Most of us have enjoyed the thrill of sledding down a steep snow-covered hill in the winter. But that pales in comparison to how Jelen Franjic does it: careening down a steep, narrow, banked track of ice at around 170 kilometres per hour, together with three other men jam-packed into a thin, aerodynamic tube on metal runners. Jelen, a second year BSc Business Administration student at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), is competing at this year’s Olympic Winter Games in Beijing with his teammates in the 2-man and 4-man bobsleigh race. At 22, Jelen is the youngest-ever Dutch bobsleigh athlete to compete at an Olympic Winter Games. 

Recently, we were able to grab some of Jelen’s time in Beijing to ask him a few questions about his bobsledding experiences, plans for the future and how his RSM experience connects it all.  

Reading your Olympics profile, bobsledding seems to be a family tradition, with your father having competed himself previously in the Olympics and your brother also training competitively. When did you decide that bobsledding was the sport for you?
When my brother started bobsledding in the Netherlands in 2016, I was intrigued about every aspect of the sport. I went to trainings to watch him, and I participated with the team as a little brother. When I saw that I had the talent for it, around 2018, I decided to take it a bit more seriously and joined some training camps in the off season. In 2019, I become a full-fledged bobsledder. It wasn't an impulsive choice, it happened gradually over a period of time.

How have your studies at RSM have helped you to prepare for the Olympics and vice versa?  
Being an athlete has helped me with perseverance and discipline, which are both needed in my student life. And being an RSM student has helped to shape my sports career. Some situations at school are similar to the high-pressure situations in sports. I feel like I understand myself better and have discovered what works for me and what doesn't. My time management has also improved. In the off season, I have days where I have to do multiple workouts, study for tests and write essays. There are only 24 hours in a day, so being able to plan when I’ll do what is pretty important.

Next to lifting weights, what other kinds of training do you have to do to prepare your body to cope with the demanding speed and force of the bobsleigh track?
Being a good bobsleigh athlete takes a combination of things. You need to be quite big, strong and fast, which is a difficult combination and somewhat of a contradiction. As part of a 4-man team, teamwork is really important. The training is extremely specific. We lift weights to train our strength and explosiveness. We do athletic training and sprinting sessions to train our speed and agility. Additionally, it’s important to be flexible because the sled is narrow and small and four big guys have to fit in it. This means mobility is a big part of our training as well.

What are your plans for the future after you graduate from RSM?
I don't know exactly what the future holds for me. Our bobsleigh pilot is retiring after this season, and I might be the next pilot depending on how much I enjoy it and how good I'll be. I'm also eager to finish my bachelors at RSM and do a masters too. I have started a business with a friend last year and I’m interested to see that business grow. Being a bobsleigh athlete and my plans with university and a business means I'll have to make some choices in the future. Luckily, at the moment I can combine certain ambitions and I don't have to make those choices yet.

Best of luck to you and your teammates, Jelen. All of RSM and Erasmus will be rooting for you!

Jelen will compete in the 2-man and 4-man bobsleigh competitions. The Schedule and results for the competitions can be found here

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at harriford@rsm.nl.

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