Editor Note: Today’s guest post come from Heidi Storz. She is the mother of two active, athletic sons and enjoys bringing a different perspective to sports. An avid hockey mom that has learned to enjoy watching most sports, but it is the character building aspects that catch her interest.
Enjoy! -Derek Belohrad
Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected people, and this year I waited with baited breath to see the outcome of the four man bobsled. It’s a crazy sport – four giant men sprint like mad, stuff themselves into a bullet shaped sled, and plummet down an icy slide at speeds that aren’t even legal on roadways. For the first time since the 40s the United States actually had a team that could content with the world class sled teams from Germany and Austria, and they were a motley bunch.
Bobsledders need to have agility, quick speed, and nerves of steel. They are built more like linebackers, the extra weight helping to keep the sled stable on the runs, and working with gravity to propel the sled faster down the slope. Bobsledders looked like the all-star wrestling group of the Olympics, but their timing, coordination and brute strength were refreshing to watch. The US crew of four has some unique background. They are consummate athletes, accomplished academics, and seem to be overall nice guys – the perfect hero for American youth. What mom wouldn’t want their child emulating these guys instead of the spoiled professional athletes populating so many hours of coverage on ESPN?
Pilot Steve Holcomb, who sits in the front seat and guides the sled down the slope, has been a decorated bobsled athlete for more than a decade. He earned his computer science degree, served seven years in the Utah National Guard, and has an accomplished athletic record in skiing, football and baseball. A degenerative eye disease almost short circuited his career when contact lenses and glasses could no longer correct his diminishing eyesight. Undergoing a relatively new procedure, he had a corrective lens placed under his cornea, and found a new challenge. As his eyesight faltered, he learned to guide the sled through feel. Once he could see again, he had to relearn how to pilot as a sighted man.
The other members of the team also boast impressive personal resumes. Curt Tomasevicz, a Nebraska native, has a bachelors and masters degree in electrical engineering. He played football for the University of Nebraska’s Cornhuskers from 2000-2003. Youngster Justin Olsen of San Antonio, Texas, attended the US Air Force Academy for a year before trying out for the bobsled team. His short bobsled career started in 2007, when he burst on the scene by making the World Cup team in his first season. Senior member (if that’s what you can call a 31 year old athlete) Steve Mesler, has a degree in exercise and sport science from the University of Florida, where he attended on a scholarship for track and field. He competed as a nationally ranked decathlon athlete.
The competition required four runs down the treacherous track – two runs on subsequent days. The first day showed the confidence and ability of the team, which built a surprisingly robust lead after two runs. This was accomplished as fans watched several sleds flip over in the notorious 50-50 turn – named by Holcomb who said, “…you have a 50-50 chance of making it through this turn”. The second day started with the lead US team clocking a run much slower than the previous day, but it was indicative of a slower track, and the US upheld the remarkable lead. Throughout the races the team was enthusiastic, but reserved, always showing great respect for the other teams. They set a high bar for athletic prowess and practiced public relations acumen. When the snow settled in Vancouver the US bobsledders had brought home a gold medal. They train and practice in virtual obscurity for years between Olympics, but they’re on our radar now. We’ll be following these accomplished athletes, and wait expectantly to see them return for the challenge of Soichi. Thanks for the inspiration!