For Carlo Valdes, it’s not so much whether he’ll be successful. That’s become understood, an absolute really. It’s just a matter of what his next challenge will be.
First, he landed a football scholarship to UCLA before later joining the track and field team and reaching NCAA regionals three times. After graduating with a history degree, the plan was to work in real estate or maybe sales. That was before his coach, Mike Maynard, and a teammate made a life-changing suggestion.
Ever think about trying out for the U.S. Bobsled team?
It wasn’t the craziest idea that Valdes, at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds of almost all muscle, had ever heard, outside of the fact he grew up in Newport Beach, California, and knew absolutely nothing about the sport.
Less than two years after graduating, Valdes not only made the squad, but his two-man team placed fifth at the World Championships in 2015. Three years later, he was one of the team’s two crewmen, or pushers, at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. From spending virtually every day of his upbringing at the beach, he’d gone to racing down a sheet of ice at almost 100 miles per hour with the world watching.
After taking a few years to embark upon what has already become a thriving career as a financial adviser, the athletic juices pulled him back for what Valdes says will be his swan song in February 2021’s Winter Games in Beijing.
“This will definitely be it,” says Valdes, who will turn 32 during the event. “The emotion, I know it’s going to hit me when the time comes, going to end a lot of years of training and competing, just a huge chapter of my life.
“I was on and off about trying for the 2022 team, keeping my foot in the door with races here and there. When COVID hit, it became more clear to me that I wanted to try a full-time comeback.”
Obviously, that wasn’t the easiest time to start a training program, but fortunately one of his friends in Newport Beach offered his home gym, and soon enough, Valdes returned to Lake Placid, New York, to resume training with the national team.
There is no comparison in athletics to training on a national team for the Olympics. At Lake Placid, home to one of only two ice houses for bobsledding in North America along with Calgary, the intense training regimen is five days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursdays and Sundays off. A typical day includes sprint workouts down the track, three hours in the weight room and more stretching than a yoga instructor.
“It’s a full-time job and we have little trouble falling asleep at night,” Valdes says. “I remember the first time I heard ice house, I was like, is that a beer place? Where exactly are we going?
“Only a select few of those training receive a stipend, too, so most of us are working remotely at the same time.”
That has been the difference for Valdes between his previous training and his preparation for the 2022 Olympics. He not only has another job, he has a career. After 18 months at Northwestern Mutual, learning the financial craft and jargon, he desired more freedom. So, he opened his own office as part of the Miliare Group.
“Just as in athletics, I help my clients create a game plan that helps them reach their goals, personally, professionally and financially,” he says. “Doing all this while still competing at an Olympic level is a big challenge, but it has helped me grow more as an individual and become very intentional with the actions I make.”
They say athletes die twice, the first time being when their playing careers end. Although Valdes certainly understands the sentiment, he feels confident that his transition will be a little easier than most because there is no uncertainty in his future.
“I have a huge lift in knowing my future. It’s a competitive field with a huge amount of work, and some aren’t willing to sacrifice, but athletes strive in that area. There’s a lot of money to make, which leads to freedom.”
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 Issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photos Courtesy of Carlo Valdes.