By Gary R. Blockus | Nov. 08, 2017, 1:12 p.m. (ET)
(L-R) Lou Moreira, Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Josh Williamson and Hunter Church stand on the podium at the North American Cup on Nov. 7, 2017 in Whistler, British Columbia.

 

Last August, Josh Williamson didn’t even have a passport.

On Tuesday, the men’s bobsled winner of “Scouting Camp – The Next Olympic Hopeful” was part of the four-man bobsled team that helped Team USA kick off the international season in style by winning four medals during the North American Cup competition in Whistler, British Columbia.

“Scouting Camp – The Next Olympic Hopeful” is a talent-identification initiative where the United States Olympic Committee, in partnership with 24 Hour Fitness, brought 91 athletes to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in July to train for the sports of bobsled, rugby, track cycling and skeleton.

Pilot Hunter Church, along with his crew of Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Lou Moreira and rookie Williamson won a gold, a silver and two bronze medals, and emerged as the only team to medal in every race.

Williamson and Moreira won gold and silver in the four-man bobsled with Church and Abdul-Saboor, who also picked up a pair of bronze medals in the two-man competition.

Williamson, 20, from Lake Mary, Florida, is a former lacrosse player who loved to lift weights and began noticing bobsledders like Moreira and Steve Langton from the weight training regimens they posted on Instagram. He was actually training for a USA Bobsled & Skeleton combine when the Scouting Camp competition was announced. Williamson tried out at a 24 Hour Fitness.

“The worst-case scenario was I didn’t get to go or didn’t do well, and I’d have the combine to fall back on,” he said.

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Williamson was initially placed in the skeleton group, but impressed the coaching staff and mentor athletes to win the reality TV documentary as a bobsledder.

“Josh Williamson caught my eye,” said USA Bobsled coach Brian Shimer, a five-time Olympian. “He was in the skeleton group, and as he started going through the combine, it was obvious to me that we needed to pull him over to bobsled. It just got better after that.

“He's only 20 years old, very seldom do we get an athlete of that quality at that age. His speed, his strength, his power, the push, he's everything we want to see in a bobsled athlete. Then his attitude and desire to be a bobsledder, he's way beyond his years. I'm excited we were able to find someone like him through this process."

Church, just 21 and a product of Lake Placid’s junior bobsled program, had never driven a four-man bobsled on the Whistler track, but he and the team dominated on the first run with a winning time of 51.50. They took silver in combined time to Brazil by one-hundredth of a second.

The four will compete for Team USA at the next North American Cup in Calgary Nov. 8-17.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.