Two-time Olympic skeleton racer Bernotas retires

Below is an article posted on universalsports.com

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Two-time U.S. Olympian Eric Bernotas has retired from skeleton, ending a 10-year racing career.

Bernotas found the sport by accident in 2001, getting lost on a drive through the Adirondacks and ending up at the Olympic Sliding Complex near Lake Placid. He became a full-time slider shortly afterward.

He retires with 12 World Cup medals, a silver medal from the 2007 world championships, four U.S. national crowns and Olympic appearances in 2006 and 2010.

The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announced his retirement Saturday.

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TeamUSA.org: Skeleton 2010-11 Preview

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

John Daly barely had time to be the Rookie of the Year when his role quickly turned into veteran on the 2010-11 U.S. skeleton team.

When the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announced its five-person World Cup team for the upcoming season, only the 25-year-old Daly and Eric Bernotas, come back with Olympic experience.

One year after a breakout season in which he finished 14th in his debut World Cup season and 17th at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Daly has his sights set on big improvement this season.

“I’d like to be top-three in the overall World Cup this year,” he said. “So it’s a big goal… [But] the ultimate goal would be a gold medal in 2014 in Sochi. It’s far away, but we are already thinking about it.”

Daly, from Smithtown, N.Y., is leading the charge of fresh faces on the U.S. Skeleton team. The team’s two highest finishers at the 2010 Olympics, Noelle Pikus-Pace (fourth place in women’s) and Zach Lund (fifth place in men’s), did not return to the team this year. Pikus-Pace retired after the Olympics, while Lund has taken a year off but ultimately plans to make a run for Sochi.

Meanwhile Katie Uhlaender, who finished 11th in Vancouver, is recovering from surgery on a torn hip labrum and hopes to be back for the second half of the 2010-11 season.

So that opened the door for first-timers Kimber Gabryszak, 30 and Matt Antoine, 25, as well as 2007-08 World Cup team member Annie O’Shea, 23, on this year’s World Cup team.

Click here to read the entire article.

Zach Lund takes break from skeleton

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

Skeleton athlete Zach Lund is taking a break from the sport but still hopes to compete in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, USA Bobsled and Skeleton announced Friday.

“I still hope to compete in the next Games,” Lund said in a statement. “If I’m going to have any chance of doing that I need a break both mentally and physically. Once I started sliding this season, I realized I needed to take at least a year off.”

Lund cited spending more time with his wife and daughter and a lack of passion as his reasons for taking the leave of absence.

“Maybe I’ll get a second wind, maybe I won’t,” Lund said. “I see guys like Matt Antoine and John Daly who are hungry and passionate, and they really want it. Here I am on the opposite side of the spectrum, and that’s not a good situation. I thought that the pressure would be off my shoulders this season and I could relax and enjoy sliding again, but I struggled doing that.”

Lund made his first Olympic appearance in Vancouver, finishing in fifth place overall in the skeleton race.

In 2002, he suffered a debilitating car accident after being rear-ended and was removed from the Olympics.

In 2006, Lund was the top-ranked skeleton athlete in the world. He was notified an hour before the opening ceremonies that he was removed from the U.S. Olympic team for testing positive for Propecia, the hair restoration drug. The International Olympic Committee removed Propecia from the banned substance list in 2007.

Click here to read the entire blog post.

Getting on the right track

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

Parkite Kimber Gabryszak needed a perfect storm, and boy, did she get one.

This past weekend, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announced its roster for the 2010-2011 World Cup skeleton squad after a set of races at the Utah Olympic Park.

Gabryszak was returning to her home track to sled in the final two rounds of the selection races in hopes of qualifying for the World Cup circuit. After the first two races, which had been held in Lake Placid, N.Y., Gabryszak was in fourth place heading back to Utah.

If she was going to qualify, she was going to need to inch her way in to the top two to qualify for the World Cup.

“I just went into this weekend knowing that if I had a great race I could close the gap,” Gabryszak said.

Gabryszak knew she needed to just forget about her “hard” races in Lake Placid, the flu bug she had been fighting off and just jump on the sled and fly down the hill.

On Friday night, she came in second place.

“I did show that I could slide well and it took a lot of pressure off,” she said.

On Saturday night, she took first, but still stood in third place overall.

Two-time America’s Cup winner Annie O’Shea finished first in the national point ranking in the four-round set, and seasoned veteran Rebecca Sorenson had the second of two certified spots for the World Cup team locked up.

Then, following the race Saturday, Sorenson abruptly decided to take a year off and focus on coaching alongside head coach Tuffy Latour.

“We are excited to have Rebecca on our coaching staff,” Latour said. “She’s one of our most skilled sliders, and our rookie athletes will benefit under her guidance.”

Sorenson will continue to slide with the team, and will eventually compete for a spot on the team once next season’s circuit comes around.

Suddenly, Gabryszak was in the No. 2 slot, and had her ticket to the World Cup roster.

Click here to read the entire article.

Still in the Movement: Jimmy Shea

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

The storyline could not have been more perfect.

Jim Shea Jr., “Jimmy,” was set to compete in the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

He was one of the main reasons skeleton was even a sport in the Olympics – promoting it to anyone who would listen.

And his voice had meaning because it was one in tune with the Olympic Movement.

His father, Jim Shea Sr., was a 1964 Olympian in Nordic Combined and Cross Country Skiing.

And his grandfather, Jack Shea, won two gold medals in speed skating at the 1932 Winter Olympic Games.

They were both expected to watch as their son and grandson respectively tried to add another gold medal to the Shea family trophy case.

But happy endings aren’t always like you’d expect.

Jack Shea died in an automobile accident when he was hit by a drunk driver just 17 days prior to the Olympic Games and the Shea family was devastated.

Besides the emotional toll, Jimmy was fighting off a condition that left him with only 20 percent blood flow in his legs. But he leaned on his grandfather’s memory, his father’s words and his coach’s motivation to carry him through.

Jimmy did win that medal – not only for himself, but for his father and his late grandfather.

His hair stood on end at the podium and he felt exactly what his grandfather told him he would feel.

Standing on that podium, Shea knew that there were not many things more important to him and his family than the Olympic Movement and ever since he has promoted it in ways he knows his grandfather would be proud of.

Growing up in Lake Placid, New York, it wasn’t the medals that his father and grandfather had that Jimmy remembers, it’s how they talked about the Olympic Games with such reverence.

“I think I was very fortunate to grow up with the attitude my grandfather and father had towards the Olympics and it was not necessarily about winning the gold medals, it was about competing – it was about representing your country and about the Olympic ideal of bringing the world together in peaceful, friendly competition,” Jimmy said.

So, while Jimmy was a daredevil that enjoyed many of the sports in and around Lake Placid, he was never pressured to find an Olympic sport of his own to excel in. A medal was never expected of him, but an Olympic attitude was.

“The importance of that which really was taught to me at a young age – fair sportsmanship, working hard, all these things were sort of just naturally taught to me,” he said.

Click here to read the entire article.

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.

Kingston native chasing Olympic dream as coach

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

Less than a decade ago, Brian McDonald saw his dreams of making the 2002 Winter Olympics fall short by .08 seconds.

Four years from now the Kingston resident will hope to live out his Olympic dream as a coach for the U.S. team in the sport he loves — skeleton.

Recently, McDonald was named as an assistant in the sport where competitors slide down an icy track on their stomachs and the former America’s Cup champion fully expects to be in Sochi, Russia for the Winter Games in 2014.

Tuffy Latour is head coach of the team, with McDonald, Willi Schneider and Orvie Garrett serving as assistants. Ironically, Latour competed in bobsled with Brian’s brother, Joe.

“I’m very excited to be a coach for this team,” said Brian McDonald, who honed his teaching skills as a coach for the development program at Utah Olympic Park. “I feel I have a lot to teach these athletes from the perspective that I was once in their shoes.

“It is an awesome opportunity for me.”

McDonald competed for the U.S. from 1993-2005 before he began to turn his attention to coaching. He then moved to Park City, Utah, where he oversaw the prime feeder program for future Olympians.

“I loved the experience working there,” said McDonald, who moved back to Kingston in June. “It was great working with those athletes.

“No doubt it was tough when I knew my career was over. I was training for a shot at the Torino (Turin, Italy) Games (in 2006). I pulled my quad muscle.

“It was disheartening. I couldn’t get myself out of the sport. I was asked if I would consider coaching and I went from there.

“Coaching is certainly a different feeling in that I’m not putting my body on the line. But the adrenaline is still there.

“The competitive part never leaves your system.”

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.

Un sueño hecho realidad (A dream come true)

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

Juan Jose Carlos knows a thing or two about success.

He knows a thing or two about struggling, too. But one thing is certain: the member of the Mexican Bobsled and Skeleton national team knows that he wants to help dreams come to fruition.

Carlos is the director of the newly-founded Mexican Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation, and Saturday at the Utah Olympic Park was the foundation’s first official recruiting event.

Local kids, ages 12-to-16, of Mexican heritage from Summit and other northern Utah counties took to the pavement as they began practicing and training on the skeleton push track, with the help and guidance of Carlos and other coaches.

“We started this program because we had a lot of problems; we struggled to make the Mexican bobsled-skeleton team work,” Carlos said. “This will open more doors.”

“No one has trained in bobsled or skeleton. Everyone will start at zero.”

The goal for the program is to get Mexico qualified for the inaugural 2012 Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Carlos, originally a track-and-field star, was approached by someone involved with the Mexican Bobsled and Skeleton team back in 1997 and presented with a proposition.

“He asked me if I wanted to go to the Winter Olympics,” Carlos said. “I said sure.”

Carlos thought about joining the team, but realized the Mexican Bobsled and Skeleton team wouldn’t qualify for the 1998 Olympics, so he put thoughts of flying down a chute on a sled behind him for the time being.

In 2002, he ran into the coach of the Mexican team only to find out that his native country had finally qualified in the sport he’d dreamt of competing in. Two years later, Carlos flipped the switch.

“I wanted to try it,” he said.

Carlos asked the head coach what he needed to do to make the team. The coach told him he needed to become certified. He didn’t know how. He didn’t have adequate equipment.

His solution?

Go to Austria. He earned his license and practiced on sleds that didn’t fit his taller frame.

Carlos made friends all around the world. He traveled to places he’d never imagined possible.

But launching a program of this magnitude presents barriers and takes a couple things: kids and funding.

Art Piña, the president and founder of the organization, knows this.

The Salt Lake City resident was a sponsor for the Olympic Mexican Bobsled and Skeleton team. He knew Juan Jose Carlos would be the ideal coach and director to help him get the program going.

“We’re skiers, but we sponsor the (Mexican bobsled and skeleton) team,” Piña said. “For two years, I’ve been traveling with them, being around the sport. I just like this sport. I just fell in love with the sport. As the Mexican population here grows, the push-track is only 20 minutes away from Salt Lake City.”

The foundation has cleared all of its roadblocks. It received its charter in March of this year and has full cooperation of the Mexican government and Olympic Committee.

“The idea’s been going on for a year,” Piña said. “We did all of our paperwork the first part of the winter. We got accepted by the government and got a bid and got our structure set up.”

Piña knows that if done correctly, something like this can prove to be unbelievably beneficial to the young people of Mexico, and young Mexican-Americans.

Click here to read the entire article.

Olympic athletes relate dreams to youngsters

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

She came from a family without a lot of money.

He didn’t start pursuing his sport until his 40s.

But that didn’t stop moguls skier Jillian Vogtli or skeleton racer Steve Jackson from pursuing their dreams of becoming Olympic athletes, they told a group of students Thursday at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake’s Lied Club.

The two were among four athletes who visited the club Thursday to inspire children to pursue their dreams in honor of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. The athletes, including two Olympians, are part of Athletes for Hope, a national group that encourages members to give back to their communities.

“I think, for us as athletes, representing the nation is a great feeling, and I think, in some ways, we all realize the small part we can play in inspiring and helping others,” said Jeremy Holm, a Utah native and professional bobsledder. “We think of the heroes from 9/11 — firefighters, police officers, service workers — we think of those heroes and the inspiration they gave to all of us, and I think, as athletes, we just do our best to give back.”

Vogtli and biathlete Bill Spencer told the group of about 30 children in the club’s after-school program all about the Olympics. Spencer, a two-time Olympic athlete, talked about the difficulty of skiing fast and shooting straight in the biathlon. Vogtli told students about her dream and the hard work it took to get there.

She said she decided to become an Olympic athlete when she was 11 years old after reading a book about it that her mom bought for her. Her family didn’t have a lot of money, but she was determined.

“I just had this great big dream,” Vogtli said. “I didn’t know if I could do it, and I didn’t know how I would.”

But with time, practice and persistence, she made it to the Olympics — twice.

“It’s one thing to say you want to do it,” Vogtli said. “It’s a whole other thing to do it.”

Jackson hasn’t yet made it to the Olympics, but if he has his way, he will be shooting down a frozen track, headfirst, in 3 1/2 years. Though Jackson just started training this year, he said he is determined to make his dream come true, despite his age.

“I’m a little older than most athletes, but that doesn’t matter because I have a dream,” the Murray resident told the children.

Though the students asked a lot of questions about crashes and injuries, many said they felt inspired while listening to the athletes.

Click here to read the entire article.