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Going For Gold

Going For Gold | The LOOP Blog

Today, meet 19-year-old Ross McDonald. Though diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12, Ross continues to chase his dream of winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Now a two-time Massachusetts State Champion in the pole vault and a member of the University of Southern California’s track team, Ross credits diabetes for teaching him to face obstacles head-on instead of pushing them aside – a valuable lesson for both on and off the field. We loved hearing Ross’s story. If you have a story to share, email us at

I set records in the long jump in fourth and fifth grade. When it came time to go after another record in the sixth grade, I felt awful and didn’t know why. My competitors told me to stop making excuses. Although I wasn’t feeling well, I still managed to break the record by a foot and also set a 50-yard dash record…all in excruciating pain. A couple months later, after my family and I returned from Italy (the most miserable trip of my life), I proclaimed to my family that I needed to see a doctor because something was clearly wrong with me.

My doctor flipped my world upside down when he diagnosed me with type 1 diabetes. As soon as I was diagnosed, I realized that this was the reason for my discomfort over the past six months. I also realized that no one diagnosed with type 1 diabetes had ever won an Olympic gold medal, which was my dream. My entire life needed a makeover. I loved candy and hated shots more than anything in the world.

I decided to stick with track and field and after experimenting with numerous track events, I chose the most dangerous one of them all – the pole vault. If you are not sure what this event entails, it’s a pretty basic concept. You run full speed with a pole, put it into a box, and try and hurl yourself over a bar at a certain height. A few years ago, USA Today’s sports staff put together a list of the 10 Hardest Things to do In Sports and clearing 15 feet in the pole vault was voted number three. This makes me wonder how much harder it is to clear 16 feet, which I did last weekend.

With every six inches to a foot you try to improve, so much goes into it. You have to think about the length of the pole, how you run with it, how you plant it, how upside down you get, and of course not missing the protective mats. That’s only the start of things to think and worry about. Having type 1 diabetes makes things even more complicated. Sports and regulated blood sugars do not always go along well together. When my adrenaline is pumping because 50,000 people are screaming at the Penn Relays, one of the oldest and largest track meets in the country, my blood sugar is going to skyrocket.

Over the past five years of pole vaulting, I have been experimenting and trying to get things right in terms of what to eat before, during, and after I practice or compete, and what to do to my blood sugar. Using an insulin pump makes adjusting my insulin levels a bit easier. For example, I use a different basal pattern that gives me less insulin on meet days because it’s very rigorous.
(Editor’s note: for more information on basal patterns, talk to your healthcare provider to determine if it is right for you and check your MiniMed Paradigm Revel user guide for how to set it up.

It’s not always smooth sailing though. I’ve snapped my infusion set a few times without noticing until my blood sugar goes extremely high. I actually also smashed a pump while I was practicing, so now I disconnect right before I jump. The truth is, figuring out how to best manage my diabetes while playing college-level sports is something I work on every day.

I’ve also been through so much more than diabetes, such as broken vertebrae, a broken collarbone, appendicitis, and a slipped disc. These are the hardships of my sport and I still face them head on.

Diabetes has taught me to deal with my problems instead of pushing them aside. It has taught me not to fear anything, and to live for everything. I am in the midst of a journey no one has completed, and it doesn’t matter what anyone says regarding diabetes. As Steve Prefontaine once said, “Although you are one and they are many, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are correct.”


– Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.
– Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps

– Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day.
– Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems

– The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment.
– Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.

Please visit for complete safety information.

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  1. Golam S. Panjeton

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