Photos: Molly Choma
To kick off the 2022 Olympic quad, USA Bobsled & Skeleton is speaking with a potential 2022 Olympic or Paralympic athlete each week to get to know more about their careers, personalities and outside interests.
Originally from Meridian, Idaho, skeleton athlete Andrew Blaser was a standout track and field athlete at the University of Idaho before transitioning to skeleton post-collegiately. Blaser won his first-ever international medal in his first season competing on the North American Cup (NAC) tour in 2015-2016, but this year was by far the most successful season of his career. In eight NAC races, Blaser medaled six times and finished second in the overall men’s skeleton NAC rankings behind only teammate Austin Florian.
Before skeleton, pole vaulting and hurdles were Blaser’s primary athletic pursuits, but he also played football and basketball in high school and danced ballet in elementary school.
USABS sat down with Blaser as he begins his offseason training in Boise, Idaho.
USABS: How did you get into skeleton?
AB: I was talking with my sister about what I was going to do when my track career was over. When it ended, I took a coaching job at a university in Utah and ended up calling the bobsled coach on a whim asking to try out. At the time, they told me I was way skinny and encouraged me to try skeleton, which I hated and was terrible at. I went back to bobsled and was even worse at driving bobsleds. So I moved and quit, but came back to Utah on a whim and tried skeleton again with a new sled, and life worked out that time.
USABS: What brought you back?
AB: I was in a really bad place, personally, when I was first starting the sport, so I don’t think I gave it a fair opportunity. There are a lot of voices from a lot of different angles that were involved with post-collegiate athletics combined with some personal stuff that was going on in my life at the time. When that all cleared out of the way, I decided that I hadn’t let it run a full course yet. I hadn’t been on the right equipment, hadn’t had the right number of runs, hadn’t had both feet in. I took a summer and tried to evaluate and decided to give it one last go, and that’s when things clicked for me.
USABS: You had a big year on the North American Cup tour this season. What changed for you compared to past years?
AB: I think I was just a lot more comfortable. My first season on NAC, we went to Whistler and Calgary, which I had never been to, and I had only been to Lake Placid for I think two weeks at that time. Last year, we did the tour and took a trip to Europe to slide St. Moritz, Igls and Winterberg, and that helped. I had a teammate, Sam Culiver, tell me in my first season that “you always think you love the sport until you get on a brand new track. The first time you go down a new track, you either fall in love with it or you hate it.” I’ve never forgotten that conversation. But last year I was able to get on a bunch of new tracks and get more comfortable. It relaxed me this year and I was able to go out and do well.
USABS: What are you up to this offseason?
AB: I’m traveling a lot this summer. I’m heading to Paris and Barcelona in July and checking out Acadia National Park and doing Yosemite and Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. I’m also starting a training program with a new coach, which I’m excited about.
USABS: Do you have a favorite sliding memory?
AB: I have several. My first NAC race in Park City, I had a downtime personal best on the second run after popping a groove on my first run, and came back from 17th to 6th place in my first international race. That was a lot of fun. Also, taking third place in both NAC races in Placid this season was great this year. It started to feel like more of a home track for me in a place where I’ve historically struggled.
My funniest memory was getting hit by a pinecone as I was sliding in St. Moritz. It was kind of hilarious. You don’t expect it, they just fall out of the sky. That track is wonderful, it’s quiet and beautiful, and then you get hit by a pinecone.
USABS: What attributes transferred over from your track career into skeleton?
AB: Technically speaking with sliding, just being able to feel the body awareness. Coming from a pole vaulting background and a hurdles background, you have to have body awareness of where you are in relation to other objects; in skeleton, the same thing applies. In this case it’s walls. In pole vault, you kind of have this fearlessness. I had to get mine in check because I sometimes tend to slide with too much control, but with vault you kind of just have to send it, and that has translated really well. Also, coming off a block and being able to use your stride and explode off the start is definitely a benefit that I’ve taken from track.
USABS: What is something that fans of the sport may not know about you?
AB: I’m the youngest of four kids. I love camping. I’m usually found singing, anywhere, all the time, and never on key because I don’t know what that is. I love tanning beds. Shrimp is my favorite food. I believe that I will be reincarnated as a squirrel and will immediately migrate to Florida.
USABS: If you could pick a superpower, what would you pick?
USABS: If you weren’t doing skeleton, what would you want to be doing?
AB: Professional eater.
USABS: Beach or mountains?
AB: Both. I’m picking Oregon, where I have access to both very quickly.
USABS: What show are you currently binge-watching?
AB: “The Good Wife.”
USABS: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Be sure to follow Blaser on Instagram @andrewblaser!
Kristen Gowdy, USABS Marketing and Media Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org, (719) 722-0522