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Travel & Training: In Their Own Words

We are so proud to have fueled 31 Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ dreams in London through our Travel & Training Fund program. We have also funded countless other elite athletes who don’t always reach their ultimate goal – at least not this year. Read on to hear — in their own words — Travel & Training grantees Ursula Grobler’s (Rowing) and Erin Alberda’s (Para Equestrian) take on narrowly missing making the Team USA roster.

Ursula Grobler (Rowing):
This year was all about making the Olympic Team. In April I raced with my partner against fellow (Travel & Training) grant winners Kristen Hedstom and Julie Nichols. We came in second and only the winner goes to the Olympics. It was a hard loss and took me a few months to pick myself back up. After all the support and momentum I have gathered, I decided to continue on my path, even though the results led me to a slight side step. I decided to keep going and race in the non-Olympic World Champs in the Lightweight Women Single. It is an event that is completely un-funded so the grant has helped me to make this opportunity possible.

It’s been a tough year. I just had to refocus and a world champion medal is still a great victory. It’s not the Olympics, but it is still an achievement and I want to keep going.

Erin Alberda (Para Equestrian):
Heartbreakingly, my campaign to London ended abruptly at Selection Trials as I had to make the very difficult choice to withdraw from competition. My equine partner, Sir Rocco, was just not performing at his best, which gave me grave concern for his well-being. Upon his return home, we discovered he had in fact aggravated an old injury. Unlike managing a piece of equipment, our horses are living breathing athletes, subject to the same stresses as their human counterparts. Despite months of training and preparation, your fate can change in an instant.

While I am exceedingly disappointed, I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to help the US earn the scores necessary to earn a team invitation to the game, and trust that my teammates will represent our country and our sport well. I turn my focus towards the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France in 2014, and the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.

Upon my return from Selection Trials, I was invited to be the guest judge at a dressage competition for a therapeutic riding center. I was thrilled to be able to use this chance to provide support to a number of fantastic young athletes who were curious about getting involved in para dressage. One of my continued goals is to work to provide mentorship for aspiring athletes. One of the pieces I realized in judging at that small show, is that there is not enough athlete development, or competitive opportunities for athletes who are not yet ready to compete at the international standard. I want to expand opportunities for our up and coming riders, and hope to work with our sport and national affiliates in the next year to create “development” classes at our CPEDI shows to this end.

The future is bright.