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Michelle Rzepka: Spartan Olympian

  • Published: 05/24/2010

Those was followed the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, saw three Spartans in competition—USA’s Ryan Miller and Canada’s Duncan Keith in men’s ice hockey, and bobsledder Michelle “Mickie” Rzepka (right in photo), ’05, a newcomer to the sport who has emerged as one of the world’s top breakwomen. Although she took up the sport in 2007, Rezpka, a Big Ten indoors and outdoors pole vault champion, boasted top ten finishes in seven of eight World Cup races. In January, performing as brakewoman for driver Shauna Rohbock, Michelle helped set the track record in Igls, Austria, winning the final bobsled World Cup event of the season. She also won gold in Cesana, Italy, in December, and has won several bronzes—including in February 2009 at Whistler, Canada, site of the 2010 Olympic Games. “It’s been an amazing journey,” says Mickie, who followed the advice of two former MSU assistant track coaches, Randy Huntington and Ty Sevin, and took up the sport. “When they first suggested bobsledding, I laughed. I said, ‘I don’t do snow.’” But after a trip to Lake Placid in 2007, she was hooked. “I’m a push athlete,” explains Mickie. “In both pole vault and bobsledding, you need explosive power for a few seconds. All my training gave me power, strength and speed. That’s what you need in bodsledding.” The last step in pole vaulting—a single step off one leg—is similar to the motion of jumping into the sled. Of course, going at 90 miles per hour presents a different set of risks to vaulting. A native of Novi, Mickie was a three-sport athlete and chose to attend MSU after visiting the campus. “Everything felt right,” she recalls. She had five different coaches at MSU. “There was a lot going on,” she says with a chuckle. “But I learned from all of them.”

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