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Sylvia Hoffman is the SupaDupaChick from the land of heroes. She leads an elevated lifestyle. Perpetual goal setting and laser focus are her superpowers. She’s always dreaming big, and her dreams are specific. Today, she’s one of the world’s best bobsledders, having made a fast-paced transition from college basketball and international weightlifting to bobsled brake(wo)man.
Since she was little, Sylvia knew she wanted to compete amongst the best athletes. “You have a dream, and you keep reaching for that dream,” Sylvia believes. “And that’s what lines up your future.” When Sylvia was younger, she wanted to be a skeleton pilot—with no fear of racing head-first and face-down at 80 mph. Now a bobsled brake(wo)man, she has landed in a perfect variation of her dream world.
Sylvia uses her accrued skills and past experiences to carve out new paths forward. When one sport runs its course, she morphs into a different kind of athlete. Wanting to move on from weightlifting, Sylvia gravitated toward bobsledding. Almost immediately, she won the rookie push championships, national push championships, and six world cup medals. Sylvia seeks out new adventures: the learning never stops and neither does the dreaming.
Athleticism is one pillar of Sylvia’s success. Her love of all things technical is another. Bobsledding is a blue-collar sport—there’s no pit crew to do the heavy lifting. The sport requires her to work with her hands and take care of the sled. She studied proper sprint mechanics in order to push start powerfully. She had to monitor her tendency to overlift with weights. “Cohesive training is critical, and it can be a challenge for me,” Sylvia admits.
What’s easier for Sylvia is performing. She can let all the training come together. “You just go out and do it,” she says. Facing the highest level of competition in Beijing this month, Sylvia knows how to keep it real. She’s honored to be recognized for her talents, but she maintains an inclusive perspective. She relies on an excellent team of coaches who help her mentally and physically, and she acknowledges that “we’re all in this together.”
This outlook is another pillar of Sylvia’s success. She realizes her place in the sport, within the team, and in the world. That she’s shining during Black History Month is not ancillary or trivial—it’s SupaDupaCool. “To me, Black History Month means celebrating culture, and it should be every day. We live in a world with tons of oppression, and we need to remember where we’ve come from and how far we’ve come. Black History Month is our chance to consider if we’re doing the same things we’ve always done, or if we’ve graduated to doing things better.”
Black women bobsledders are currently well represented on the American team and they tend to be handpicked from other sports for speed and strength. But black men bobsledders have had a harder time showcasing their talent. What’s exciting to Sylvia is that the number of people of color involved in winter sports is increasing. “We’re making strides towards being involved in more than just the summer sports in warm weather,” she explains. “We can be champions all year round.”
For athletes, women, people of color, and all allies—February is your month! As for Sylvia, she is not holding back. She has hope. She believes she has farther to go. No matter her results and bobsled achievements, Sylvia will remain true to herself and what she wants her legacy to be. Her nickname, SupaDupaChick, means “be everything you can be. Never let up. Never quit. Set goals and pursue them. When you give it your all, you can be successful.”
When the games in Beijing are over, when February ends, and when Black History Month rolls into Mental Health Awareness Month, Sylvia will still be dreaming big. She’ll no doubt be revisiting her dream of piloting a skeleton. She’ll be reflecting on how far African Americans have come in our country. And she’ll be assessing how much progress we still need to make.
Sylvia Hoffman is a proud, longtime Honey Stinger Ambassador. Follow her journey on her Instagram @ms_sylviahoffman.