One inch. That's all that separated Jeremy Bloom from an Olympic gold medal. One tiny inch.
It was moguls finals in Sauze d'Oulx. Thousands lined the course above the tiny village an hour outside Torino. Bloom with three World Championships medals in his pocket was the star of his sport with a World Cup win streak that wouldn't be broken for years. In the starting gate he was focused. He visualized every turn of his gold medal run. He was confident. He was strong. But on that top air, he was just a touch off. One inch imperceptible to the crowd but not to the judges. He finished eighth.
In the mid-2000s, Jeremy Bloom was America's star. A Best in the World moguls skier, he played out his childhood dream as a star quarterback for the University of Colorado and a future NFL player. In July, Bloom returned to Park City, speaking to over 200 USSA sponsors about his career as an athlete and how it set him up for a similarly-stellar role in business. He reminisced about that night in Italy and what it taught him.
"One inch was the difference between me standing up here with an Olympic gold medal and me not realizing my dream," said Bloom. "That was the single most-low moment in my life. If you read my bio it might appear that a lot of the things I've done I've been very successful at. But the story is quite the opposite. Everything I've succeeded in I've failed a thousand times over.
"The single best skill I learned on my journey was how to harness adversity - how to dissect it, take lessons out of it. Success is never linear.
Bloom, who was named to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame this spring, puts those lessons today into every day of his life. Shortly after retiring from the NFL and the U.S. Ski Team, he created a nonprofit to give back to seniors.
"Traveling with the U.S. Ski Team I saw a lot of cultures," he said. "And I saw societies where older people were revered the same as I felt for my grandparents. I wanted to start a non-profit for senior citizens. So, 'Wish of a Lifetime' was born."
As a part of his benefits with the Philadelphia Eagles, Bloom had the opportunity to go to the Wharton School of Business, where he became infatuated with internet companies. So he started one. Today, Integrate.com is one of the web's leading advertising technology companies.
As you listen to Bloom speak, it's no surprise that he's had such success as an athlete in multiple sports, as a businessman and as a philanthropist. He learned goal-setting as an athlete and a belief in himself from his parents.
"When I was 12 I set two goals to ski in the Olympics and be a football star. I had a mother who said you could accomplish anything in this world if you put your mind to it and to attack it. My dad is my hero and best friend. He's the first person I turn to when life throws some complex questions my way. When I was 10, we crowded around our 20-inch TV to watch the Olympics. My dad still gets emotional watching the Olympics and sheds tears. In my life there was nothing I wanted more than to win an Olympic gold medal not just for myself, but for my dad."
The most important lesson he learned as a U.S. Ski Team athlete, though, was goal-setting. "Bill Marolt said it it's setting an expectation that you're going to be the best. That's not your stretch plan, that's what's going to happen. What athletes learn that translates to business is that there's no ceiling for goals. If you're too safe and can't get outside the lines, it can be difficult to accomplish something big."
In his first visit to the Center of Excellence, which opened in 2009 just as he was retiring, Bloom saw the roots of opportunity for athletes. He saw most keenly the value of people another one of his principles including the best coaches, the best physical therapists and the passionate sponsors and trustees who had made it happen.
"That's why they're Best in the World."