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February 2, 2022 - TCO

Meet Our Team Before Beijing

As the world’s attention turns to Beijing, we’re excited to spotlight employees who will be traveling with America’s athletes and providing expert care, advice, and guidance as they try to fulfill their dreams.

Michael Gulenchyn, a Twin Cities Orthopedics and Training HAUS certified athletic trainer (ATC), is the USA Curling Sports Science Coordinator. While Kaela Colvard, a Training HAUS Sports Dietitian, is the USA Curling & USA Women’s Hockey team’s Sports Dietitian.

Check out the Q&A’s below to get to know Kaela and Michael better before they’re Beijing-bound.

Kaela Colvard, USA Curling & USA Women’s Hockey Sports Dietitian

Q: What is your role with the team?

A: As both teams’ Sports Dietitian, I work to make sure our athletes are fueled properly. This is important in order to support their performance in a sustainable and balanced fashion that can last and adapt to the demands of competition. And it’s a job I do not take lightly. I work in collaboration with Team USA athletic trainers, sports performance coaches, sports science coordinators and sport psychologists to optimize athlete care, provide one-on-one nutrition coaching, develop meal plans for athletes, coordinate necessary fueling logistics for competition, and ensure safe and effective use of dietary supplements.

Q: How do you help USA Curling & USA Women’s Hockey athletes prepare for Beijing?

A: Prepping for Beijing has been a 4+ year process in order to make sure our athletes are fueled and practiced with the nutrition tools they need. You train your nutrition muscles just like every muscle in your body, so preparation and consistency are key. We have worked for multiple years to educate our athletes on proper fueling patterns and nutrition practices that allow for their optimal performance so by the time we get to Beijing, it’s just muscle memory.

I work very closely with the sports medicine staff to make sure that each athlete feels confident and strong as an individual. We track skeletal mass throughout the year to make sure that our athletes are fueling and recovering properly for long competition seasons and in preparation for Beijing. It is our job to make sure each athlete is at a point in their career that their health and body composition can sustain 10+ days of back-to-back competition at the absolute highest level, and no one is losing weight in a way that impacts their gravitational load on the ice. We also work to establish and train best acclimation schedules for nutrition to transition properly to the 14-hour time change.

Preparing for international competition can be a very stressful task for athletes in relation to their nutrition. Traveling to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar foods often leaves athletes under-fueled and unable to sustain in long competition events. Planning for and preparing fueling items to feed full teams for a month in China with no access to outside vendors is a very intensive task. We have worked for over a year with the food service providers in Beijing to absolutely ensure food and water will be safe and hold the same standards (if not greater) than we have at home, and have worked tirelessly through menus that adequately meet the dietary needs of our athletes.

One more extremely important part of my job is making sure our athletes safely and effectively using dietary supplements. Each individual is subject to drug testing, and is banned from the ingestion of hundreds of substances. Because dietary substances are not regulated by the government proactively, it is important that I confirm each dietary supplement is safe and that the contents have been third-party tested to ensure no banned substances are present that may keep the team off the podium. In addition to safety, I work to ensure athletes have an adequate nutrition foundation to allow these dietary supplements to work effectively.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in Beijing?

A: I am really looking forward to just being there to support our athletes in achieving their dreams and honoring our country. It will absolutely be a new experience for me to support and fuel these athletes for such a long period of time.

I remember listening to a lecture when I was just an intern from a Sports Dietitian who had worked with America’s athletes. I thought to myself about how awesome it seemed, but at that point, it felt out of reach and almost unrealistic. Now, I am here living out that dream, and I’m proud of myself for all of the work it took to get to this point.

Q: As a Sports Dietitian, what food are you most looking forward to trying in Beijing?

A: There are SO many foods I am looking forward to trying (going to school for 6+ years to study food, you know I REALLY love food!). One thing on the daily menu is fresh dumplings. This is one thing in Beijing that I am looking forward to experiencing within their cultural profile. I am also thrilled to support our athletes by preparing their game-day energy bites so they can achieve maximum performance.

Q: What will you do if you win it all?

A: WHEN we win it all, I will be beyond thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of our athletes. It is truly their success, dedication and perseverance that makes it all possible. I will be very excited to come back home to celebrate with my husband and little boy — whose sacrifice made it possible for me to be away for five weeks to achieve this dream.

Michael Gulenchyn, USA Curling Sports Science Coordinator

Q: What is your role with the team?

A:  As USA Curling’s Sports Science Coordinator, I have two main roles. The first centers around sports medicine & sports performance. I am the USA Curling Certified Athletic Trainer, which is the sports medicine component. I’m also the USA Curling Strength & Conditioning Specialist, which is all about sports performance.

In addition, I coordinate and work together with all of the sports science disciplines/athlete resources. USA Curling National Team athletes have world-class resources available to them during the past four years, and everyone involved with the sports science team has done an amazing job preparing all 54 individuals during this period of time. Everyone plays an important part in the development of these athletes.

Along with USA Curling sports science team, we also work with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s staff giving our national team athlete even more support through their journey within the sport of curling.

Q: How do you help USA Curling athletes prepare for Beijing?

A: Preparing athletes for Beijing has been a challenge over the past two years with the numerous changes COVID-19 has placed on everyone.  Our athletes haven’t been able to have a normal competition schedule the past 24 months. However, throughout this period of time, our athletes have been extremely motivated and continued to push each other on and off the ice.

Our sports performance training sessions were constantly changing, and we had to be very creative in our training sessions for athletes.  In the end, the safety of the athletes was the most challenging component and lead to different restrictions throughout their training.

In general, we expect our athletes to train between 3 to 5 days per week and give us at least 75 minutes of good high-quality work. The athletes within the Twin Cities are able to get into the Training HAUS on a daily basis where they focus on different elements within sports performance that are important within the sport of curing.   Some of the bigger areas we continue to focus on throughout an athlete’s career are the hips and shoulders.  The delivery of the rock and the sweeping component have created the most stress on these joints.

Along with the sports performance role, I will travel with our men, women and mixed doubles teams for any sports medicine/performance needs at the major events throughout the season.   While on the road, athletes have resources necessary throughout these long events (the world championships will be 10 days in duration where an athlete may compete up to six or seven hours).  Athletes do have access to any sports medicine needs while on the road (including treatments, evaluations/preventive and recovery plans).  Communication with all the support staff is huge in making sure these athletes are ready on a daily basis.  If a situation develops on the road, Dr. Cole (USA Curling team physician) has been a great resource for all of our sports medicine needs.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in Beijing?

A: Working with the athletes and staff. The past four years have been an amazing experience, and seeing these individuals compete on the world stage will be extremely gratifying. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how hard our athletes have prepared, and can’t wait to see what they will accomplish against the best athletes within their sport.

Q: As a Certified Athletic Trainer, how are you prepping your body for the long flight to Beijing?

A: When traveling to competitions in Europe or Asia, our athletes will go through an acclimation process to prepare any jet lag. This will usually start with each individual making adjustments to the time change gradually.  This may mean changing sleep schedules over a period of time and usually is adjusted an hour or two each day, depending on how much time we will have for the acclimation period.

We will also have athletes follow a travel schedule that prepares them for the flight.  This schedule will include pre-travel training sessions (sitting for long periods on these flights), sleep time on the plane, meal schedule for the flight, and what the process will be when landing in Beijing.

After a 14-hour flight, it is very difficult to make changes quickly, so we need to make sure our athletes have a plan in place and are ready to compete.

Q: What will you do if you win it all?

A: In the end, just knowing your work with these individuals played a role in their accomplishments and the memories within this journey will always be something special. They are all great people within the program and have enjoyed being a part of the sport.