Kris Freeman is a man of firsts. Earlier this month the 29-year-old New Hampshirite finished first in the 15-km race at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships in Anchorage—his 13th national title. In Vancouver, Freeman could become the first American to reach the podium in 34 years. Already, though, he is believed to be the first Olympic endurance-sport athlete to compete with type 1 diabetes. Freeman got his diagnosis during a routine blood test shortly after he began training with the U.S. ski team in 2000. The first doctor he spoke with told him that he could continue to ski but that his career at the elite level was over. Freeman says he "wasn't interested at all in skiing at a level below what I was aspiring to." Three opinions later Freeman found a doctor willing to work with him. He had to learn quickly which conditions would cause his blood sugar to fluctuate. "If I get nervous before a race, the adrenaline triggers the release of sugar into my bloodstream," Freeman says. He has been granted a measure of control by a pump called an OmniPod that attaches to his arm and can be programmed to automatically deliver small doses of insulin through a needle in his skin. Freeman missed the podium at the 2009 world championships by 1.3 seconds. "Clearly," he says, "I'm now in a position where I can get a medal at the Olympic level."
This is an article from the Feb. 1, 2010 issue