An Olympic challenge

IDF’s Blue Circle Champion Kris Freeman has returned from his fourth Winter Olympics in Sochi. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000 at the age of 19, he was told that his career was over. However, a combination of personal strength, perseverance and the right tools for diabetes management helped Kris excel at one of the toughest endurance sports. We asked him about his Olympic experience and how he deals with his diabetes as a top athlete.

How has diabetes influenced your sports career and training regime?
I have had to learn more about physiology and nutrition than I ever planned to. Properly timing my menu in accordance with my training is critical to getting the most from my workouts.  Innovation in diabetes care has improved drastically in the last two decades. Using these tools I have been able to overcome most of the challenges that diabetes has presented with diligent analysis and planning. 

In order to say exactly how diabetes has influenced my career, I would have to know what my life would be like without diabetes. I will never know the answer to that so I don’t think about it.

How was your experience at the Winter Olympics in Sochi? Did you feel your diabetes was well managed? What were the reactions of your fellow competitors to your diabetes?
I enjoyed my time at the Olympics. I did not perform as well as I had hoped I would. I believe that I trained a little too hard in preparation for the Olympics this year which left me too tired to perform at my best. There is a very delicate line between optimal training and overtraining. Unfortunately I stepped over it. 

My diabetes was very well controlled. For the past four years I have practiced yoga and meditation to learn to control my stress levels. I was able to remain calm before my races which aided my glucose control. This was my fourth Olympics so nearly everyone that I raced against already knew of my diabetes.

How has technology helped you manage your diabetes and training demands?
I have found my Continuous Glucose Monitor to be tremendously helpful for tracking the trends of my blood sugar. My insulin pump allows to change basal rates on the fly and configure bolus doses to be deliver in a myriad of ways.

Do you feel there is still stigma and discrimination attached to diabetes today?
I have never felt discriminated against. I have been very open about having diabetes from the day I was diagnosed. I encourage people to ask questions about the disease and find that when I explain the disease and treatment in laymen's terms I always get a positive response.

What would be your message to someone newly diagnosed with diabetes?
This is not a fun disease, but it is entirely a manageable one. The more you learn about your condition and the more responsibility you take for your own care, the less of an impact it will have on your life. There is no good reason that this disease has to change any of the goals and dreams you have for your life.