Despite the Summer Olympics being postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19, the training must go on for those preparing for next summer’s rescheduled Games, as well as those with their eyes set on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. One local South Floridian is doing just that.
Hollywood native Jared Firestone has been an athlete all his life. He was a star sprinter in both high school and college, winning the District 2A-15 title in 2008 while at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, before heading to Tulane University to continue his career until he graduated in 2012.
In 2014, having retired from competitive sports and during his first year of law school, Jared suffered a mini-stroke. It was during that time he discovered the sport of skeleton while watching the Winter Olympics from his hospital bed. During his two-month recovery, doctors weren’t sure if Jared would ever be able to exercise at all, let alone play sports competitively. It was then that Jared vowed if he was cleared, he would get back to his love for athletics and compete at a high level. After two anxiety-filled months, doctors told Jared he could finally resume physical activity.
Firestone went on to attend Team USA’s Bobsled/Skeleton combine event where athletes are required to test their skills. In 2015, Jared was invited to Lake Placid’s Sliding School in New York and by 2016 was sliding competitively. For three seasons he was part of Team USA’s Developmental Program, until 2019 when he decided to fulfill a life-long dream of representing Israel at the Olympics. Once he successfully attained his Israeli citizenship, Jared officially joined the Israel Skeleton National Team.
The Israeli Olympic Bobsled & Skeleton Federation was established in 2004 and had its first Olympian compete in 2018. David Greaves, President of Bobsleigh Skeleton Israel feels they have built a strong team of highly-competitive and committed athletes going into the 2022 Olympic games and hope to continue the tradition. Much like the unexpected and now all-too-familiar Jamaican bobsled team “Cool Runnings”, Israel’s bobsled athletes refer themselves as the “Frozen Chosen”.
During the 2019/2020 season, Jared broke multiple Israeli Team records and had impressive finishes in the International Skeleton Rankings, finishing 76th in the world, second amongst rookie sliders competing on the international level. He earned the nickname “The Jewish Jet” from other athletes competing on tour with him.
Skeleton, perhaps considered the lesser-known among its more famous counterparts, bobsled, and luge, is an exhilarating sport requiring a combination of strength and speed to push the sled as fast as possible before launching onto it, and split-second decision making and precision in navigating the rest of the mile-long track head-first. Sliders experience up to 5Gs of force and reach speeds of up to 85mph with no built-in steering mechanism or brakes and their chins just centimeters off the ice. So how does a skeleton athlete from Florida prepare for competition for a winter sport during the offseason?
By April, once the ice has melted, most skeleton athletes spend their summer training improving their push-start. This training involves a combination of sprints, weight lifting, and plyometrics. During the week, Jared’s schedule consists of sprint work two to three times a week at a local track, followed by weight lifting later in the day. Typically the best athletes in this sport are good sprinters with a background in Track & Field, hence Firestone’s easy transition from the track to the ice.
As far as improving their ability to drive the sled, many athletes like Jared get creative and incorporate mental training as part of their regimen. Jared spends hours each week memorizing new tracks, watching footage from old races, and visualizing sliding down the track, taking the “I can do it with my eyes closed” reference literally. However, in a sport like skeleton, not everything goes as visualized. At 85 mph, one must be ready to make quick decisions, while also remaining calm and focused. To improve these skills, Jared works with Nicholas Davenport of Mind.Body.1 in Deerfield Beach. Davenport is a cognitive training coach who utilizes integrative methods involving physical and mental exercises in order to achieve optimal high performance.
In November, Jared will be traveling to Lake Placid, New York, host of the 1980 Olympics, to begin his winter training on the ice. You can follow his journey to Beijing 2022 at www.jewishjet.com.