Wauwatosa East High School graduate Sugar Todd owes her status as an Olympic speedskater to her unflinching drive and the unwavering support of her parents.
Sugar and her family, hailing from Omaha, Neb., worked hard and sacrificed much to develop her skills to the point that she qualified for the Olympic team. Three moves, 15 years of practice and Sugar's iron will paved the way to her Olympian status.
She finished third in the 500- and 1,000-meter qualifications with two of the best times of her career. The 23-year-old will be the first East graduate to compete on an Olympic level.
Sugar wouldn't be even be Sugar if it wasn't for her drive. She was born Raeshelle-Faye but refused to be called anything other than Sugar until her parents had her name legally changed when she was 8.
A family's love
Once she started ice skating in Omaha at a young age, she pushed her parents to drive her to the 6 a.m. practices and begged them ceaselessly to move to a city where she could skate every day.
While she was adamant about skating, her parents made her meet them halfway. They bought her an alarm clock and agreed to take her to the early morning meets if she woke herself up on time and was ready to walk out the door before waking them up.
She never faltered in meeting her responsibilities.
As a child, she told her parents she'd be on the Wheaties box, with the slogan "Have a little Sugar with your Wheaties."
It wasn't until one year into her skating career, when she scored third place at her first competition, a national meet in Chicago, that her family seriously considered making the move to West Allis so she could practice at the Pettit National Ice Center.
Once again, Sugar had to earn her parent's support. Her mother, Diana Todd, gave her an ultimatum: If she ever had to remind Sugar to go to practice, they would pack up their bags and head back to Nebraska.
That scenario never happened.
"She had to push me," Diana said. Some days, when Diana wasn't feeling up to taking her to practice, Sugar told her they had to go.
The first years were rough on the family. Diana had left everything back in Nebraska, Sugar was in pain from constant practices and her father, Mike Todd, kept his firefighting job in Omaha, traveling to West Allis on his days off to visit them.
He continued making the trek every 10 days for over a decade, eventually obtaining his pilot's license and flying between Nebraska and Wisconsin.
"I don't know how, as a small child I convinced them to move me across state lines so I could achieve this goal, but they did that for me which is completely remarkable, and speaks to how much they believed in me," Sugar said.
She returned the support Jan. 2 when she started a GoFundMe.com page, asking for $5,000 in donations to send her family to Sochi, Russia, so they can attend the Olympics. Within 19 hours, she reached her goal.
"I'd like to say not only thank you for helping us get to Sochi but thank you for loving our girl," Diana said to the donors. "All those people have helped her become the person she is."
A woman's drive
From childhood, Sugar never let her parents down. Within her first year in West Allis, she won the national championship in her age bracket for both short and long track.
After moving to Lake Mills while in junior high school to join Team Pursuit, a speedskating team out of Madison, cracks appeared in her iron will. Her mother said Sugar felt left behind, missing slumber parties and the fun her friends were having.
That year, however, Team Pursuit beat multiple team records and set a world record. Sugar was back on track.
The family moved to Wauwatosa when Sugar was a junior in high school. She fell back into her routine, skating six days per week at the Pettit Center. She was active in track and field and cross country as well and became homecoming queen her senior year.
Her resilience was tested again after her Wauwatosa East friends moved on to college and she decided to hit the ice hard and make it as a skater.
"There were definitely a lot of days where I was crying about how sad I would feel about my boring life," she said.
She broke out of her funk, however, and eventually made the national team.
A game-day skater
Now that she's on the path to the Olympics, Sugar said, the real pressure is off. Her goal was just to make it to the Olympics.
"I'm not a medal contender like some of my teammates and roommates," she added. "I want to keep progressing and placing higher and higher and eventually, some day, be an Olympic gold medalist."
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