Being on the world stage, competing against the best-of-the-best, can be intimidating for most. However, for Carlo Valdes, intimidation is non-existent. The Olympic athlete is representing team U.S.A in the bobsled competition. However, despite the extreme fanfare attached to the international event, Valdes maintains a calm and collected disposition.
“It’s just business as usual just with more distractions,” says Valdes, “staying focused is pretty easy but getting lost is easy too. You just have to stick to the same routine and make sure you’re not doing anything different.”
The Olympian also remained unperturbed when asked about how he tunes out rising pressure. He says, “It’s pretty easy because I am a low-stress kind of guy, so I don’t get too excited or too low or too sad for anything. I just get more level-headed. Distractions are part of the games, part of the process leading to the races and I can control what I can control. I can say no to anything. Whether its interviews or controlling [my] time on social media.”
Additionally, its Valdes’ humbleness that drives his ability to see outside of the competitions and into the larger message behind the games. When asked about what being an Olympic athlete means to him, Valdes says it’s about “honor and [being] proud to represent the country and willing to spread that unity throughout the games. Getting the world together and watching the games in peace for the next two weeks. Making sure that you are not just there to compete but spread awareness. All these different nations [are] coming together.”
Speaking of unity, Valdes was able to witness first-hand North and South Korea walking into the opening ceremony under one flag. On the experience, Valdes says, “Everyone stood up and the whole stage got pretty loud. Putting all of it [tension] off for that time and [for the] next couple of weeks. It’s what we should be doing in the future.” He also added that being able to see a united Korea during the opening ceremony was “a cool feeling. You could just feel it in the stadium. It was cool to witness that moment and have all the people see that. I hope that it extends beyond the Olympics.”
Valdes’ passion for unity also coincides with his beloved sport. Competing on the four-man bobsled Olympic team, Valdes knows there is no room for arrogance or a one-man mindset. “Teams have to have that unity… it’s important to have great teammates.” Valdes says. He then adds, “One bad apple can be the downfall. It’s important that we work together and that cohesion is good. Especially in the past, the teams that do well are the ones that get along. [They] can’t be stopped. You’ve seen it before, individualistic teams fall apart.”
Thankfully, the US bobsled team has no issues when it comes to cohesion. Valdes says, “Everyone is so supportive. Coaches haven’t seen anything like that in the past and for us to have that is pretty special. We have a good shot at medaling.”
On the topic of medaling, Valdes has earned his place amongst the ranks of world-class champions. He is a two-time world cup gold medalist, a world cup silver medalist, and now he is competing for every US athlete’s goal: a spot on that Olympic podium. After so many wins, one would think winning would be something he has grown accustomed to but Valdes remains humble and gracious after every win. He says, “ [Winning is] still the same feeling but it’s harder to consistently win. World cup circuit is so competitive…it’s really hard to get on top of that podium but once you get that top 3 it’s a great feeling and I cherish those moments.”
In addition to being an accomplished athlete, Valdes is also an exemplary leader. As one of the few Latinos on the USA Olympic team, he is well aware of the weight behind that honor. He says “It’s pretty cool I am part of that select group. It’s rare to have Latinos for the US in the Winter Olympics. To be the few representing is a tremendous honor. I want to share that with generations to come.”
In fact, extending his wisdom and leadership to younger generations is important to Valdes. He is part of the Classroom Champions, an organization dedicated to bringing upstanding mentors to young students. Having a mentor himself while growing up taught Valdes the importance of mentorship. He says, “It's important because some kids need a mentor. Their parents and schools don’t get outside enough sometimes. I think for kids to grow they need to see what’s going on. I had a mentor when I grew up as a kid and he taught me so much. He taught me what it's really like outside of my own town…Especially in California, there are so many different walks of life so it’s good to see that and know how to deal with these things.”
Carlo Valdes reminds us about the strength of humbleness, the meaning of leadership, and the power of unity. Although, of course, the Olympics are ultimately a message of cohesiveness, these athletes have worked tirelessly to earn a chance to represent their country in their respective sports. On winning a medal, Valdes says, “Winning a gold medal, that would be a good feeling. Getting that Olympic hardware is an ultimate dream come true. Making the team was good but we are all here to win.”
The bobsled competition starts on Feb. 23. Good luck to Valdes and his team! We are all rooting for you here at home.