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After 13 Years, An Olympic Gold Medal And A Switch To The Driver’s Seat, Bobsledder Justin Olsen Retires

By Chrös McDougall | July 22, 2020, 3:01 p.m. (ET)

Justin Olsen poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Sept. 26, 2017 in Park City, Utah. 


Justin Olsen went from high school football star in Texas to Olympic champion as a bobsled push athlete in 2010, and then he reinvented himself again as a bobsled pilot and battled through an appendectomy to compete in a third Olympic Winter Games in 2018.

On Wednesday, Olsen, 33, announced his retirement following 13 years in the sport. Shortly thereafter USA Bobsled & Skeleton announced he would be joining the staff as a coach.

“It seems an impossible task to encapsulate the memories, relationships, accomplishments and struggles that have transpired over the past 13 years,” he wrote in a lengthy Instagram post announcing his retirement. “My desire to be part of a team and continue to compete at an extremely high level was all I needed to say yes to bobsled. Everything that followed was a bonus.”

Born in Lubbock, Texas, and raised in San Antonio, Olsen initially planned to represent his country as a tight end for the Air Force football team. After one semester there, he decided instead to join the Marine Corps. Before he could do that, however, he found an opportunity to represent his country in another way.

Following a bobsled recruitment camp, Olsen was invited to join the U.S. world cup team in 2007. Drawn to the best, Olsen set a goal of pushing for ace pilot Steve Holcomb, and one year later he did just that. Their four-man sled — which also included Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz — went on to win the 2009 world title and then the 2010 Olympic gold medal in Vancouver, marking the first for an American men’s sled since 1948.

Olsen went on to make a second Olympics in 2014, helping push Nick Cunningham’s four-man sled to a 14th-place finish in Sochi. Then he made the switch to the driver’s seat, ultimately qualifying for the 2018 Winter Games in both the two- and four-man events.

Two days before he was set to begin training in South Korea, however, Olsen had an emergency appendectomy. Nonetheless, he came back to drive his two-man sled to 14th place and his four-man sled to 20th.

And along the way, Olsen did end up representing the U.S. in the service, too. He enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in 2011 and later competed as a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.

“When I look back at all the places I’ve been and the accomplishments I’ve achieved, I realize it is more than I could ever have imagined or dreamed of when I arrived to the sport back in 2007,” he wrote.

Olsen came back to the sport for the 2018-19 season but hasn’t raced since a February 2019 world cup in Calgary, Alberta. He’ll now join fellow Olympian Garrett Hines in starting as a bobsled and skeleton start coach for the coming season. The duo will work with both the development and national teams.

“Sidelined by an injury over the past year, I have had a lot of time to reflect and consider how I might best share the knowledge and experience I’ve gained and continue to contribute to USABS and Team USA,” he wrote in his retirement post. “As I look forward to the future, I am overcome by emotions of humility and gratitude. It has been (an) absolute pleasure to represent you all and the United States of America, thank you.”

Chrös McDougall

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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Justin Olsen