Ken Garff Keys to Success Winter Comet Ride

Below is an article posted on the Standard-Examiner about our Winter Comet Bobsled Ride:

Comet Bobsled

Olympic spirit rallies with speedy trip around bobsled track

Some kids get allowances, others are paid for their grades. Most of the time, I fall in neither category.

However, thanks to the Ken Garff Keys to Success program, I recently got to do something that more than compensated for all the lost years of free cash — winter bobsledding at the Utah Olympic Park.

The auto company’s program helps motivate and acknowledge high school students in their academic achievements. When I received a Keys to Success prize from one of my teachers, I carefully evaluated all the possibilities, wary of wasting my reward. The opportunity to whiz down a frozen track on a bobsled was appealing so I happily chose that.

After waiting months to take advantage of my prize, I finally got to experience the same feeling as an Olympian. I had butterflies as my dad and I drove up to Park City for my ride.

As we waited for orientation, we walked around the George Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum. Looking at the exhibits brought back cherished memories of watching the Olympics as a little kid. When I picked up a 40-pound curling stone, it was fun to remember being a second-grader and eating Chex Mix as a friend and I watched a curling match with my parents.

It was fascinating to see the artifacts from the opening and closing ceremonies and to picture the grandeur of the vivid performance all over again. The gleaming medals in the display case returned all the yearning of wanting my favorite athletes to win and the inspiration I felt as the national anthem was played. Feeling the Olympic spirit again added to the anticipation of my bobsled ride.

At orientation, the instructors told us about the procedures required when riding and what we could expect to happen. Everyone had to sign a contract stating that they understood they could be injured or even killed on their bobsled ride. Now, my excitement level started to do a nose dive toward China. The prospect of safely flying down the track sounded phenomenal but the thought of skidding down as a crumpled lump near a capsized sled sounded horrifying. I tried thinking that if many people died the sport wouldn’t be allowed, which helped me muster up a little extra courage to continue.

We loaded on a bus and headed to the top of the track. There we fit our helmets and anxiously waited in our bobsled teams for our turn. My team consisted of the driver, two men and myself. The men were from out of state and already knew each other. They were constantly teasing and talking about how our team was going to be the fastest. It added entertainment and a positive atmosphere to the wait.

Finally it was Team 6’s turn! My heart was pounding as I put on my snug red helmet and filed into the white bobsled. The park staff helped situate us in the correct positions, and I grinned as the sled slowly started to rumble down the chilly track. In an instant the sled was speeding down the course and zipping around the curves with tremendous force. I was instantly breathless! Everything was a blur as the sled whipped us around corner after corner, knocking my helmet into the sides of the sled.

And in the blink of an eye the ride was over. We had streaked down the track in less than one minute, going almost 80 miles per hour with five G forces pushing on our bodies. The feeling was exhilarating — and it was a relief to know I was still alive! A few minutes after the ride ended my head started to pound and my stomach lurched into my throat. Maybe it was because the sled had gone so fast that my body had barely caught up. All I could think about after the ride was how cool it was and how indescribable it felt.

The momentary rattle of the sled, the whistle of the whipping wind, and the instant blur of the world was worth every hour of sleep I lost doing homework and every penny I was never paid. It was a feeling I’ve never had before. It was a rush of emotion and senses that no other recipe could concoct.

I recommend a bobsled ride to every thrill-seeking adventurer out there. Put it on your bucket list and have the most dazzling ride of your life!

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The Night Train Visits Whole Foods

The Night Train Bobsled hung out at Whole Foods Market Park City last weekend in support of their Whole Planet Foundation fundraiser day on Saturday.

Did you visit Whole Foods this weekend and snap a pic in the bobsled?

Utah Olympic Park Bobsled Helmet Cam Footage

Check out this video taken from a helmet cam on the Comet Bobsled ride.

Back from Afghanistan, Napier returning to bobsled

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at SI.com:

Only a week after completing his service as an Army soldier in Afghanistan, Olympic bobsledder John Napier is planning a quick return to the World Cup sliding circuit.

Napier will resume sledding in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Monday. After a planned five days of training there, he’s eyeing a return to the World Cup circuit in Calgary, Alberta, in early December.

That would mean Napier only misses one stop on the World Cup circuit: The opener on the 2010 Vancouver Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia next weekend.

“It is official,” Napier wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. “I will be back in Lake Placid Monday.”

His return has not been formally announced by the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, and it was presumed that Napier could miss as much as the first half of this season’s international schedule while he re-acclimates to civilian life. Napier was called to active duty by the Army in June, and went to Afghanistan after two weeks of intense pre-deployment training in Mississippi.

He was sent with the Army National Guard’s 86th Infantry Mountain Combat Brigade out of Williston, Vt. Napier announced last Saturday that he left Afghanistan, and he was able to remain in contact with friends and family during the bulk of his deployment.

Click here to read the entire article.

2002: Hays, Hines lost chance by .03 of a second

The following is an excerpt from an article published at ESPN.com on February 17, 2002:

The ugliest words in the Olympics are fourth place. Nothing even comes close, and when fourth place is accompanied by a margin of .03 of a second, fourth place becomes the worst neighborhood in town.

Americans Todd Hays and Garrett Hines finished fourth in the two-man bobsled, extending America’s 46-year medal drought in the sport.

Hays, a former Ultimate Fighting guy, put it on himself to get the Americans back on the podium, but after four runs he and Hines missed by about the length of a finger.

The German team, driven by bobsled legend Christopher Langen (four Olympic medals, two golds) won the gold after entering the final run tied with Switzerland-1. Switzerland-2 won bronze.

“I thought we put a good enough margin on them,” Hays said. “I thought I had a bronze, but you can’t make mistakes against the Germans and the Swiss. I don’t want a lucky win. I want a legitimate win.”

Hays began his Salt Lake Olympic experience with a press conference in which he melodramatically presented a slew of nutritional drinks and foods that could contain banned supplements. The diatribe, directed at the IOC, was his response to the pre-Olympic suspension of his pusher, Pavle Jovanovic.

Sunday, he was more gracious in disappointment than he had been in anger. He blamed the loss on one poor start Saturday and gave credit to bronze-medal driver Martin Annen of Switzerland-2. “If I had two runs yesterday (in the first round) like I had today, I’d be in the medals,” Hays said. “If I wasn’t competing against the Germans and the Swiss, I’d be real proud of them.”

Asked if the Olympics would leave more bad memories than good, Hays said, “No. No. I’m proud to be here.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Watch the lip and steer like an Olympian

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at boston.com:

A lot ran through my mind as I was about to plunge the equivalent of 15 stories on an icy track at highway-rated speeds. I had mostly second thoughts about what had seemed like a fun idea, mixed with intense visualization on how to steer a 300-pound metal sled down a labyrinth of half-pipe turns in a way that wouldn’t result in serious bodily harm, or worse.

Sitting in the cockpit, I braced my knees against the side of the sled, pressed down hard on the stationary foot pegs, and readjusted the bulky, full-face motorcycle helmet.

“How fast will we go,’’ I asked Pat Brown, my instructor at the Bobsled Driving School at Utah Olympic Park outside Park City.

“You’ll be going slow — about 55 miles per hour,’’ he said, as he squatted next to our sled.

That may have sounded slow to someone like Brown, a former member of the US bobsled team who went on to coach the Jamaican bobsled team (think “Cool Runnings’’) in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, the first US women’s bobsled team in 1998, and this year’s Korean team at the Vancouver Olympic games. But for someone like me, a first-time bobsledder, 55 sounded downright scary.

I gripped the D-shaped steering rings that were attached to the bobsled’s front runners by rope and said, “OK, I’m ready.’’

“No jerky movements,’’ said Brown, who is now head coach of the park’s Bobsled and Skeleton Development Program. “The less steering you do, the better you’ll do.’’

Hunkered behind me, in the “brakeman’’ position of our two-person sled, sat Robert Purviance, another novice who had come from Los Angeles to give bobsledding a shot. If he liked it, he planned to try out for the national bobsled team.

“Let’s do it,’’ said Purviance.

“Sled in track. Sled in track from the Junior Start,’’ a voice called out over the loudspeaker.

“Just remember to relax and breathe,’’ said Brown, as he gently pushed us off the start line. There was no turning back.

Click here to read the entire article.

Click here to take your own ride on The Comet bobsled!

Women In Motion: Sneak peak at impressive new video

The following is an excerpt from a thestar.com blog post:

This is a preview of a view called Women in Motion featuring skeleton racer Mellisa Hollingsworth, Olympic women’s bobsleigh champ Kaillie Humphries, world champion speed skater Kristina Groves, luger Alex Gough and Carla Macleod of the Olympic champion women’s hockey team.

Click here to read more and to see more video.

Vancouver Olympians back in winter mode

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at TeamUSA.org:

Members of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team dedicated their lives to training and preparing for the Games last February in Vancouver. They rejoiced with their coaches and families after they qualified for the team.

The Opening Ceremony, competition and Closing Ceremony went by in a blur, and then the Olympic Winter Games are over.

The athletes are left with a lot of decisions to make. Should they continue training for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which will take place in Sochi, Russia? Is it time to retire? Or is it best to take a break for a bit and then come back?

The answers are as individual as the athletes themselves. Here’s a look at what some of the stars of the Vancouver Games are up to now that the winter sports season is back in full swing:

Steve Holcomb, gold medalist, pilot of the “Night Train” bobsled team: Holcomb became one of the biggest stars of the Vancouver Games, thanks to his easy-going personality and passion for his sport — not to mention leading “Night Train” to Team USA’s first four-man bobsled gold medal since 1948.

Holcomb has been busy, enjoying life in many ways. He has appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” getting to read the show’s signature “Top 10 List.” He’s thrown out first pitches at a Cleveland Indians game and at a San Francisco Giants game. Holcomb played golf with colorful former NBA star Charles Barkley. He flew around a NASCAR racetrack, getting to experience a different type of speed and banking than bobsled.

Getting back to training, and real life, has required a bit of adjustment for Holcomb. He’s looking toward competing in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, wanting to defend his team’s gold medal.

“It seems like things moved very fast but now it’s so slow,” Holcomb, 30, said in a telephone interview during a training break in Lake Placid, N.Y. “I’m realizing that high is not going to come back for three and a half more years and right now it seems like three and a half years is forever.”

Bobsled and skeleton teams open their World Cup season at the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, on Nov. 22-28.

Click here to read the entire article.

Last Dance: Bobsledder Holcomb eyeing new season

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at usatoday.com:

After winning an Olympic gold medal, American bobsled driver Steven Holcomb wondered why people kept saying it would change his life.
He wonders no more.

Here’s a taste of what Holcomb experienced in the last 7 months: He met President Barack Obama, played golf with Charles Barkley, hung out with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, spent time with guys who make the Xbox games he spends countless hours mastering, visited the New York Stock Exchange, threw the ceremonial first pitch at a Cleveland Indians game, went to the Indianapolis 500, became a Microsoft Certified Professional and, oh, posed nude.

“I needed to, you know, try to live it up for as long as I can,” Holcomb said.

Now its time to get back to work.

The U.S. bobsled team opens on-ice training Friday at the sliding track in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the luge and skeleton teams will begin preparations for the 2010-11 season and the buildup to the 2014 Sochi Games.

In February, Holcomb drove the U.S. bobsled program to a four-man Olympic gold, the first by Americans since 1948. And he’s been celebrating in earnest ever since.

“The concern, if the team has one for Steve, is maybe they think this whirlwind’s not going to stop,” U.S. bobsled coach Brian Shimer said. “But I think when we get back on the ice it’ll settle down, we’ll all come together and get back on the same page again.”

The three men who’ll push Holcomb and the famed “Night Train” sled this season include returning teammates Curt Tomasevicz of Shelby, Neb., and Justin Olsen of San Antonio, along with Steve Langton of Melrose, Mass., who’ll take the spot of retired push athlete Steve Mesler. They have been working out for months to get ready for the challenges that lie ahead, starting with a return to the Olympic track in Whistler for the World Cup opener in November.

Holcomb hasn’t been working out, at least not at the level he has in past offseasons.

“I was on the road since March,” Holcomb said. “I’ve been training when I can, where I can, however I can. It’s been really tough. Whenever I get a chance, I can work out and do what I can … but I’ve been on the road, basically, well, I’ve had a couple weeks total at home this whole time.”

Hard to blame him for taking advantage of what might be once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The life of most Olympic athletes isn’t exactly glamorous or high-paying. Holcomb was $40,000 in debt at the end of last season, which he’s since managed to pay off thanks to bonuses ($25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee for winning gold) and appearance fees that have been coming in since he stood atop the medal podium in British Columbia.

And Holcomb isn’t far removed from thinking his career was over, either. He was going blind, actually down to 20-500 vision before surgery to embed a contact lens behind his iris corrected a degenerative condition. That allowed him to see clearly, which comes in handy while driving a sled down icy mountainside chutes at 90 mph.

So this spring and summer became a victory tour. Thousands of people, he estimates, have worn his gold medal. More than once he woke up in a hotel, not knowing what city he was in. The “Holcy Dance” an inside joke that went viral after teammates loaded it onto YouTube got performed in more places than he cares to count. Air miles traveled? Probably somewhere around 100,000.

“How many times are you going to play a round of golf with Charles Barkley? Not many,” Holcomb said. “But I’m better than him.”

Click here to read the entire article.

RJ Shannon Named Utah Olympic Park Track Manager

Congratulations to RJ Shannon. The Utah Athletic Foundation announced Thursday, September 30, 2010 that Shannon is now the Utah Olympic Park Track Manager.

Prior to 2003 when Shannon began his career at the Utah Olympic Park on the Track Crew, he was the Operation and Logistic Supervisor with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee at the Medals Plaza in Salt Lake City from 2000 to 2002.

Since joining the Utah Olympic Park, Shannon’s experience, knowledge and skill have been displayed in all areas of Track operations. His lead and supervisor roles have included Track Crew, Control Tower and the Comet Bobsled Public Ride Program. Shannon has also acted as Chief of Track for numerous regional, national and international Bobsled, Skeleton and Luge events. In organizing these Track events, he has developed important relationships with the international sports federations, FIBT(Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing) and FIL (International Luge Federation).

“We are fortunate to have an experienced leader of our Track Crew team able to take on the responsibilities of Track Manager,” said Colin Hilton, CEO of the Utah Athletic Foundation. “RJ is an asset to our organization and capable of upholding the high standards in all areas of our Track operations.”

Shannon is a committed and respected member of the Utah Olympic Park team. The Utah Athletic Foundation looks forward to working with him as the Utah Olympic Park continues its endeavors to support the development of track sports and in offering quality sports programs.