Bernstein bought a bumper sticker that read, "Yes, mom, I still play rugby."
As a senior, Bernstein tried to resurrect her soccer career — briefly. After stiff-arming another player in practice en route to scoring a goal, Bernstein celebrated alone. She went back to rugby, staying an extra year at Syracuse in order to take Quantitative Physics II and become an All-American.
It led to an invitation to try out for the U.S. national team, which Bernstein eventually made. She wound up playing in the 2009 World Cup qualifier, as well as some other international competitions in Dubai and the Bahamas. It was around that time that she began getting recruited by the U.S. Bobsled Association as it geared up for Vancouver in 2012.
"I had been approached by different people who I guess either knew bobsledders or were previously bobsledders and they said I fit a profile," Bernstein said. "I had been told multiple times, 'You should be a bobsledder.' We got these recruitment emails because there's some similarities between how they build their national teams because people don't grow up playing these sports."
Determination stands out
With the help of Jamie Gruebel, a more veteran bobsled pilot (driver) who Bernstein said put her through "bobsled boot camp," the former soccer, rugby player and track star had found yet another sport. Gruebel, who was a decathlete at Cornell and has been a bobsledder for five years, said Bernstein's best attribute goes a long way in her new sport.
"It's definitely her determination," Gruebel said Monday. "Bobsled is a hard sport to maneuver in [off the course]. It requires a lot of money and just a lot of believing in yourself when other people don't believe in you right away. A lot of people believe in you when you've made it. It definitely takes a lot to push yourself and believe in yourself and find money to get the equipment that you need. I definitely see that Ida never wants to give up. I think she'll do well."
Many who saw Bernstein play rugby compared her both in physique and fearlessness to Heather Moyse, a former track star and rugby player who won a gold medal for Canada as a bobsledder in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She has recently resumed her rugby career.
While the Sochi Olympics might be a longshot for Bernstein, she credits Moyse's fast rise with even being given a chance to learn the new sport, first as a brakeman — the one in the back who does most of the pushing at the start — and eventually as a pilot.
"When Heather came on the stage and set a new world record in pushing, people took notice," Bernstein said. "I think she paved the way for what I am doing now. They are recruiting more athletic pilots."
Bernstein understands the importance of role models. She believes she has to be one for her two much younger half-sisters, Alex and Katrina Bozel, ages 18 and 12 respectively. Alex Bozel is following her big sister to Delaware State to study science, while Katrina, who according to Bernstein is "a spitting image of me at the same age" is more the athlete.
"I know I have shortcomings," Bernstein said Monday. "I'm very aware of the fact that I have younger sisters, so when I'm on Facebook and tweeting, I know my sisters are watching. I try to be a good example for them. It's important to me. It's also important they find their own path. They're definitely way cooler than I was."
If Bernstein's training regimen wasn't crowded enough, she also added football to her athletic resume this spring. Bernstein is currently a member of the Baltimore Charm of the Legends (formerly Lingerie) Football League.
Along with the possibility of having the Charm help sponsor her in order to defray the cost of her Olympic pursuit (about $30,000 annually), Bernstein said the intensity of the practices and physicality of the games have enhanced her skills for both rugby and bobsledding.
"When I'm rushing the quarterback, I'm thinking about pulliing the sled," Bernstein said. "I also think it's helped me in rugby. It's been a really good experience."
Applying physics to sports
Similarly, Bernstein said that she has used her academic experiences that she hopes one day will lead her to help detect breast cancer using optics to what she does on the bobsled track.
"You need to be able to problem solve and not panic," she said. "There's a lot of physics in driving, too.'
Peter Bagetta, an assistant coach on the U.S. women's rugby team, said Bernstein's bobsled career has helped her playing rugby. Along with the extra muscle she has put on to push the bobsled that has made her "bigger, stronger and faster," Bagetta said it has helped Bernstein develop mentally.
"In bobsledding you're always racing against some type of clock, so there's always this inherent pressure of performance, and I think having to deal with that when she comes back to rugby [helps] because I think she can handle adversity on the rugby field a lot better," Bagetta said.