Sugar Todd

Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement

Learn More About Sugar

From the beginning, Sugar was a unique, determined and strong person. Her parents affectionately named her when she was born and debated switching to a more conventional name, but they decided to stick with Sugar. When she was just eight years old and in Nebraska, Sugar decided to try speed skating after seeing a local flyer advertising it. She immediately fell in love and just a year later, begged her parents to move to Milwaukee so she could train at the Pettit National Ice Center.

After winning a multitude of competitions as a youth, Sugar moved on to Utah so that she could train with the U.S. National Team. She currently is a 2014 Olympian, a 4x World Sprint Champion and the fastest 100m opener in U.S women’s history! At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Sugar became most known for her approach to the games, calling her race the “most fun I’ve ever had” and truly embracing the fact that she was present at the Games.

We know your given name is Sugar. Is there a story behind this sweetness?

Surprisingly enough my parents weren’t intending to name me Sugar! They had names picked out for me and then the day I was born in hospital, they were calling me Sugar affectionately and it just stuck. So they ended up tacking it onto the front of all the names they had for me, and as a result my full name is Sugar Raeshelle Faye Chelsea Todd.

Growing up, what kind of student were you in school?

I always really enjoyed school. I never felt intimidated or scared to reach out to my teachers. I felt like I could always go to my teachers whenever I had any sort of problem. Once I established myself as a student who was eager to learn and excited to be there, and not necessarily afraid of not knowing something, then the teacher responded really well to that sort of attitude. I think it fostered a really good learning environment for me, and looking back I am glad I had to confidence to ask for help when I needed it.

Why is being a Classroom Champions mentor important to you?

This is my first year doing Classroom Champions and it’s been fun for me to see the response from the students. Speed skating is a smaller community, so when I was growing up in skating it was easy for me to rub shoulders with the best athletes in the U.S. To have that sort of access as a kid is really powerful because it gives you this really clear and simple sense of “I can do this! This person that I look up to is a totally normal person who has worked really hard and I can do that too!” This is really relevant for Classroom Champions kids too to hear somebody say, “I’ve been where you are and you’ve got this, you can do this!” I remember hearing that when I was a kid, and it’s amazing to be that person now.

As a speed skater, you move pretty fast! How do you keep your head in the game—and make decisions so quickly?

Practice! Speed skating is a very fast sport—we get going close to 40mph and that’s just on our own two legs. The goal is always to spend enough time practicing so that when you get to the line, you’re not practicing anymore, you’re just executing. I think this helps with any decision that is in the moment – like knowing ahead of time as a young person that you won’t take that drink when someone offers it to you because you’ve already decided that is not who you are.

How hard was it to get back up the first time you had a high speed fall? What motivated you?

I remember the first really bad crash I had when I was a little kid. A girl passed me on the inside, and fell, and we went into the pads together. She got carried off the ice on a stretcher. I probably had some tears in my eyes but I skated off after a little bit. It’s part of the sport. You know that if you’re able to at least stand up and get your bearings again, for the most part you’re okay. Just like in life, stuff happens and it might take a moment and get back out there. In skating, you train on how to fall. In life, you’re figuring it out as you go and that can be really hard – especially when you’re young.

How can kids keep their eyes on their own goals when peers might be pressuring them to make risky decisions—particularly about underage drinking? How can they say no with confidence?

If you have a sense of self and an idea of what you want to do with your life, you make decisions accordingly. Even if you don’t have a concrete end goal in mind, it’s still important to stay true to yourself and not let other people decide for you what kind of person you’re going to be. It helps to ask yourself, “Will this affect me positively or negatively, will this help push me in the direction of my dreams or is it going to get in the way and slow me down?”

What do you want kids to say YES to?

All kinds of things! There’s a great big world out there full of possibilities. You can’t be worried about getting bogged down by the nonsense and the negativity. Go and chase down the things that make up your big dreams!

Get all the facts about Sugar’s involvement with Classroom Champions here!

Get all the facts on Classroom Champions here!


Sugar Todd: Taking care of yourself

Sugar Todd: Persevere in the face of failure

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Sugar Todd: Inspiring acts of leadership

Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement
Sugar Todd

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