By Blythe Lawrence | Jan. 19, 2020, 11:05 a.m. (ET)

Hunter Church, Joshua Williamson, James Reed and Kris Horn compete at the BMW IBSF World Cup on Jan. 3, 2020 in Winterberg, Germany.

 

Hunter Church has the enthusiasm, the talent, and now the hardware to prove he’s one of the leaders heralding a resurgence for USA Bobsled and Skeleton. 

The 23-year-old Church and four-man teammates Jimmy Reed, Josh Williamson and Kris Horn came away with a bronze medal behind two German teams at the IBSF World Cup in Igls, Austria, Sunday, a day after Team USA head coach Mike Kohn praised driver Church’s capabilities, declaring that “it feels like the next era is emerging.” 

“That’s what we do!” Church exclaimed after the team’s successful second run on the relatively short 1,200-meter track, which occurred after a two-minute hold following a crash from a sled helmed by Germany’s Nico Walther, whose team finished just off the podium. The U.S. men sat third after having the third fastest push in the first heat, and improved it by a tenth of a second during their second go at the track. 

The last time a four-man U.S. sled won a world cup medal outside of the U.S., it was the late Steven Holcomb in the driver’s seat (with Jimmy Reed also in his sled), taking bronze in Igls three years ago. Codie Bascue drove a four-man sled to silver in Park City, Utah, early in the 2017-18 season, which was the last time the U.S. men had seen the podium.

Until now.

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The U.S. men were the surprise sensation of Sunday’s event in Igls, and all smiles as they deprived Germany a podium sweep by finishing in 1:42.30, just 0.42 seconds behind the German team of Francesco Friedrich, Candy Bauer, Martin Grothkopp and Alexander Schueller, who captured gold in 1:41.88. A second German team composed of Johannes Lochner, Florian Bauer, Christopher Weber and Christian Rasp were 0.33 back for silver.

Sunday’s bronze is the first world cup medal in 4-man outside of North America for Church, who was competing in Igls for the first time. The 23-year-old from New York is an athlete Kohn has singled out as having special promise in the sport, but he is just beginning to emerge on the international scene. His best result was fifth on his home ice in Lake Placid, New York. 

The Team USA men’s four is composed of a diverse background of athletic accomplishments. Church, from Cadyville, New York, has had top 25 finishes in 2-man and 4-man races on the world cup circuit, as well as two medals from the North American Cup events, and is a third-generation bobsledder. Horn competed in decathlon for the University of Massachusetts before turning to bobsled. 

Williamson played Division I lacrosse for Mercer University before winning Team USA’s “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful,” which turned him on to the possibilities of bobsled. Reed, a native of Garmisch, Germany, ran hurdles at the University of Maine and has competed at four world championships in bobsled. 

With their bronze medal finish in Austria, they have signalled their potential for more. As Kohn said, “it’s showing on the hill in the races, and it’s really exciting to watch.”

Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.