters have been working towards this moment for four years. But when they get on the ice they only have a few minutes to put all those years to the test. How do you help your daughters cope with the pressure?
DG: We text and I say all of the things that I can think of to remind Gracie that she’s worked hard, she’s well-trained, she’s never been so ready for this moment. I remind her that what she does is good enough.
MJ: My job is just to help Ashley stay calm. When I go to practice and sit in the stands, we do a little “Hey, Mom” and “Hey, Ashley” [routine]. I’m there for [putting] a little special gleam in her eye.
P: When did each of you realize that skating was more than just a hobby? How did you encourage that talent without worrying about the future?
DG: It was very gradual. Gracie was always a very gifted athlete and talented at whatever she did in other sports. People would say, “You ought to take her to…,” and then list some place. I thought, how’s that going to work out? What if she changes her mind and we’ve uprooted the whole family? I was a reluctant parent until she actually made it to the US Championships as a novice.
P: Both of you also have other children. How do you balance parenting an Olympian and another child without him or her feeling overshadowed?
MJ: Ashley has a 20-year-old brother who’s a junior at Pratt Institute. Right after he found out Ashley was [going to the Olympics] we almost booked his plane ticket. [Then] he called and we had a heart to heart. He said, “I love my sister, she loves me, but I really need to focus on myself.” I made sure to send him a big chocolate chip cookie on Valentine’s Day that said, “You Rock.” As a mom you have to think outside the box and tend to each individual child.
DG: We’ve had the blessing [of Gracie and her twin sister, Carly]. They are both skaters, and they know each other like no one else. Carly’s a huge part of Gracie’s success. She’s a very important part of the team.
P: How has the amount of traveling over the years affected your lives?
MJ: We moved to so many places [as a military family], so I’ve had to find Ashley an ice rink [each time]. But we have a fantastic photo album and fantastic memories, and her brother was able to travel with her a lot more when he was younger.
DG: Gracie didn’t travel internationally until very recently. I’ve been to Tokyo [about] four times. I love taking in all of these different worlds. Skating has opened up all sorts of doors, not just for Gracie but for our whole family. We’ve met the most amazing people.
P: When the girls finish their Olympic careers, have you considered what your life path will be?
MJ: I’ve already started my own life; I found my own sport. I’m a rower. I did it in college and I went back to it. I still have a competitive edge, and it’s a really great flip-flop when Ashley comes to my sporting events and cheers me on.
P: What are you feeling as your daughters get ready to compete in the final ladies’ figure skating events?
MJ: For me, the pressure’s a little bit off and I’m a little calmer. I just want Ashley to have the best realization of her dream.
DG:I just hope that [Gracie] is happy with her performance. That’s what I want every time.
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Thursday, February 6th, 2014
The 18 straight nights of TV coverage of the Sochi Olympics start today! But as we gear up, be sure to also mark March 7, 2014 on your calendars for the first ever broadcast of the Winter Paralympic Games. In recognition of this momentous occasion, Parents chatted with U.S. military veteran and member of our Paralympic Sled Hockey team Rico Roman. From his tours in Iraq and his injury to life as an athlete and father of Juliet, 12, and Raul, 10, Rico shared his experiences and his excitement for what’s to come.
P: How do you feel about going to Sochi and representing Team USA?
RR: It’s just a great feeling to be a part of a team again, to wear the red, white, and blue and represent USA.
P: How are the emotions similar and different to what you felt when you represented your country in the service?
RR: I feel just that same pride in putting on that uniform and being able to represent my country. It’s just a little different. I know that going over there to play hockey is just a game and it’s just to have fun and represent my country, but going over there to war is a tad bit different. You can always not come back, so that’s always in the back of your mind. In some ways, it’s very similar—being a part of a team. We’re from all over the United States, just like you are when you’re with your platoons and squads in the army, so that is very similar. The different accents. The different cultures and the different foods we like, so I love that part of it.
P: How old were your kids when you first left home to go overseas?
RR: I want to say Juliet was 2 and Raul was a couple months, because when I left I was carrying him around and when I came back he was crawling and standing. I was blown away.
P: Obviously, you felt a sense of duty and pride, but what was it like to leave them home when you had to go?
RR: It’s hard. It’s really hard to be away from your loved ones when you’re deployed. You constantly think about them. You constantly want to make sure that they’re good and that they’ve got everything they need. I would pray for them over there, even though I know they’re okay I would always say a little prayer for them. And you miss them. You miss them so much. My wife would send me pictures and I would always try to write letters.
P: When you became injured and you came home, how did your role as a father change with your new abilities?
RR: I don’t think it changed, you know. I just felt, Hey, I’ve got to get better and I need to get better and take care of my family. It goes in part with this Liberty Mutual RISE program that they have going on: With every setback there’s a chance for a comeback and to rise up from that. With me being injured, I didn’t really look at it as, This is gonna be the end and I’m never gonna be able to do the same things. I do them, I just have to do them a little differently now.
P: You were injured when your kids were quite young. Did they notice anything different in terms of the way you related to them and played with them?
RR: They did. They understood. I was in limb salvage for about a year. The doctors saved my leg, but it couldn’t bend and it was very painful. My kids have seen that and they’ve seen that I was really either very medicated, unfortunately, because of the pain, or I was very cranky because of being in pain. I’m the one that opted for the amputation and sure enough my daughter was really worried. She said, “Is it gonna grow back?” She was really nervous about it. My son knew right away from being around other injured service members that “Oh you’re gonna get a robot leg!” But they handled it very well. They seem to be very proud of me. I’m blessed with two great children.
P: Are your unique abilities everyday to them now, or do they recognize how extraordinary it is that you’re going off to the Paralympics?
RR: I think that they think it’s just me being me. One of their teacher asked my daughter—I guess she found out that I’m an amputee—and she asked, “So what can your father do?” And my daughter says she looked at her and said, “Everything.” I was so blown away that she said that. I don’t think it’s even part of the equation. We go about our days like no big deal. They love teasing me. Sometimes if I don’t have my crutches I’ll kind of hop around on one leg and they’ll have their pajamas on and they’ll fold their leg up in one of the pajama legs and hop around the house [laughter]. It’s a lot of fun.
P: After your accident and later your recovery, did you ever dream that you would end up taking the path of an athlete?
RR: No, I never did. I was always very into sports and I was so fortunate that I did my rehab in San Antonio, at The Center for the Intrepid. We had Paralympians come and speak with us. It gave me that drive that if I ever found a sport that I could play and get a chance to play in the Paralympics that I would really go for it. It just so happens that worked out.
P: What was Operation Comfort’s role in helping you find sled hockey?
RR: Operation Comfort invited me to do an MS-150, it’s a bike ride for multiple sclerosis and Operation Comfort helps veterans with disabilities due to combat. We did this bike ride and from there they had asked me to come and try the sport of sled hockey. They are the ones who sponsored this all-veteran team there in San Antonio. After playing for 8 months, our coach at the time, Lonny Hannah, was on the national team and said he thought I could make the Paralympic team. I didn’t even know there was a Paralympic team for this sport. I thought this was just the local, fun, rec thing to do. I tried out for the 2010 Vancouver games, but I didn’t make the team. I had to rise up and work really hard to make this national team. I made it the following year and have been on it now for four seasons, so I’m so excited to play in the Paralympics coming up.
P: Are your kids into sports? Do you hope that maybe one of them will take on hockey?
RR: Oh definitely. Texas is not that big into hockey, though. Football is #1 there. My son plays a little football. My daughter just finished basketball season so now she’s starting swimming. My son, I just got him started with skating lessons.
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P: What do you hope your kids can learn from your experiences, everything from your service to your injury and recovery to now your representing Team USA?
RR: I’m hoping that they’ll learn that you never know what life’s going to throw at you and to just be happy with what you’ve got and always to work hard at the things you want. Focus on things that you want. Tell yourself that you can do it and go get it.
P: Is your family coming with you to Sochi?
RR: They are. I’m so excited about it. They’ve never seen me play in the international games. They’ve seen me play in the club league but this will be the first international tournament and it’s the biggest thing, of course, the Paralympics. I’m very excited about them coming. I would love to eat some local food and enjoy the scenery with them and hopefully they embrace all of that and take it all with them.
For those at home: The Paralympic Games will be aired on NBC for 50 hours of coverage. This is the first time this is to ever happen.
Celebrate the Olympics and Paralympics at your house with this themed cake!
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Thursday, January 30th, 2014
With the Sochi Winter Games commencing on February 6th, we’re getting into the Olympic spirit.
We’re taking a look at 5 past and present winter Olympic parents, including hockey stars Mike Smith and Jenny Schmidgall-Potter, and controversial figure skater Tonya Harding.
Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith is headed to Sochi to represent his home country, Canada. But the hockey star, 31, will not be bringing his young family due to the recent threats and terrorist attacks in the region.
“Me having two young kids, my wife’s also expecting number three, they’re not going to go. It’s not worth it,” the NHL star told CBC. “It’s not worth it for myself, thinking about is she okay whenever I’m not with her. It’s something that’s unfortunate but that’s just how it is.”
Mike’s wife is fellow Olympian, Canadian Alpine skier Brigitte Acton.
Father of sons Aidan, 10, and Maxx, 6, former Olympian Scott Hamilton will be in Sochi as a figure skating analyst for NBC. The 1984 champ, 55, makes light of his “unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses,” including testicular cancer and a recurrent benign brain tumor.
“I left home at 13. I have two sons,” Scott told Parade. “I’m not capable of letting them leave because I feel like I missed that time with my parents. My mother died when I was 19. It’s like, ‘No, I’m not going to sacrifice that time.’”
Also a Dancing with the Stars champ, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi is now raising two daughters – Keara, 10, and Emma, 8 — with husband and former Olympic hockey player Bret Hedican. She will be in Sochi as the U.S. Olympic committee’s digital ambassador.
“I am very excited about the upcoming Olympics in Sochi,” Kristi told Celebrity Baby Scoop in August. “I don’t think my children will go, because it is such a far trip to take during the school year.”
On the controversy surrounding the Winter Games in Russia, Kristi said: “When I think of the Olympics, I think of everyone coming together in peace and competing in goodwill and good sport. I hope that everyone is able to do that as well. It’s all about these amazing athletes who have worked their entire lives to showcase their dreams. I’ll be cheering for all the athletes!”
Former Olympian Tonya Harding was involved in one of the most shocking winter sport scandals of all time.
Two decades ago, her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly hired a man to break Nancy’s leg making it impossible for her compete against Tonya in the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit.
“I don’t care,” Tonya recently told Access Hollywood when asked if she’s bothered by the public’s opinion of her. “Everybody is entitled to their opinion; it was 20 years ago. [Gillooly and I] both have gone our separate ways. Get over it, okay? Its 20 years. I’m sure that she’s done and I am, too.”
On her life now, Tonya says she’s loving being a “mommy.”
“I’m married and I have a son… I wasn’t supposed to have children, so my son is my miracle… I love being a mommy and I like to do landscaping in the summertime, and then I kind of do these fire starters where I dip pinecones in scented wax,” she shared.
Gold medal Olympic hockey player, Jenny Schmidgall-Potter, is proud mom to daughter Maddy, 12, and son Cullen, 6. The 35-year-old hockey star opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about how her family keeps her grounded.
“I don’t really have a mantra but I do believe in hard work,” Jenny said. “I think being the best you can be and trying to be one of the best players in the world keeps me focused and that my family is there is share it with me.”
Check out our 2014 Sochi Olympic Games coverage, take our parenting style quiz to see what type of parent you are, or find sports equipment at Shop Parents.
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