Bobsled Teams Prepare for Weekend Events
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
WHISTLER, British Columbia, Feb. 19, 2010 The three men's U.S. Olympic bobsled teams -- all to be piloted by a current or former National Guard member -- are ready for action this weekend.
Bobsled pilot Army Sgt. Mike Kohn of the Virginia National Guard, front right, leads his four-man squad at the start of a U.S. World Cup team trials race in this 2009 file photo. Each of the three U.S. Olympic bobsled teams competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics is piloted by former or current National Guard members. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Sgt. John Napier of the Vermont National Guard, Army Sgt. Mike Kohn of the Virginia National Guard and Steven Holcomb, a former member of the Utah National Guard, resumed their training at Whistler Sliding Center here Feb. 17.
"This is amazing," said Napier, who is scheduled to drive USA II with Steve Langton aboard. "It feels great to be sliding again, especially on this track. It's so fast and so fun. I love driving here. It's one of the most incredible feelings to guide a sled down this course. I can't wait to do it again tomorrow."
Napier arrived in Canada on Feb. 8 and spent several days in Vancouver, where he attended the opening ceremonies for the XXI Olympic Winter Games. He said it made him yearn to become a lifelong Olympian.
On the eve of his return to a bobsled track, Napier discussed the pre-competitive Olympic experience.
"Fifteen years of hard work to get here," he said. "I told a lot of people I would go through 10 times the troubles and sufferings to make it to this point, now that I know what it's about. I was fighting for something before I really knew what it was and didn't know what it was for. But now I know.
"Now I've witnessed it, and I'm like, 'Man, I'm hungry to keep going more, too,'” Napier continued. “I want four more Olympics after this. Being here all week and seeing the atmosphere and all the help of the volunteers, and just to see how large of an operation it is and how small a piece of the puzzle we are, is kind of cool. The ceremony was the big point that really stood out and said, 'Wow, you've made it.'"
His brief time out of the sled, however, made Napier itch to get back to work.
"We need to be on ice; we're bobsledders," Napier said. "Being here and having to wait for several days was difficult, so it feels amazing being [at the track] tonight."
Kohn will drive USA III. "I love this track," he said. "I really feel like this track suits my driving style well. I'll be honest; I was a little nervous, but we're from the U.S., and we don't back down from a challenge.
"I had a lot of help from the coaches and the other drivers,” Kohn added, “plus, Todd Hays shared some of his lines with me. This track isn't nearly as difficult as I thought. I just need to dial it in and iron a few things out."
Holcomb, the reigning four-man world champion, will drive USA I with Curt Tomasevicz aboard.
"This is fantastic," Holcomb said. "The ice is smooth and in great condition. It's what you expect Olympic ice to be. It feels so nice to be back on ice again, because we've been waiting around for 10 days for this moment. It's nice to get after it again."
The bobsledders will make two more training runs down the track today. Competition is set for two heats each tomorrow night and the afternoon of Feb. 21. The medal ceremony is scheduled at 7 p.m. PST Feb. 21.
(Tim Hipps works in the U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command public affairs office.)