Bobsledding Soldiers Turn to Four-man Event
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service
WHISTLER, British Columbia, Feb. 25, 2010 As the four-man bobsled event draws closer here, Vermont National Guardsman and Army World Class Athlete Program bobsled pilot Sgt. John Napier said he feels more at home with WCAP brakeman 1st Lt. Chris Fogt in his Olympic four-man sled at the Whistler Sliding Centre here.
Bobsledders 1st Lt. Chris Fogt and Sgt. John Napier of the Army World Class Athlete Program will compete Feb. 26 and 27 in the four-man bobsled event at the 2010 Olympic Games. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The pair began training together aboard USA II on Feb. 23 with civilian teammates Chuck Berkeley of Clayton, Calif., and Steve Langton of Melrose, Mass., aboard for the Olympic four-man event scheduled for tomorrow and Feb. 27.
“I love four-man,” said Napier, 23, of Lake Placid, N.Y. “I don’t know why, I can’t explain it, but it’s just so much easier. In a four-man sled, I just feel like I’m at home. My only [World Cup] win was in a two-man, so I know it doesn’t add up, but the feeling of driving four-man is indescribable. My sled and I get along really well on this track.”
Napier gained a lot of confidence by finishing 10th in the Olympic two-man event Feb. 20 and 21 on the world’s fastest bobsled track. His four-man crew feels fortunate to have Napier at the helm.
“I wasn’t nervous about training, because our pilot, John, drives four-man really well,” said Fogt, 26, of Alpine, Utah. “I never doubt him. We’re ready to roll and we feel confident as a team.”
Langton was Napier’s brakeman for the Olympic two-man event.
“We had two really great runs today,” Langton said. “You can tell John loves driving four-man. I think we can be in medal contention. We’re a great team together. We can reel them in this week.”
Berkeley also said he feels comfortable behind Napier, who began bobsledding at age 8.
“I was a little curious to see what would happen today because there’s been a lot of hype about the track and the speed,” Berkeley said. “I was curious, but I wasn’t worried. I’ve got John Napier driving me, and that’s always a good thing and a safe bet.”
Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program bobsled pilot Mike Kohn, 37, of Chantilly, Va., will drive the USA III sled in the four-man event. He teamed with Nick Cunningham of Monterey, Calif., to finish 12th in the two-man competition aboard USA III. Jamie Moriarty of Winnetka, Ill., and Bill Schuffenhauer of Ogden, Utah, will join them in the four-man sled.
“I feel good,” Kohn said. “The first run felt better than the second, but I tried some different stuff. Training lets you figure out what works for you. The first run was quick.
“Nick and I are tired after two-man, and I’m sure all the two-man guys are tired going into this, but Billy and Jamie picked up the slack for us today. I’m looking forward to another great day of training.”
Cunningham already has a second wind for his second Olympic event.
“Mike is driving like he’s been down the track a bunch of times,” he said. “He’s still finding the perfect line and every run gets a little bit better. He’s tinkering here and there, but it feels smoother. Usually four-man is a rougher ride in the back of the sled than two-man, but he’s driving amazingly. We are so happy to be in the back of his sled and hopefully we can push among the top five teams.”
Schuffenhauer said he can’t wait to get his competitive Olympic experience started.
“This is game time,” he said. “We’ve come together as a team at the last minute and put together some great focus as a team. Our race is at the end of the Olympics, so the anticipation of watching the two-man has gotten us excited.
Now it’s our opportunity to come out and shine.”
Former WCAP driver Steve Holcomb will lead the parade of Team USA sleds by driving USA I with push athletes Justin Olsen of San Antonio, Steve Mesler of Buffalo, N.Y., and Curt Tomasevicz of Shelby, Neb.
(Tim Hipps works in the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command public affairs office.)