Guard Soldiers Bolster U.S. Bobsled Team for World Championships
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jan. 7, 2009 Several Army National Guard soldiers have bolstered the U.S. Bobsled Team for the 2009 World Championships, scheduled for Feb. 20 through March 1 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program bobsledder Pfc. John Napier, right, and Cory Butner, left, get set to push off during one of four heats in the two-man U.S. National Bobsled Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., Jan. 3, 2009. The duo earned a spot in the 2009 World Championships, scheduled to begin Feb. 20 in Lake Placid, with a four-heat cumulative winning time of 3 minutes, 45.87 seconds. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Pfc. John Napier, a Vermont National Guardsman and a bobsledder in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, teamed with Cory Butner of Yucaipa, Calif., to win the two-man title in the 2009 U.S. Bobsled National Championships Jan. 3 and 4 at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid.
Napier, 22, of Lake Placid, drove the sled to a four-heat cumulative time of 3 minutes, 45.87 seconds over two days to win the national two-man crown by .30 of a second. He will also compete for the four-man national title Jan. 10 and 11 on his hometown track.
“I was racing against a fierce field of competitors,” Napier said. “I only had a tenth-of-a-second lead yesterday, and anything can happen in this sport. I don’t take anything for granted, and I knew I had to put down my best runs today to stay in the lead.”
Army Sgt. Mike Kohn, 36, a Virginia National Guardsman and a former WCAP bobsledder who is now a member of the National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program, finished second in the two-man national championships with a time of 3:46.17.
Former WCAP bobsledder Steven Holcomb, winner of the 2007 Two-man World Cup title, teamed with Curt Tomasevicz to finish third in 3:46.57 in Lake Placid with borrowed equipment. Holcomb was awaiting delivery of his sled from Europe, where he positioned himself third in the early-season World Cup standings.
“It’s tough not having your own equipment,” Holcomb said. “The runners I’m borrowing are nicknamed ‘warms,’ and they aren’t intended for cold ice. On a day like today, where temperatures are flirting with the negative numbers, it’s hard to keep the sled straight.”
Holcomb, 28, a native of Park City, Utah, who served seven years in the Army National Guard, joined the World Championships by virtue of his third-place finish in the combined world rankings last season.
Kohn and Holcomb will compete in different sleds from Napier’s in the four-man national championships.
“It would have been nice to have had my own helmet and sled, but it’s another day of racing,” Holcomb said. “I can’t take anything away from these guys, because they’re sliding well. I’m top three in the world, and these guys are right there with me today, which is testament to the U.S. program.”
“It’s exciting to see a tight competition like this,” said Darrin Steele, chief executive officer of the U.S. Bobsled Federation. “For us to see American-made sleds that are the best in the world out here competing in the national championships is great. We’ll be entering six competitive sleds this February.”
Former WCAP bobsledder Shauna Rohbock, 31, a member of the Utah Army National Guard from Park City, pilots the Team USA 1 women’s sled on the World Cup circuit and is scheduled to compete in the upcoming World Championships as well.
Rohbock teamed with Valerie Fleming to win a silver medal in the two-woman bobsled event at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. She also won bronze medals at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships.
(Tim Hipps works in the public affairs office of the Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)