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Gary Hall Jr.: Kris Freeman is an inspiration

February 15, 2010 |  1:29 pm


As Kris Freeman prepares for what arguably is one of the most stressful environments known to man, the challenge of managing his blood sugar level increases. For those of us living with diabetes, we all know that stress can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels.

Freeman is the United States' best hope for a medal in the cross-country skiing events at the Vancouver Olympics, and he has Type 1 diabetes.

For someone with diabetes mellitus, maintaining a steady blood sugar level is absolutely crucial in the days leading up to and through a competition. It’s easier said than done.

There is travel, often across time zones, and Olympics processing can exhaust even the most conditioned athletes. While the Olympic Village is nice enough, it is hardly a comfortable environment. It’s best to bring your own pillow, sheets and towels. The food is plentiful, but a picky eater would have a hard time. Athletes aren’t known to be picky eaters, but athletes with diabetes need to watch what they eat more than the average athlete.

It is not my intention to bash what the Olympic committee provides its participants.

If you have diabetes any changes in environment, energy levels, stress or food can set off blood sugar ranges on some graph pattern reflective of the mountains these athletes ski down, with moguls.

In all of my personal diabetes advocacy work, the most common question I get is from athletes and parents of athletes on why blood glucose behavior is so dramatically varied on a practice day versus a game day. The simple answer is stress.

Then take into account the adrenaline, endorphins and other hormones naturally released with a maximum physical exertion that most people aren’t able to relate to. All of which, you guessed it, wreak havoc on blood sugar levels.

With all of these factors to juggle, managing diabetes at the highest level of sport is not without its challenges. The encouraging news is that it is possible. Just ask Freeman.

Kris, all of us in the diabetes community throughout the world will be cheering you on! You are an inspiration. You ease the anxiety of the newly diagnosed. Your efforts provide hope and an example that more is possible for those of us living with diabetes today. Keep up the great work and GO!!!

-- Gary Hall Jr.

The Times is pleased to have Gary Hall Jr. blogging for us during the Olympics. Hall has represented the United States in international swimming competition for 16 years, racing in three Olympics and earning 10 medals. This experience built a global network of media, corporate and political contacts that came to his support when he was diagnosed with Type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes. Gary has served as a diabetes advocate and consultant to some of the largest companies in the diabetes industry, including Johnson & Johnson's LifeScan division, Novo Nordisk, BD Medical and Eli Lilly & Co. He has testified before Congress on current healthcare issues, campaigned for diabetes awareness and headed patient outreach programming, education initiatives and fundraising efforts for important diabetes research. Hall currently serves as the director of  business development for B2d Marketing, a leader in business-to-doctor marketing and business development. 

Photo: Kris Freeman. Credit: Jeff McIntosh / Associated Press