Valerie Fleming column
Even though he was just getting ready to sit down for lunch in Grass Valley on Tuesday when the phone call came, this was one interruption Vic Fleming truly looked forward to.
After all, what could be better to a proud dad than to hear from his daughter who is in Italy watching the Winter Olympic Games?
“It was Victoria, who is over there in Turin, and she says, ‘Here, I have somebody who wants to talk to you’ … and it was Valerie,” Fleming said, referring to his fraternal twin daughters, Valerie and Victoria.
Hearing from your daughter who’s just won a silver medal, now that’s truly special.
With a push from brakeman Valerie Fleming, Shauna Rohbock and USA-1 sped to the women’s bobsled silver medal Tuesday, the first hardware collected by American sliders to date in Turin.
Surprised? Thrilled? It was hard for Vic Fleming to put his feelings into words.
“Hope springs eternal,” he said. “How can you put it into words? How can you express yourself?”
Rohbock, who was bumped from the U.S. women’s Olympic team in Salt Lake City four years ago, did the driving and her roommate handled the brakeman chores en route to the second-place finish – only .71 seconds behind Germany’s Sandra Kiriasis and Anja Schneiderheinze.
This outcome didn’t come as a complete surprise because Rohbock and Fleming had momentum coming to Turin. They earned the No. 1 American ranking with a bronze medal performance at the 2005 World Championships and then with top-three finishes in four of five World Cup races in 2006.
Valerie Fleming’s rise to the podium has been amazing considering she only took up the sport less than three years ago. She ran track growing up in the Bay Area and was a sprinter at Hillsdale High School (San Mateo) before she moved on to the University of California, Santa Barbara and emerged as a standout in both the sprints and javelin.
Though she was fast enough to run on a school record-setting 4×100 relay team, javelin was the event where Fleming won a Big West Conference championship and where she pinned her Olympic aspirations.
An elbow injury and three subsequent surgeries put an end to those aspirations, but she never gave up. After completing rehab on the injury, she finished work on her graduate program at Saint Mary’s College and in 2003 was a graduate assistant on the University of Tennessee women’s strength and conditioning staff.
In the meantime, she was redirected toward another sport, according to NBCOlympics.com – by Ben Fogel, a product of Nevada Union High School and member of the U.S. men’s bobsled team.
And her father, who retired from the San Francisco Police Department and moved to Grass Valley seven years ago, couldn’t be prouder.
“Growing up in the Bay Area like she did and then ending up in a winter sport, I would have never guessed it,” Vic Fleming said. “But, you know, she’s done well in every sport she’s ever competed in. When you have that desire to compete, anything is possible.”
To contact sports editor Dave Price, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4240.
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