Lauren Weibert, Snowboarding
First-timer Lauren Weibert won a gold and a silver at the 2015 Deaflympics in Russia.
I got involved with snowboarding simply because it looked FUN! When I strapped into my snowboard for the first time at 13 years old, I never imagined the places I would get to go to because of snowboarding. I absolutely love it and don't see myself stopping anytime soon. Snowboarding is my happy place, my escape, my solace. I like to compete because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and encourages me to try new tricks.
I’ve been in many local and national competitions, but the 2015 Deaflympics in Russia was my first time competing against deaf peers. The Deaflympics is such a positive and enriching experience, especially if you come from a place where you're one of the very few deaf people in your community. It's amazing to be able to meet other deaf people with same interests as you! Every Deaf athlete really should make it their goal to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. The shared bond we all have feels empowering and makes me want to encourage more deaf youth to be active in sports because sports really does link people together. And if someone is successful in a sport, what's to stop them from being successful in school, work and so on? I will never forget my experience in Russia, and I hope to relive it all again in 4 years! (or 2.... if I compete in mountain biking at the 2017 Summer Games!)
However, the pressure to raise enough money definitely was intense. I didn't think I was going to meet my goal in time! I had gotten the email that I was accepted to the USADSF National Snowboard Team in October 2014. I was a full-time college student in Fall 2014 so between school, working, and training, I virtually had no time to try to fundraise money. The deadline was ridiculously early, too, like mid-February.
I had a gofundme page and I also had a fundraising jar set up at a local coffeeshop in Frisco, CO. Despite promoting my gofundme page on social media regularly, my fundraising jar was by far more successful than the gofundme page. The biggest donations came from my amazing Rocky Mountain community which I am so blessed to be a part of. When I started panicking about the deadline, Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters hosted a fundraising party to help me raise more money in order to send me to Russia, and local businesses donated plenty of drinks, food and awesome prizes! Friends and strangers rallied together to show support for me at the fundraising party, and I cannot thank them enough for all their help.
I became a part-time student in Spring 2015 to try to free up some more time to train. I had to do one or the other. The 2014-2015 was my first full season since my knee surgery in December 2013, so I had a lot of catching up to do snowboard-wise. I trained by going snowboarding as much as I could. I didn't have time outside of my daily routine to go to the gym and strengthen my leg as much as I should have.
Back when I had a sponsor that paid travel fees for out-of-state competitions, I went to all these slopestyle and rail jam competitions and that competition experience definitely helped me improve as a snowboarder. All the different locations allowed me to be exposed to a variety of terrain and conditions; that helped me be prepared for any kind of scenario.
I did not have a coach, and have never had a coach. I also don’t have any deaf peers to ride or train with. I’m the only deaf person in Summit County that does what I do. It would be amazing to train with other deaf boarders and also learn from a deaf coach or at least a coach that signs! With support and feedback, I’d be really motivated and more willing to try new, harder tricks and hit bigger jumps. At the 2015 Deaflympics, the snowboard team had two coaches who were also competing athletes. They were great, but imagine how tough it must’ve been for them to coach and compete at the same time! I was surprised to see that other snowboarders from other countries had coaches from their country’s national olympic teams. It didn’t make me feel too good about myself, like our country doesn’t support their Deaf athletes.
If USADSF could cover travel fees, that would relieve a lot of stress and also help athletes to focus more on their training rather than fundraising. When athletes can worry about one less thing and focus more on training, they can perform better; much, much better. And if we aren’t going to have coaches, we really need the time to better ourselves.