Late last month, a friend of mine sent me an email with the following comment: ''NO WAY I do either of these.''
I scrolled down to the two photo attachments and I instantly understood why my buddy had made use of the caps lock on his computer keyboard.
There, in living color, were the images of Ellington native Matt Oakes. One photo showed the 29-year-old scaling an inclined ice formation, using ice axes and wearing boots equipped with traction devices called crampons. The second photo, taken during the summer and equally as daunting, captured Oakes (Falconer Central School Class of 2001) climbing up a sheer natural rock formation that gives new meaning to the word ''sport.''
Matt Oakes enjoying one his many adventures.
''There's a lot more on the line than dropping a line drive or (misplaying) a groundball,'' Oakes said. '' ... It's nice to (live near) Lake Placid where I can do all those things.''
Oakes, who resides in nearby Keene, calls New York State's North Country home for another reason: He's the senior national team athletic trainer for USA Luge, the fastest of the three Olympic sliding sports. Oakes' winter travel itinerary includes a February trip to Sochi, Russia. That just happens to be the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
- - -
Oakes was a member of the varsity football, baseball, wrestling, and track and field teams during his years at Falconer Central School. It was during his high school experience that he became interested in pursuing athletic training as a possible career.
''I decided to give it a shot because I liked sports,'' he said.
Oakes went on to Alfred University, graduating in 2005, and later earned his master's degree from SUNY Cortland in 2011. After a year as an athletic trainer back at Alfred, he joined the U.S. luge team as its trainer in October 2012.
''Honestly, I was at the right place at the right time,'' he said.
And Oakes, who enjoys all sorts of adventure, began an odyssey that included trips to, among other locales, Germany, Austria, Latvia and Russia.
''It was really a great experience,'' he said. ''It was a good time and a lot of hard work.''
In addition to administering treatment to the luge athletes, Oakes served as their chauffeur, videographer, strength and conditioning supervisor and a nutrition specialist.
''I became a jack of all trades,'' he said.
It is all paying off and will be capped by the trip to Sochi, Russia in less than five months.
''They're a pretty tight-knit group,'' Oakes said. '' ... I'm a small, tiny cog to make them successful. It's one less thing they have to worry about. They know I can give them proper care.''
- - -
Next Thursday, Oakes will accompany the U.S. Luge team to Norway where it will train in Lillehammer for a week. That begins a whirlwind existence for him until after the Olympics. Along the way, the team will train in, among other places, Lake Placid; Park City, Utah; Munich, Germany; and Sochi, Russia.
''What I'm most excited about,'' Oakes said, ''is traveling to Russia and being part of the (Olympic) opening ceremonies. What I'd really be excited about, though, is if the men's and women's doubles team would be on the (medal) podium. With luge, it's dominated mostly by the Europeans, because they start sliding at a much younger age, but I think the playing field is leveling out as far as technique and hard work. The U.S. team is still pretty young, so we have a lot of hopes for the Games.''
Oakes, the son of Alan and the late Kwee Eng Oakes, knows a thing or two about hard work.
''My mother was from Malaysia and met my father during the Vietnam War,'' Oakes said. ''I grew up in a time period where my generation believed that if you want something you have to work really hard for it, and put your mind and energy toward one thing.''
Oakes' mother died when he was only 10, but the lessons he learned from her, his father and, in more recent years, his step-mother, Cyndi, and step-brother, Nate Cobb, have served him well.
''If you have dreams,'' he said, ''you should try and make them happen.''