By Chris Cole and Paul Mullin
If someone asked you to yell the first thing that came to mind when you heard the words “Lake Placid,” it would likely either involve skiing or giant, man-eating alligators. For Rider graduate Jazmine Fenlator, a former track and field athlete, it’s all about bobsledding.
Fenlator took her first ever ride in a bobsled — what she described as “the longest 50 seconds of my life” — on the Lake Placid track; a mile long stretch of smooth, icy curves that she described as “one of the roughest tracks in the world.”
Feeling a mix of excitement, nervousness and fear, Fenlator was warned of the usual pressure and weird feelings that would accompany the ride, but as she said, “no one can really tell you how a bobsled ride is going to feel until you do it yourself.
“I felt like we were flying,” she said. “There was some pressure, and my head was flying all over the place. I could hear the rattling and the tapping on the sides of the sled as we went in and out of the curves. It was like a rollercoaster on steroids.”
Fenlator has undertaken a journey to compete as part of the U.S. Olympic Bobsledding Team in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She is a member of one of five teams of women competing for two spots on the U.S. Olympic team, as well as one alternate spot.
The biggest opportunities can come of nowhere, and that’s just what happened to Fenlator when Rider track and field Head Coach Rob Pasquariello brought bobsledding to her attention.
“My track coach knew someone who tried out for bobsledding a while ago,” Fenlator said, “and I applied and didn’t get a response until four months later.”
Since taking up bobsledding in September 2007, Fenlator has had the chance to experience the world, training in locales in Utah and Europe, including Germany, Switzerland and Sweden.
“Germany and Sweden are where bobsledding all started,” Fenlator said. “St. Moritz in Switzerland has the only all-natural ice track in the world.”
The sport of bobsledding has some definite risk in it, she admits, just as other sports.
“It’s kind of like racing cars or sledding as a little kid down a snow bank,” Fenlator said. “There’s definitely some daredevil in it.”
As much as Fenlator enjoys bobsledding, she notes that it can be rough, and like any sport it will usually leave you a little black-and-blue. She said she once found herself face to face with the brakes after the driver of her bobsled failed to take a turn properly.
Fenlator, from Wayne, N.J., was an oft-honored star during her time at Rider. Graduating in 2007 with a 3.560 GPA as a journalism major, she won five MAAC gold medals in 2007 and earned All-Eastern honors in four events.
She was also named Rider’s New Jersey AIAW Woman of the Year and named to CoSIDA’s ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 2 women’s track and field/cross country team.
She set five field records as a Bronc; three in the outdoor arena (shot put, discus, and hammer throw) and two for indoor events (shot put and the 20-pound weight).
Fenlator also broke a MAAC Championship record in the shot put, and was named Most Outstanding Performer in field events in 2005 and 2006.
As a junior, she was also named one of the top 25 performers in the history of the MAAC, and was crowned one of three Clair Bee Trophy winners as a Rider Athlete of the Year in 2007.
Fenlator has also taken up coaching. The Rider alum received her coaching certification last March during spring break, and has since participated in a summer camp in Princeton and joined Pasquariello as a volunteer assistant coach with the track and field team.
“I have always loved the idea of coaching and helping my teammates out with performing whenever I could,” Fenlator said. “I have been contributing to the team sporadically throughout the year, but on a consistent basis since I came back from my bobsled season.”
The fact that Fenlator can train for two sports is something to be commended, according to her friend and former teammate Jen Alksmant.
“It’s amazing that she can do both track and bobsledding,” said Alksmant. “It’s also great that she’s giving back to Rider by coaching.
The need to try as many new physical activities is something that is important to Fenlator, because, as she says, the “athletic clock is ticking.”
“I have a lot on my plate coaching track and doing bobsledding, but I figure I might as well do it all now because I won’t be able to do this when I’m 45,” she said.
The strength of technique is what makes anything great: a person can play piano by ear, but they can be so much better if they take professional lessons. The fact that Fenlator pays attention to focus on craft and technique and not just raw talent is what Pasquariello calls her best quality.
“Fenlator puts herself in the competitive arena by thriving on it, and she is not afraid of risking failure,” Pasquariello said. “She concentrates on the process of what she’s doing and not necessarily the outcome, which shows that she has no fear of the spotlight.”
After all the work Fenlator is putting into striving for making the Olympics in bobsledding, she said that she still wants to continue with track and field.
“I originally wanted to go to the Olympics for track and field and I still may do that,” she said.