Para skeleton athlete Robbie Gaupp makes history in Lake Placid

April 06, 2018, 2:03 p.m. (ET)

Para skeleton athlete Robbie Gaupp makes history in Lake Placid

 


For everyone else in the Adaptive Sports Foundation’s Warriors in Motion bobsled and skeleton training camp last week, Friday, March 30, was just the final day of training, nothing out of the ordinary.


For Robbie Gaupp (Gatesville, Texas), it was history in the making.


In the final run of his season, Gaupp, a para skeleton athlete and retired Army Sgt., became the first para skeleton athlete on record to complete a run from the top of the Mt. Van Hoevenberg bobsled and skeleton track in Lake Placid, N.Y.


Traditionally, para bobsled and skeleton athletes have trained and competed from Start Three, which begins in Curve 4, instead of Start One. But when Gaupp got the go-ahead to train from Start Two last Wednesday, then Start One on Friday, he thought to himself ‘Why not?’


“I thought I could do it, I had been training consistently from Start Two for a couple of days,” Gaupp said. “I’ve always been an athlete, and I’ve always been a competitor, so it was something I wanted to do.”


Gaupp’s journey to the top of the track began when he hit rock bottom. In 2008, on a mission with Border Support Security for Operation Jump Start in Texas, Gaupp shattered his right shoulder, rendering his arm nearly useless due to nerve damage. He said he’s classified as an arm amputee even though surgeries were able to prevent amputation.


From there, Gaupp retired from the Army, but remained an athlete, overcoming his disability to compete in para track and field, sitting volleyball and archery. He competed in multiple Warrior Games and Invictus Games, and earned a spot on Team USA’s para track and field World Championship team as a triple jumper in 2013.


But a spot in the Paralympic Games has always eluded him. It’s Gaupp’s ultimate goal as an athlete, one that would validate his many years of training in various sports. He got close in 2016, nearly earning a track and field spot in Rio de Janeiro, but was left off the final roster.


Enter para skeleton, which he began last year at a friend’s recommendation. It’s his next athletic endeavor, the one he hopes will lead to the Paralympics.


“I’ve made it to a Worlds, but I would love to be a Paralympian in my lifetime,” he said. “Right now, this is great. As long as it’s here, I’m going to keep doing it. That’s what I’ve always done in all of my sports.”


The path will be a long one, though. Last year, para bobsled was provisionally approved for the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, but para skeleton did not make the cut, leading to decreased participation in the sport.


Accomplishments like Gaupp’s though show that para skeleton still has a future. Kim Seevers, the Adaptive Sports Foundation’s program director who was coaching Gaupp last week, said the quality of para sliders has continued to improve as their camps have continued in Lake Placid.


“Each time, Robbie has pushed his limits to slide better and higher,” Seevers said. “He comes back and works harder every time. All of the veterans who've participated in Adaptive Sports Foundation's Warriors in Motion camps have opened up the opportunity to slide this iconic track to other athletes with disabilities. Robbie making it to the top successfully shows the sliding world that these athletes have the strength and heart to work beyond their disabilities and make great things happen.”


Gaupp even said that Seevers suggested he come out to a summer combine to compete with USA Bobsled & Skeleton’s able-bodied athletes. It’s something he says he’d consider, but for now, he’s looking forward to continue advancing the sport at its para level.

 

“When I add it all up, I haven’t had very much time on the track,” he said. “You get a minute at a time, and I’ve only done it three weeks total. So right now, I would definitely like to help skeleton to get into the Paralympics. When I got injured, it set me back, but I also realized that now I just have something to overcome.”

 

Kristen Gowdy, USABS Media and Marketing Assistant, kristen.gowdy@usabs.com, (719) 722-0522.