Why would anybody in his right mind want to jump on a sled and hurl himself down an icy mountain at over 80 miles per hour?
At the age of 21, Ruben Gonzalez took up the sport of luge and started training for the Olympics. Four years and a few broken bones later, Ruben made his Olympic dream come true!
But he didn’t stop there. Ruben kept training, and at the age of 47, he was competing against 20-year-olds at the Vancouver Winter Olympics!
Ruben’s the first and only person to ever compete in four Winter Olympics each in a different decade!
Since his time as an Olympian, Ruben has authored multiple best-selling books and has spoken to thousands of people around the world.
So now that you know a little bit about who Ruben is and what he had done let’s get straight into the interview!
So Ruben, How does someone from hot and steamy Houston, TX end up competing in the Winter Olympics in the luge?
When I was 21, I saw Scott Hamilton win the gold medal in figure skating at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. Hamilton is only 5 foot 1. I said to myself, If that little guy can do it, I can too. I’ll be in the next Olympics. I was always very perseverant. I chose the luge because I thought, “Looks like a lot of broken bones. There must be a lot of quitters. I just won’t quit.”
I wrote Sports Illustrated to find out where the luge track was. They said, Lake Placid, NY. I went to Lake Placid and took up the sport. It was brutal. My first 2 years I was crashing 4 out of 5 times. I broke a bunch of bones, but I kept coming back. By the 3rd year, I was crashing 1 out of a hundred times. Then I started competing internationally and I was able to make the Olympic qualification standard — top 50 in the world. I got to compete in four Olympics — Calgary, Albertville, Salt Lake City, and Vancouver.
What does it feel like to hurl yourself down an icy mountain at 90 MPH? Is it scary?
Brutal. You’re on the edge the whole time. I was so scared. I “white-knuckled” it for 25 years. You hit 95 MPH on some tracks, pull up to 6 G forces in the curves. I don’t recommend it.
What did an average day of training for the Olympics look like?
I would take 2–3 runs in the morning, which takes a couple of hours because there are a lot of athletes training at the same time. Then I’d get lunch. Then I’d do another 2–3 runs in the afternoon, dinner, watch videos of our runs with the coach to debrief, spend an hour in the evening working on the sled. We do this routine Monday to Friday then we would race on the weekends then travel to the next track.
You wrote a book called “The Courage to Succeed.” How can someone become unstoppable on the way to their goals and dreams?
Find a dream you are passionate about. Meet regularly with a mentor or coach who has already done what you want to do. Put pictures of your dream everywhere so you are always thinking about it. Associate with positive, like-minded people. Disassociate from negative people. Talk about your dream with positive people. Constantly take action towards your dream. Read positive books, and take MASSIVE action.
What are the two types of courage you need to develop to succeed in life?
The courage to get started and the courage to not quit.
Why are belief and desire so important?
If you believe something is possible you’ll get started. If you want it badly enough you won’t quit.
What’s the one quality all successful people have?
Perseverance. They stay in the game long enough to learn the skills necessary to succeed.
What advice would you give someone who’s feeling stuck in their job or simply in life?
Get back to the dream. Figure out what you would like to do or accomplish more than anything else in life. The dream gives you strength, power, and passion.
What books would you highly recommend anyone to read?
What are the biggest challenges you have found to come with the life of an entrepreneur?
It can be lonely. So you have to meet regularly with other entrepreneurs. Staying focused on what’s important.
How did visualization help you become unstoppable on the way to the Olympics?
I always visualized (pictured in my mind) what it would feel like when I was walking into the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. That got me fired up about doing what I needed to do to get there.
Since we only take 5–6 runs a day we visualize luge runs about 80–100 times a day. We visualize the perfect run, but we also visualize how to get out of trouble if we enter a curve too early or too late. Visualizing contingency plans is important because it gives us the confidence to know that we can get out of trouble.
What was it like to compete in the Vancouver Winter Olympics at the age of 47?
It was great. Everybody else was in their 20’s. So everybody thought I was a coach. When I told them I was an athlete they didn’t believe me.
What are the Olympics really about?
The Olympics are about the dream. They are a place that showcases to the world the power of the human spirit. They show that if you have a dream and are willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes dreams do come true.
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