CBN.com Going for the gold… It's a dream many share but few ever experience. Eric Bernatos is one of those few. His dreams started as a child watching TV.
“I remember when I was eight sitting and watching the 1980 Olympic games, and I think that’s when I had my first introduction to the potential that existed within me,” Eric says. “In grammar school with my schoolmates out at recess, I knew that there was an opportunity to turn that into something. That’s when the passion for the Olympics started to grow.”
Today Eric is a world-renowned slider in the sport of skeleton racing. The sliders travel down a frozen race course head first on this small sled at speeds topping 85 miles per hour.
"Going down the mountain was strangely enough peaceful and very fast,” he says. “It was a great ride. It’s an art of sliding, and it’s making music with the track. It’s you and the sled and the ice. Just a dance.”
It’s a dance that Eric has mastered. He’s placed first in numerous competitions. In 2005, Eric earned a spot on the prestigious World Cup sled team… not bad for someone who had never even heard of the sport until five years ago.
“I had some good results. I ended up fifth in the world, and I had a gold and a silver in two races,” Eric says. “I left that season with confidence knowing that my abilities had improved, and I was ready next year to go after an Olympic spot.”
Eric’s dream became a reality. He won a spot on the 2006 US Olympic team.
But Eric’s race for the gold has been a slippery one. In college, depression and mounting social pressures pushed him to use marijuana and alcohol to numb himself.
“I started realizing that I was wasting what was given to me. I started trying to reestablish my relationship with God again. I would go and just sit in church by myself, pray, listen and try to strengthen what I knew was there at one time. Hopefully I could reconnect with that. I felt very fortunate that it seems as though God was opening His arms for me to come back whenever I felt ready or whenever I decided to listen.”
Throughout his struggles, Eric held on to his dream of becoming an Olympic athlete.
“I can remember looking though an Olympic book and wondering, ‘Is there still a sport out there for me? Is there still something that I can do?’”
After college, Eric and a friend took a trip to the place his Olympic dreams began... Lake Placid, New York.
“We got to talk to some coaches, found out what was going on. The skeleton sport was just introduced in the 2002 Olympics, which was coming up in two months. This is a great opportunity to get involved.”
Most athletes of Eric’s caliber train for a lifetime to make it to the Olympics. Eric did it in five years. He credits his coach, a former Olympic silver medallist, for his rapid success but also knows that he’s not relying on his own strength.
“God presented this opportunity to me,” Eric says. “I believe we all have desires and dreams about things we would like to do. I think wonderful things can be done with pursuing our dreams if we allow the Spirit to work within us. When we take the proper steps and do our best to make the right decisions, there’s a purpose behind what we’re doing. Our dreams are just one awesome way to do what we love and at the same time do God’s work.”
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