Nathan Crumpton at the 2016-2017 Team Trials in Park City, Utah. Photo: Molly Choma
Throughout the summer leading up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, USA Bobsled & Skeleton is speaking with an athlete each week to get to know more about their careers, personalities and outside interests.
A former track and field athlete at Princeton University, Nathan Crumpton found the sport of skeleton in 2011, made his first national team in the 2015-2016 season and has not looked back since. The Park City, Utah native is originally from Kenya and grew up traveling the world and living in different places. He finished eighth at his first World Championships in Igls, Austria, and his best World Cup finish is fifth in Whistler, Canada.
Crumpton’s interests outside of sliding vary from photography to Star Wars to snowboarding, and he also models to help fund his skeleton career. USABS sat down with him as he prepares to make a bid for the 2018 Olympic Team.
USABS: Where did you grow up and what sports did you play as a kid?
NC: At 7 years old, my parents sent me away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where I showed promise as a Quidditch player. By the time I was a teenager, I was one of the star seekers for my house. The skills that I developed handling a broom at high speeds in three dimensions translated well into to learning how to drive a skeleton sled.
Ok, just kidding, but the truth is nearly as cool. I was born in Kenya, and spent most of my childhood in Africa. I played a lot of rugby, field hockey, and athletics, also known as track & field. And, according to the IBSF-TV broadcasters, I was also a professional cape buffalo rider.
USABS: How did you get into skeleton?
NC: Tuffy Latour, the head skeleton coach, came around to Hogwarts to recruit athletes for the U.S. team. It is rumored that Great Britain’s team has been recruiting from Hogwarts for years, which is why they've won an Olympic skeleton medal in every Olympic Games since 2002.
Actually, I saw it on TV during the 2010 Olympics and decided it looked like fun and something I might be good at, so I decided to give it a try in 2011. I took a combine test, did well enough to be invited to National Push Championships, and then did my first skeleton school in November of 2011.
USABS: What are you up to this offseason?
NC: I have a difficult offseason ahead of me. In Germany and Korea, I roomed with two-time Olympian John Daly, and he opened my eyes to proper haircare technique. John is famous for having some of the best styled hair in the sport, and he tried to teach me how to properly care for my hair, but I failed miserably. There are just so many steps and so many different products to use: hair dryers, pommade, straighteners, leave-in-conditioner, wet-brushes, dry-brushes and half a dozen different types of combs. I've taken it upon myself to try and improve my hair styling this offseason, but I know it will be an uphill challenge fraught with setbacks and frustrations.
USABS: What do you wish people knew about your sport?
NC: Just because you're a good Quidditch player doesn't mean you'll be good at skeleton. Despite the similarities, they're rather different sports, and the skills needed to pilot a skeleton sled take years to develop. Driving a skeleton sled isn't easy, even though the best drivers make it look as if they're just laying on the sled.
USABS: Favorite sliding memory?
NC: Hmm...not sure. I have a lot of good ones. But I really enjoy throwing rocks into a frozen river in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It's a tradition that started a few years ago on Europa Cup, and Kendall Wesenberg & I have continued it on the World Cup tour, as you can see in this video.
USABS: Best piece of advice you've received?
NC: "Take the spoon out of the mug before you drink your hot chocolate." That's saved me from poking my eye out many times.
USABS: What is something that fans of the sport might not know about you?
NC: Despite being a skeleton racer — a profession which is aptly described as 'a sport for idiots with no regard for their lives' — I actually graduated cum laude from Princeton. The university must be so disappointed in what I've done since then, especially since I'm not making Wall Street money and can't donate huge sums of money back into their coffers.
USABS: Favorite place in the world?
NC: Only one? How about 3? I really enjoy Hawaii, where my maternal grandmother is from. It's a tropical paradise and a great escape. In winter, my favorite place is Jackson Hole on a powder day with my skis or snowboard. Steep and deep. And I still feel attached to East Africa, there's a frontier aspect to that part of the world that elicits wonder and excitement.
USABS: Which USABS skeleton athlete would win an arm wrestling contest?
NC: Depends who the arm wrestling match is against. If it's against "The Mountain" from Game of Thrones, then probably nobody.
USABS: What TV show are you watching right now?
NC: The aforementioned Game of Thrones. Watching "The Mountain" smash a man's head in with his bare hands is a fitting image for anyone who slides down an ice chute at 80+mph head-first.
USABS: Dogs or cats?
NC: Dogs, for sure. Cats are passive aggressive divas.
USABS: If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?
NC: From the X-Men series, Magneto's ability to manipulate metal. Then I could psychically accelerate my sled down the ice during a race.
Be sure to follow Crumpton on Instagram @nathanikoncrumpton and on Twitter @NICrumpton!