Just before the holidays, I attended Team Novo Nordisk’s (TNN) media day at Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, GA. (Disclosure: Team Novo Nordisk paid for my travel, lodging, and some meals)
I got a close look at the scale of Team Novo Nordisk’s vision, mission, and even got to ride alongside some of the athletes (I had to ride in a car to keep up). It was impressive, inspiring, and educational.
Some of Team Novo Nordisk’s Pro Team – ©Jordan Haggard
Team Novo Nordisk has nearly 100 athletes with diabetes from 21 countries spanning a number of sports (cyclists, triathletes, and runners) in a few phases of athletic development. One remarkable point in the story of many of these athletes is the story of being told “no.”
Twelve out of eighteen of the pro riders were told they’d never race again because of diabetes. Imagine receiving that crushing news along with the diagnosis? Racing was everything for these guys! And with a single sentence, their dreams were smashed. Thank goodness they didn’t give up so easily. And now, thanks to TNN, they are shining examples of what can be done with diabetes.
The mission of Team Novo Nordisk is to inspire, educate, and empower people affected by diabetes. They’re attacking this mission on many fronts and changing diabetes for the better in a lot of ways.
Some ways are really big, such as being the first all-diabetes professional team in any sport worldwide (that’s something often overlooked, but this great interview with Phil Southerland in diaTribe points out). And some ways aren’t immediately noticeable, like an aspiring athlete being told, “no” only to find TNN proving a resounding “yes!”
Martin Nordmark, Sr. Global Project Manager, Novo Nordisk, sharing his experiences with the team – ©Jordan Haggard
One of the things I most admire about Team Novo Nordisk is they continue to go above and beyond. What do I mean by that? I’m not a professional athlete, but I can imagine it’s already immensely challenging to compete at this level. But that’s not all they do. In 2016, Team Novo Nordisk published/shared more than 1,800 articles and participated in more than 365 diabetes related community events around the world to help set the record straight about diabetes. Nearly everywhere they go, they take time out of their grueling athletic schedule (and travel schedule!) to talk with the community and spread information.
Team Novo Nordisk is doing a lot of work on language and stigma in diabetes, and one of the stories I remember most fondly was told at a community event last June in New Orleans. It’s a very real example that sticks in my head as one that makes a big difference in how we are perceived.
The story is that one year, the famous television cycling commentators spoke of a TNN cyclist as suffering from diabetes (that’s one of my big pet peeves – “suffering“). After long efforts of patient and persistent relationship building, Team Novo Nordisk was able to teach the commentators more about diabetes – they were able to set the record straight. The next time the commentators talked about a rider with diabetes, the language was different. Suffering was gone, and instead, that rider lived with type 1 diabetes.
These may sound like little things, but I tell you, they make a difference to people who don’t know anything about diabetes. Just think about the difference between “living with” and “suffer.” There’s a huge difference there, right? There is to me, and I know which one I prefer.
The guys riding up to pose for a group picture – ©Jordan Haggard
Team Novo Nordisk and guests at Stone Mountain Atlanta – ©Jordan Haggard
The commitment to Team Novo Nordisk’s mission is remarkable and was something my friend Brian mentioned a number of times as we took in all of the information over the day.
And they’re always looking for more athletes – Phil even made a special call-out for more U.S. talent!
Click above to learn more about joining Team Novo Nordisk