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Jacob Adicoff is going for gold

September 7 / Global

by Chelsea Kelly

Featured Image Caption: A side view of Jacob skiing in the Men’s 2018 Paralympic 20 kilometer, Visually Impaired, Cross Country Skiing. Jacob is wearing a Team USA spandex race suit, red headband and sunglasses. He’s gliding on one ski in a ‘skating’ motion. In the background, snow covers the ground, the sky is clear and blue, and leafless birch trees line the side of the race course. Photo credit: Mark Reis

Jacob Adicoff is a Frontend Engineer on the Uber for Business team and a Paralympic silver medalist in cross-country skiing. Jacob is also legally blind; his mother contracted chicken pox during pregnancy, which affected his visual development. He has no vision in his right eye and very limited vision in his left. When Jacob was in second grade, his parents introduced him to skiing through the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Junior Nordic Development team in his hometown of Sun Valley, Idaho, and he was hooked. “I just really took to it,” explains Jacob. “It’s cross country skiing, so it isn’t as fast as downhill skiing. You’re going up and down hills — it’s a total endurance sport.” Throughout his junior skiing career, he raced against an almost entirely sighted competition. His first Paralympics experience was in Sochi, Russia, at the age of 18, and although he didn’t win any medals, he describes it as a great and formative experience.

Bringing home silver and going for gold

After returning from Sochi, Jacob competed on his college team for four years and later returned to the Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where he medaled in the 10km classic event. Jacob reflected, “I was a much better skier at that point, so I came home with a silver medal which I’m very proud of and is very exciting.” After graduating from college, Jacob thought he was done skiing competitively, he was satisfied with his accomplishments and was firmly rooted in and focused on his engineering career. But that all changed when he decided to move back to Sun Valley during the pandemic. “I was back in a place where I could ski every day in the early mornings before work and I was having so much fun. I started training casually with a few friends on the professional team here, and then I came to the realization that I wasn’t done yet and I wanted a lot more from the sport.” 

Jacob (right) and guide Sawyer Kesselheim (left), at the medal ceremony for the Men's 2018 Paralympic 10 kilometer, Visually Impaired, Cross Country Skiing. They are standing side by side, smiling, waving, with silver medals around their necks. They're wearing long, white Team USA jackets, and both holding a stuffed bear, the Pyeongchang Paralympic mascot named “Bandabi.” In the background stands one of the ceremonies medal hosts, wearing a red overcoat, white fur scarf and white hat.
Jacob (right) and guide Sawyer Kesselheim (left), at the medal ceremony for the Men’s 2018 Paralympic 10 kilometer, Visually Impaired, Cross Country Skiing. They are standing side by side, smiling, waving, with silver medals around their necks. They’re wearing long, white Team USA jackets, and both holding a stuffed bear, the Pyeongchang Paralympic mascot named “Bandabi.” In the background stands one of the ceremonies medal hosts, wearing a red overcoat, white fur scarf and white hat. Photo credit: Mark Reis.

Jacob will be competing in three individual ski races at the upcoming 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. His goal is to medal in all three events and hopefully bring home a gold medal in one of them. Jacob admits, “that’s a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s also something really tangible that keeps me motivated every day.”

Balancing training and career

Jacob didn’t want to have to decide between his two pursuits of being a Paralympic cross-country skier and a Frontend Engineer at Uber. So he developed and presented a plan to his manager for how he could still bring value and contribute to his team as an Uber Engineer while dedicating the necessary hours to training for the games. “My managers were very supportive even though they had never encountered a situation like this before.”

Jacob now fits in 10 to 14 training sessions per week in his regimen leading up to the games, while still working part time at Uber. His typical day consists of a full training session in the morning, followed by a quick nap, then at 12:30 pm he does four hours of work before doing another full training session in the afternoon. Although he describes his days as intense, focusing on small goals each day helps him stay motivated. “When I go into a workout there’s always a goal, and now similarly working at Uber I am also thinking about goals every day—what can I break down and finish by the end of the day, what is one thing I can improve on today, or what can I learn today that will help me in the future?”

A front view of Jacob skiing in the Men's 2018 Paralympic 20 kilometer, Visually Impaired, Cross Country Skiing. Jacob is wearing a Team USA spandex race suit, red headband and sunglasses. He's also wearing a race bib with a number “32” on the front. In the background, slightly blurred, are a competing skier and guide racing for Team Canada in red race suits.
A front view of Jacob skiing in the Men’s 2018 Paralympic 20 kilometer, Visually Impaired, Cross Country Skiing. Jacob is wearing a Team USA spandex race suit, red headband and sunglasses. He’s also wearing a race bib with a number “32” on the front. In the background, slightly blurred, are a competing skier and guide racing for Team Canada in red race suits. Photo credit: Mark Reis.

Why Uber

Jacob joined Uber in April of 2020 and, due to the global pandemic, has never been into an Uber office. He describes himself as initially being a really passive candidate, but changed his mind after a fantastic interview experience made him want to be a part of the team. “I was blown away by how professional and smart all of my interviewers were and decided that this is a place I want to work.” Now, those same people have become Jacob’s friends and cheerleaders in his Paralympic journey. “It’s really gratifying to have this group of highly motivated people support me in a journey that honestly they’re probably very unfamiliar with. It’s really cool having their support.”

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