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Holcomb leads team USA in Olympic bobsled event tonight

By Tim Hipps
U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command

WHISTLER, British Columbia, (2/23/10) - After finishing sixth in the two-man Olympic bobsled competition Feb. 21, former Army World Class Athlete Program bobsled driver Steven Holcomb said he looks forward to the upcoming four-man event and ending the U.S. drought of 62 years with no gold.

Holcomb was in fourth place after the first two of four heats Feb. 20 in the Olympic two-man bobsled competition. He teamed that night with Curt Tomasevicz for a two-run cumulative time of 1 minute, 43.93 seconds, just .62 seconds off the pace set by reigning Olympic champions Andre Lange and Kevin Kusge in Germany-1, who took the gold medal.

The Germany-2 duo of Thomas Florschuetz and Richard Adjei won the silver medal in the two-man bobsled event. The Russia-1 sled manned by Alexandr Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda took the bronze.

"We're medal hopefuls," said Holcomb, who spent eight years in the World Class Athlete Program. "We're just going to go out there and do the best we can."

The Olympic four-man bobsled event begins Feb. 26. Holcomb is the 2008-2009 World Cup champion pilot in the four-man event.

Holcomb and Tomasevicz began their 2010 Olympic journey by bursting off the start in 4.79 seconds, the fifth-fastest of the first heat, despite having trouble getting off the block.

"I was a little disappointed in the first run only because the sled popped out of the groove," Tomasevicz said. "But the time wasn't bad compared to the rest of the field."

The "Night Hawk" team gained momentum, clocking the fastest split times down the challenging course before Holcomb had trouble navigating Corner 12. The duo was on the verge of rolling, but Holcomb regained control and led his sled to the finish in 51.89 seconds, putting USA I in sixth position after the first heat.

"We were to a point where the alarms were going off in my head," Holcomb said. "Fortunately, we made it, but anything can happen. I named that curve, so it almost came back to bite me, but that is part of the sport."

Curve 13 is known as the "50/50," a reference Team USA athletes make to the probability of pilots making it through the corner without turning their sleds.

Team USA I posted a start time of 4.82 seconds in the second heat before twisting and turning its way down the 16-curve course to the finish in 52.04 seconds. Holcomb and Tomasevicz clocked a two-run total of 1:43.93, just 0.12 seconds from the Olympic podium, in fourth position.

"There's a different energy in the air," Holcomb said. "It's kind of a different feeling, but at the same time we're just doing the best we can out here. But you've got to know that everybody's giving 100 percent, so you can't expect to be a decorated slider and just go through. You need to fight for every spot you can."

Sgt. John Napier of the Vermont National Guard teamed with Steve Langton of Melrose, Mass., in USA II to finish 11th after the first day of competition, with a combined time of 1:44.73. They powered off the block with identical start times of 4.89 seconds for runs of 52.28 and 52.45 seconds.

"There's so much excitement and anxiety out here," Napier said. "The first run didn't really take a hold of me. I didn't expect it. There's no way to prepare for the Olympics and the atmosphere here. There are so many people, so many fans, a million people watching. There's no way to prepare for that or no words to describe this environment right now and how I'm feeling.

"The second run, I said, 'Hey, it's just another bobsled run.' I push hard, I go down, and I get to the finish line. We drove a lot better," Napier said of his best run of the week that featured six practice runs on the fastest bobsled track in the world.

Napier comes from a family of bobsledders and began driving when he was 8 years old, while Langton hails from a track-and-field background and was recruited into the sport only two years ago.

"I got a little nervous and made a few mistakes, but hopefully tomorrow I can make improvements," said Napier, who is competing in his first Olympics. "This track is very tough and very technical, but I didn't grow up on a kinder-bobbing easy track, I grew up on a difficult track - Lake Placid, N.Y., where I learned how to drive. I just love the toughness; I love the speed. Give me more speed tomorrow."

Napier also is ecstatic about representing troops worldwide at the XXI Olympic Winter Games.

"I got an e-mail yesterday from a troop I didn't know and I've never met in my life," Napier said. "He said, 'Hey, I just want to commend you on what you're doing. I notice you're an athlete, you're an Army athlete, and you're a Christian athlete."

The troop, Napier said, noted that he was out of the Army now, having been injured by an improvised explosive device during military duty.

"The only way I can lose," Napier said, "is if I don't try my hardest ... and I'm going to represent the Army for that soldier and many other soldiers overseas right now."

Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program bobsled driver Mike Kohn of Chantilly, Va., and Nick Cunningham of Monterey, Calif., are in 12th place with a cumulative time of 1:45.18.

"I think we caught about three people, and that was pretty cool," Kohn said. "We've just got about 11 more to catch tomorrow, so that would be nice. I wish I had more training time, but it is what it is. I've just got to get video tonight and start to figure things out and do the best we can with what we've got."

Kohn, a 2002 Olympic bronze medalist, teamed with first-time Olympian Cunningham for push times of 4.91 seconds. Kohn navigated his BoDyn sled to the finish in 52.47 and 52.71 seconds.

Cunningham was announced as Kohn's two-man partner Feb. 18, following the first day of official training.

"I have to thank USA 1, 2 and 3, and even the guys who didn't make this team," Cunningham said. "I'm out there representing everybody. I'm kind of the little guy, but I couldn't be there without them. Coming from an alternate position and kind of learning the ropes so quickly, it's absolutely a dream come true."

The first heat of the four-man bobsled event is scheduled for 4 p.m. PST, Feb. 26.

Sgt. Michael Kohn
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Sgt. Michael Kohn grew up in Northern Virginia. He received a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Kohn joined the Army National Guard in 1999 as an Infantry Soldier, completing his basic and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga.

Kohn became a competitive athlete at an early age. In high school, he excelled at football and in track and field. Kohn was first introduced to the bobsled in 1990 and, at age 18, he was the youngest competitor in the 1991 Olympic Trials.

After graduating from George Mason University, Kohn started racing on the World Cup in 1998 and finished fifth in the 1999 World Championships. In 2002, he won the bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics in the four-man event. This was the first U.S. Olympic medal in men’s bobsled since 1956, ending a 46-year medal drought.

Kohn, along with other military athletes, was honored in ceremonies at the White House with the President. They were also recognized at the Pentagon by the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard.

Following the 2002 Olympics, Kohn switched from push athlete to driver. Since that time, he has won multiple national championships, a World Cup silver medal and has had many top 10 finishes.

A member of the Utah National Guard, Kohn is one of several U.S. Olympic bobsled Soldier-Athletes, who have benefited from the National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program.

Noteworthy

  • 2007 National Champion in two-man and Bronze medalist in four-man Three Top 10 World Cup finishes during the 2006-2007 Season
  • 2005 National Champion in four-man and Silver medalist in two-man
  • 2004 Silver medalist in the Lake Placid World Cup Switched from push athlete to driver after the 2002 Olympics Named among People magazine’s “Top 50 Most Eligible Bachelors” in 2002 Visited troops in Afghanistan after the 2002 Olympics
  • 2002 Olympic four-man bronze medalist with driver Brian Shimer Youngest competitor in the 1991 Olympic Trials Member of the Virginia Army National Guard

In Their Own Words it's just really an honor for me to be up here, representing our country with these teammates of mine, Doug and Dan and Brian. It's just an unbelievable feeling. I'll never forget this.

Sgt. John Napier
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Sgt. John Napier is a bobsled Soldier-athlete in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program stationed at Lake Placid, N.Y. He entered the Vermont National Guard in February 2007.

Napier is the 23-year-old son of an accomplished bobsledder and he began competing at age 8.

Since last March, Napier added 30 pounds of muscle that helped him emerge as a contender on the World Cup circuit. He currently is ranked No. 2 in the 2009-2010 World Cup point standings behind former WCAP driver Steven Holcomb, the reigning four-man world champion.

Noteworthy

  • 2010 U.S. Olympic Team
  • 11th place at 2009 World Championships in four-man
  • Fifth place at 2009 World Cup in Park City, Utah, in four-man
  • 17th place at 2009 World Championships in two-man
  • 11th place at 2009 World Cup in Whistler, Canada, in two-man
  • First place 2008-2009 America's Cup Series in two-man
  • Third place 2008-2009 America's Cup Series in four-man
  • 22nd overall word ranking in 2008
  • 18th place 2008 Four-man World Championships
  • 16th Place 2008 Two-man World Championships
  • Eighth place 2008 World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., in four-man
  • Eighth place 2008 World Cup in Park City, Utah, in four-man

In his coach's words:

He just started training like a champion, said WCAP bobsled coach Sgt. Bill Tavares, who also serves as the U.S. Olympic men's bobsled assistant coach. He did the right things. He ate the right things. And when he started putting on the weight and the muscle in the weight room, it was like a drug. He realized, Holy cow, I can really get stronger and bigger and get that little extra. He did that little extra and he found the weight. ...And the scary thing is: he's just begun. He's just begun.

Sgt. Shauna Rohbock
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Sgt. Shauna Rohbock grew up in Utah and attended Brigham Young University, where she received honors as an All-American Athlete in soccer, and track and field. She played professional soccer after college for the San Diego Spirit in the women's professional soccer league, until the league folded.

Rohbock participated in the 1999 U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation open tryout and fell in love with the sport, competing even during her professional soccer career.

She joined the Utah Army National Guard in 2000 and competed for a push athlete slot on the 2002 Olympic Team. She then began training as a sled driver to improve her chances of participating in the 2006 Olympics. She started driving during the 2003 season.

Rohbock has set records in nearly every one of her competitive races. Together with Valerie Fleming, Rohbock set four start records in the 2004-2005 season. Then in 2006, she achieved her dream of winning the Silver medal in women's bobsled at the 2006 Olympic Games.

Athletic achievements include:

2006 Olympic Silver medalist, Torino, Italy Bronze medal winner at 2007 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland Finished 2006-2007 World Cup Season with two Gold medals, four Silvers, one Bronze, and one fourth-place finish Finished 2006-2007 season as second-ranked driver in the world Won three Bronze medals and a Silver during the 2005-2006 World Cup season

2004-2005 World Championship Bronze medalist, breaking the start and track records in Calgary Finished fifth overall in the 2004-2005 World Cup season, winning a Silver and two Bronze medals Set start records at every track (including Torino, Italy) during the 2004-2005 World Cup season except Lake Placid, N.Y., where she had already claimed the record Won Silver medals at the 2003, 2004 and 2005 U.S. Nationals Played professional soccer for San Diego Spirit Named All-American in soccer and track and field twice at Brigham Young University Has six siblings, five sisters and a brother, and is in the middle of the group Member of the Utah Army National Guard

 

Rohbock says her biggest role model is two-time Olympic Gold and one-time Olympic Silver medalist Julie Foudy. Julie has done so much for sports and women. She is an amazing athlete and person.

Sgt. William Tavares
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Sgt. William Tavares is a 26-year veteran of the Army National Guard and bobsled coach in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program stationed at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Tavares finished ninth at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games as a luge competitor. He coached the U.S. women's bobsled teams at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics. As a coach for U.S. National Teams since 1997, Tavares has helped lead athletes to five world championships and 70 medals in World Cup competitions.

Tavares' coaching and athletic achievements include:

  • 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 U.S. Olympic Bobsled Assistant Coach
  • 70 World Cup medals
  • Two silver medals at Bobsled World Championships
  • Three bronze medals at Bobsled World Championships
  • 1999 USOC Development Coach of the Year
  • 1997-2008 U.S. National Team Coach
  • 1992 U.S. Olympic luge athlete

Primarily an Army coach, Tavares thinks military athletes compete with a different perspective.

"WCAP athletes from any sport have the biggest upper hand on any other athlete, he said". "Because this is sport, it's not the end of the world. And WCAP athletes have a better understanding of that than any other athlete that I know".

"We can be deployed at any time". Let's get some things under perspective here, you know? he added with a stern smile. "We know what our jobs are. We might be athletes and coaches now, but we're Soldiers. This is sport".

Sgt. Jeremy Teela
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Sgt. Jeremy Teela is a biathlon Soldier-athlete in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program stationed at Heber City, Utah. He entered the Utah Army National Guard in June 1997.

Teela had the strongest performance of his career last year with a third-place finish in the 20-kilometer individual race at the pre-Olympic Biathlon World Cup event at Whistler Olympic Park, site of the biathlon races at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. His third-place finish was the best by an American in World Cup competition since Josh Thompson finished second at the 1992 World Cup event in Canmore, Canada.

Teela's athletic achievements include:

  • 2002, 2006 and 2010 U.S. Olympic Team
  • Third place at 2009 Whistler World Cup
  • Seven-time U.S. National Champion
  • 22nd place 2005 World Championship
  • 10th place 2003 World Championship
  • Ninth place 2001 World Championship

In his own words:

"I got down the course and was maybe a half-kilometer out and coach was there saying, "You're in second place," Teela recalls. "And I was like, "No stuff, second place, huh?' But at that time I was skiing a pretty fast four loops. I always thought if somebody told me I was podium (bound), I would have this extra kick in me, but I had nothing. I am fighting, like I'm dragging my jaw and I've got slobber all over my face, and I'm just going as hard as I could.

"I came in second but there was this one German kid who also was having a great race. He left the range a couple seconds ahead of me and he was getting back-splits. I didn't know someone was coming from behind. I don't know if I could have done anything to counter his kick, but all in all, third place, I was psyched. He did get me, but that was the best performance of my career."