The Good, The Bad & Sochi (3/8/13)

Team Night Train at World Championships
Curt Tomasevicz, me, Justin Olsen and Steven Holcomb
Debuting the new BMW two-man sled

2012-13 was an interesting season for me and my Night Train teammates. After an extremely successful first half and some much needed time at home with our families, we were ready for the New Year. We had amassed six medals prior to the Christmas break, and were anxious and motivated to pocket a few more before the season’s end.

The first two stops following our Christmas break, however, were anything but triumphant. For four successive races in Koenigssee, Germany and Igls, Austria, Team Night Train failed to reach the podium. This was disappointing. As an athlete, however, it is imperative to be able to manage and control your emotions just as you would your physical being.  I consciously work to never get overly excited after a great performance and to never get too discouraged when our results fall short of my expectations. Over the course of a season and a career, actively practicing this mindset helps keep our progress in perspective and maintain focus on the bigger picture. Although our first four races fell short of our goals, my teammates and I remained calm and used our failures as motivation and as opportunities to grow and improve. Our relatively poor performances during the final weeks of our competitive season only left us increasingly keen on winning a medal at the World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

The biggest story leading up to the two-man race in St. Moritz was the American’s new BMW two-man sled. After some very promising, but limited, testing that produced the fastest runs of the week, my pilot, Steve Holcomb, and our coaching staff made the decision to race our newly acquired prototype. Aesthetically, the new BMW sled is quite intimidating. With its low profile, sleek lines and full carbon fiber cowling, it was the subject of lust for many, if not all of our competitors. The sled is the product of BMW North America’s partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee and select National Governing Bodies, focused on giving American athletes need-based support as they prepare for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. After two days of racing and four miles of ice, Steve and I ended up in fourth place, .10 seconds from a World Championship bronze. At the end of the day, the new sled ran extremely well, with some of the top speeds at the bottom of the historic and lengthy St. Moritz track. Looking ahead, I’m both confident in and excited to see the modifications BMW will make to improve our sleds with Sochi on the horizon. Their dedication to our success is as appreciated as it is evident.

Leading up to the four-man race the following weekend, our problems seemed to pick up right where they left off in Austria. Speed continued to elude us but, having confidence in my teammates and myself, I remained optimistic. Over the course of that week, our mechanic, Frank Briglia, and the coaching staff worked tirelessly, on and off the track, to make sure our equipment was ready for the task at hand. Their exhaustive efforts paid off on race day.  After what was probably one of the worst periods of American bobsled racing to date, and after the hardest fought race of my career, my teammates and I found ourselves on the World Championship podium, with bronze medals hanging around our necks. Although I approach each race with every intention of winning, to come from sixth to third on the final run of a major competition really makes you appreciate just how special the journey really is.

The 2012-13 season culminated with an Olympic test event in Sochi, Russia. Palm trees and temperate climates do not necessarily evoke thoughts of the Winter Olympics. Sochi, which is nestled on the east end of the Black Sea, seems to affectionately disagree. After just an hour drive from the remote Russian airport, I found myself staring at soaring mountains and the sprawling venues, which in a year’s time, will have the world’s utmost attention. It was evident that the Russian government is very invested in these Games and is doing everything in its power to make sure they are successful. That being said, the majority of what will serve as the mountain venues next February is under construction. Although a year is a long period of time, the amount of work that still needs to be done is daunting. On a more positive note, the Olympic track where I hope to be competing is quite impressive. The start and finish areas are sizable and boast a modern look. The warm-up area is fantastic and the ‘Sanki’ track is as exciting as any. Regardless of the location, the opportunity to represent one’s country at an event of such meaning and magnitude as the Olympics is surreal. With a lot of hard work and preparation, I just might have that chance, once again. Although our results this season were not as favorable as I had hoped, I know that Steve, Justin, Curt and I have every intention of capitalizing on our strengths, limiting mistakes and coming back in a year’s time ready and eager to accomplish our predetermined goals.  I firmly believe that God gives everyone gifts, and if we can see the gifts of others, use those gifts, and work together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.