|Steve Langton's injured knee.|
Halloween might be filled with haunted houses and black cats, but this spooky holiday has nothing on Team USA’s scariest sports moments. From terrifyingly high jumps to being attacked by birds, these 17 stories are so scary you’ll wonder why you were ever afraid of ghost stories. But unlike those stories, these ones are real. Be afraid — very afraid.
Matt Scott, Paralympic bronze medalist wheelchair basketball player: The scariest thing to happen in my career was when I landed at the airport for a tournament and the airline lost my competition chair the day before the tournament began.
Steve Langton, two-time Olympic bronze medalist bobsledder: Leading up to the 2010 Games and one week out from national push championships and what I foresaw as a powerful return, I had the pleasure of having our dry land push track tombstone me and filet open my left knee. It was the first, and hopefully last time, I will ever have to see an exposed bone.
Meryl Davis, three-time Olympic ice dance medalist: My first year of college, I lived with four other girls in a house — it was a typical, old, grungy house complete with a terrifying basement. One night, when I was home in between grand prix events, we were all there when we heard a knock coming from the back of the house. As the knocking continued, we decided that it was coming from the door to our terrifying basement. Naturally, because what else would you do (?), we grabbed makeshift weapons and barricaded ourselves in a room upstairs. When our guy friends came over to help us investigate, we discovered that we had a walnut tree shedding walnuts onto our roof that caused a knocking sound.
Nick Goepper, Olympic bronze medalist freeskier: My scariest moment was last year leaving Russia. I had a layover in Istanbul, Turkey, that lasted about four hours. But when I was there I lost my passport and spent the next few hours frantically trying to find it. I needed it to board my flight to New York for a media event. Turns out I left it in a kiosk. When I got in touch with airport security, they had it. I made it with about 15 minutes to spare!
|Jamie Greubel-Poser's bobsled malfunction.|
Jamie Greubel Poser, Olympic bronze medalist bobsledder: The scariest thing that ever happened to me was during a practice run down the bobsled track in Lake Placid. We pushed the sled full speed off the top and I jumped into the sled ready to drive down the track, only to realize that my steering was locked by a metal rod holding the two steering arms together. We had worked on my sled earlier that morning and had forgotten to take it out. As soon as I realized what was wrong, I frantically began reaching into the sled to try to pull the rod out. My helmet was preventing me from ducking my head in the sled and my arm could not reach far enough. We entered the first corner picking up more and more speed. Since the brakeman does not pull the brakes until after we reach the finish line, there was no stopping us. If I didn't get the rod out we were going to crash hard out of one of the top corners, and it would be a long painful ride on our heads all the way to the bottom of the mile-long track picking up speeds close to 60-70 miles an hour. As the sled came out of the first corner, the rattle of the ice and the movement of the steering arms allowed the rod to shake loose. As we went into the next corner, I emergency steered hard off the curve and was able to regain control of the sled. My heart was pounding the rest of the way down through the next 18 corners, and we finally crossed the finish line. When I took my helmet off, my face was white, and I still could not believe the disaster I had narrowly escaped.
Carly Patterson, 2004 Olympic all-around gymnastics champion: One of the scariest moments I had in my career happened to be on the way to the most important night of my life — the individual all-around final at the 2004 Athens Olympics. We were on the bus on the way to the arena when we started to smell smoke and see the bus smoking from the windows. We immediately pulled to the side of the highway and had to exit the bus only to realize our bus had broken down. While waiting for a new bus to come get us, you could tell everyone was a little tense. Were we going to be late? Or completely miss warm-ups? So instead of stressing, my U.S. teammate Courtney Kupets and I decided to take pictures on our disposable cameras and act like we were hitchhiking! Luckily, the new bus came and we arrived at the arena just in the nick of time. Phew!
Steve Serio, Paralympic bronze medalist wheelchair basketball player: When I was in college, we were traveling to a tournament and stopped for a night at a motel in the middle of nowhere. This place was straight out of a Halloween movie: bad lighting, weird noises, scary workers, etc. We didn’t get much sleep that night and that was for sure the scariest thing that’s happened in my basketball career.
Cammile Adams, Olympic swimmer: The scariest thing that’s happened in my swimming career happened six heats before my prelims race at Olympic Trials in 2012. My suit ripped! I was in the warm-up pool and my dad — who was thankfully on the deck at the time — ran and got my towel and got me a new suit. I had to put on the new suit in less than five minutes and almost missed my first race ever at trials. Needless to say, I always carry an extra racing suit now!
Erin Hamlin, Olympic luge bronze medalist: I had a weightlifting mishap this summer, training at home. The makeshift bench I was laying facedown on fell and I basically face planted into the floor, a complete scorpion if you're familiar with that. Instantly my nose was gushing and my whole face hurt so I was equally scared that I broke it and might have wrecked my neck. Luckily my mom (who's a nurse) was right there. Not a pretty picture!
Ty Walker, Olympic slopestyle snowboarder: The scariest thing that ever happened to me was hitting the first jump at the Arctic Challenge a few years back. I was 13 and I was still getting used to hitting bigger jumps at pro events. This jump was possibly one of the biggest jumps I've ever hit (to this day), and my coach was pushing me to hit it right away so I wouldn't build it up in my head by avoiding it. I remember hyperventilating at the top of the course — I actually thought I was going to be sick. I ended up hitting it, had an insane adrenaline rush and then got more and more comfortable with the jump as practice went on. Now, big jumps never seem so scary.
Michael Paye, two-time Paralympic wheelchair basketball player: I would say the scariest thing that happened to me was while traveling on a plane for a USA camp. We were about 100 feet from landing when the pilot put the jets on full blast to go back up to cruising altitude. Everyone on the plane was freaking out and a bit on edge (including myself, who was traveling alone). I really thought the landing gear wasn't working but the pilot finally said there was a major wind warning and that was the reason to quickly get back to cruising altitude. It was another 30 minutes before we were able to land and the whole time I was scared, thinking the landing gear wasn't working and the pilot only said the wind warning to keep people calm.
Sarah True, Olympic triathlete: I was riding my bike in Australia when all of a sudden, the back of my helmet was bludgeoned in a flurry of feathers and scratches. Since I couldn't see my assailant and it happened so unexpectedly, it was an almost supernaturally scary experience that I ended up letting out a bloodcurdling scream. While I was terrified, my Aussie counterparts were doubled over with laughter; it turns out that Australian magpies are notorious for territorial sneak attacks of cyclists in the spring.
Charlie White, three-time Olympic ice dance medalist: The scariest thing for me was when I was about to compete and would realize I wasn’t fully prepared! Thankfully, we had great coaches so it didn’t happen often. But every now and then before I’d step out on the ice, it was like the ‘ghost of training past’ was over my shoulder whispering in my ear, ‘you’re not ready, yo.’ Very scary!
Gail Gaeng, wheelchair basketball player: I think the scariest thing that has ever happened to me was when I forgot my spare wheel for one of my basketball trips. I remember thinking that I'm not going to be able play if my wheel breaks. Of course something did happen and my teammates really helped me out in a time of need. Teammates are the best thing in the world.
Arielle Gold, Olympic snowboarder: A good scary story for me is from early season training a couple of years ago. I was doing my first frontside 900 of the season and I took off of the lip too early. I ended up landing with half of my snowboard on the deck of the halfpipe, and bouncing off. I can still remember the feeling of falling backwards toward the flat bottom of the halfpipe — it was as if it was in slow motion. I knew I was falling far, and I had no idea how badly I was going to get hurt. Typically, I don't have much time to think before I fall, but this was definitely an exception. I ended up with a sprained shoulder, a slight concussion and some bruising, but thankfully nothing too serious!
John Gilbert, wheelchair basketball player: The scariest thing about traveling is saying goodbye to your competition chair when you get to the plane entrance and hoping that it comes back up and in one piece when you arrive at your destination.
Connor Jaeger, Olympic swimmer: At Olympic Trials in 2012, I lost count during my 1,500-meter free swim and kept swimming after the race was over. Scary!