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Bronze medalist Aja Evans: “I don’t sugarcoat it; I aim high”

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Aja Evans doesn’t spend much time reveling in her meteoric rise in bobsled – a sport she took up less than 18 months ago – and she isn’t shy about her lofty goals.

“I don’t sugarcoat it; I aim high,” Evans told Thrive Sports earlier this month. “What’s the point in setting goals, if you don’t believe in them?”

What does she see?

“Just the endless possibilities,” she said. “This is my second year in this sport, and I worked really hard and now I’m an Olympian, going for a medal.”

So far, so good.

On Wednesday, in her Olympic debut, Evans teamed up with Jamie Greubel to win a bronze medal in the women’s two-person bobsled, reaffirming a brilliant start to her career.

A track athlete at the University of Illinois, Evans attended a bobsled combine and established a record. From there, with her trainer at EFT Performance in Highland Park, Ill., Evans emphasized her posterior chain.

Growing up in Chicago, Evans dreamed of being an Olympian.

“I was in high school, and we would go to the Jackie Joyner Kersee Relays [in East St. Louis], Evans recalls. “She was such a phenomenal woman. I looked up to her, and her dominance in the field.

“By admiring a woman like Jackie Joyner-Kersee, I knew I wanted to be an Olympian and have that type of presence.”

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Not that she had a shortage of role models; her older brother, Fred, is a longtime NFL player, currently with the Minnesota Vikings. Her cousin, Gary Matthews Jr., played 12 years of Major League Baseball. And her uncle, Gary Matthews was a one-time All Star.

“I grew up watching my uncle, and my cousin, and I was a baseball head at first,” she said. “Then watching my brother transition form water polo and swimming to football.

“But I grew up around sports.”

But Fred told the Chicago Tribune that Aja’s accomplishment is tops in the family.

“The Olympics are something special to the entire world,” Fred told the Tribune. “I love what I do and I’m blessed to be an NFL athlete, but my sister is an Olympian.

“That far exceeds anything anyone else in our family has ever done.”

Her parents were excellent athletes, as well. Her mother was a track and field athlete, and her father was a swimmer, becoming the first black national champion.

“We did all types of different sports and camps,” she said. “We were all over the place.

“It wasn’t until freshman year of high school – or the summer leading into freshman year – where I picked up track and field and hung with it.”

Despite the inherited athleticism in her family’s history, Evans insisted she has worked to get to this point.

“I want people to see this, and understand my grind, and all the hard work I put in,” she said, “and the confidence I have.

“To finally see it come to reality is an amazing feeling.”

Aja thinks her success was pre-destined.

“I think it was meant to be,” she said. “I was born to have a certain presence in this world.

“It’s cool. I don’t think I’m anywhere near done. I think I’ve jus scratched the surface.”

Photo credit: thevikingage.comchicagotribunenbcchicago.com

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Sean Jensen

Sports reporting demanded I cover at least 15 Super Bowls (lost count), 2 Olympics and too many close Minnesota Vikings losses to count. Also required me to play Augusta National once. But my close friends are more jealous of my eating records (among them 125 chicken wings and 24 donuts). My priorities: Faith, Family and... oh, I've forgotten the third F.

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