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Aja Evans, once a champion sprinter at the University of Illinois, will sprint on a different surface this winter in Sochi. The speedster is among the members of the U.S. Olympic Bobsled team. Learn more about Aja.
It's no surprise Chicago bobsledder Aja Evans turned into an incredible athlete. You could say it's in her blood.
Evans' mother was once a track star like her, and her father was the first African American swimmer to win a national collegiate championship. She is also the cousin of Major League Baseball player Gary Matthews, Jr.
Evans started her career as a track star, but the shift to bobsledding began in 2012. After training at Highland Park's EFT Sports Performance and earning a high score at the 2012 Team Official Combine, Evans hopped on the fast track to success. Now, she has her eye on Sochi.
Another big influence in Evans' athletic career is her brother and Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle, Fred Evans. She does all of her off-season training with Fred and other NFL stars such as Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.
Evans said training with them is crucial to her development because they push her like no one else would.
"They go in there and grind it out, but it's still an enjoyable environment," she said. "There's no excuses when you train with them."
Evans also enjoys spending that extra time with her brother--and even competing with him a little.
"He and I are going at it on squats and all types of stuff," she said.
Her family's influence followed her to the 2013 World Cup in Sochi last February. While she was there, Evans found out her grandfather had passed away, and his funeral was scheduled the same day as her race.
"Instantly, I wanted to go home and be with my family, but they had my back," she said. "They were so supportive."
After her family convinced her to stay, Evans earned a silver medal.
Evans said she was devasted by the incident because her grandparents have always been a big part of her life. The experience taught her a lot, though, and surviving it was extremely rewarding.
"It was almost for me like I won the Olympics," she said.
With a silver medal under her belt, Evans is excited to return to Sochi. She said the whole season has been "grand," and she can't wait to kick things up another notch.
"I'm very determined," she said. "The game changed for me."