Casey Wickline, a Greenville, S.C., native, has been a member of the men's bobsled national team for the past two seasons.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (June 11, 2016) - Mike Kohn got his start in bobsled earlier than most.
At 18, just after he graduated high school, the Columbia, S.C., native was invited to his first combine after his high school football coach recommended him.
Just months later, he was in a bobsled with Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker during Walker’s first-ever bobsled run.
“Being from South Carolina, I grew up watcing Hershel Walker and George Rogers, who was a Heisman trophy winner in 1980,” Kohn said. “You never know what that opportunity to try something new could bring to you later in life.”
For the former football player who is entering his 27th year in bobsled — he has been coaching for Team USA for the past seven after a 20-year career — the combine was what kickstarted his journey to transitioning to a new sport, meeting his idols and eventually winning an Olympic medal. And, this summer, his Columbia hometown is set to host the second USA Bobsled & Skeleton combine of 2016. The evaluation — which will feature several physical tests — is set to take place June 18 at Owens Field Park.
Bobsled and skeleton athletes come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including track and field, football, rowing, bodybuilding, softball and field hockey. Kohn, however, encourages anyone interested to participate in the upcoming combine.
“You can take it as many times as you like and for some people, the first time they take it, they don’t do as well as they had hoped,” he said. “My advice would be just to come try it. You never know. I was one of those athletes that when I first got invited to do it, I looked at it with no expectations and I ended up going to the Olympic Games and winning a medal.”
In addition to Kohn, current national team member Casey Wickline hails from South Carolina. The Greenville native, who competed in a host of sports at the high school level, serves as a firefighter in the offseason.
Turns out even firefighting and bobsledding have intersecting qualities.
“Bobsled and firefighting are very similar from a teamwork perspective,” Wickline said. “That's the most important element in both firefighting and bobsled. When everyone on the team has the same goal and you have a certain chemistry that comes only with trust, great things can happen. When you’re on a great team you become a family, a very dysfunctional one, but still a family.”
Those with Olympic aspirations are encouraged to attend one of the USABS combines, which will take place throughout the summer. Though Kohn and Wickline come from very different backgrounds — aside from their South Carolina heritage — the opportunity has changed each of their lives.
“I’ve seen a lot of athletes that might not have as much of the speed and power that we look for, but they have that burning desire and they’ll exceed expectations just because they want to do that so badly,” Kohn said. “I never would’ve thought that attending that combine would’ve directed my life from that point on. If a young kid from South Carolina can make the Olympic bobsled team, then anybody can.”
Any athlete wishing to participate in the Columbia combine must pre-register. For more information, please click here.
Kristen Gowdy, USABS Media and Marketing Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org, (719) 722-0522