Summer Series: Getting to know Greg West

May 11, 2018, 7:26 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Molly Choma

 

To kick off the 2022 Olympic quad, USA Bobsled & Skeleton is speaking with a potential 2022 Olympic athlete each week to get to know more about their careers, personalities and outside interests.


After a season that saw him win USA Skeleton National Team Trials and compete on the World Cup circuit, Greg West is preparing for another Olympic Quad as one of Team USA’s top returning men’s skeleton athletes. West, a Missouri native and former football player at Baker University, began sliding on a dare from a roommate after watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.


Last summer, West adjusted his training plan and came back to the sport in top form. He looks to continue that process this summer while also traveling the world and working full-time for Spartan Race.


USABS caught up with West as he begins his summer of training and traveling.


USABS: What is your athletic background?


GW: I played a little bit of everything, but mainly the focus as I got into high school was football and tennis. I ended up playing football in college; I kind of had a weird way of getting there though. I went to community college down in Florida because I wasn’t big enough or fast enough to play college football right out of high school. I played flag football for my community college team, and we actually won the national championship. I played in two national championship games in three years. From there, I played in a men’s football league for a season and sent a tape to my buddy, who was the quarterback at Baker University in Kansas. He showed it to the coach, and they flew me up and signed me. It was kind of a non-traditional approach to playing college ball, but I did it.


USABS: From there, how did you get into skeleton?


GW: I finished school, I moved to Alabama for work and to be around family. I was watching the 2010 Olympics and saw John Daly and my roommates were like ‘You could do that!’ And they kind of dared me a little bit to try out. So I filled out an athletic resume on the USABS website and a couple of months later, got an email from [recruiting coach] Don Hass.


USABS: And years later, you’re teammates with John.


GW: Yeah, we talked about that at the beginning of the season, because things kind of came back full circle for us. I told him and Matt [Antoine] that watching them was what got me into the sport, then having them as my World Cup teammates this year was very cool for me.


USABS: Do you remember your first trip down the track?


GW: I do. Don Hass pushed me off from Start 4. I asked him how to steer, and he said ‘Dont. The sled is smarter than you are.’ I slid into the first corner, which was Curve 9, and by the end of Curve 10, I was in love. I was ready to get back up. Some people never want to see a sled again after the first run, but I was like a kid on a playground who couldn’t wait to get back on the slide.


USABS: What are you up to this summer?


GW: I’m doing the same thing, but always trying to improve. Stagnation is death in this sport, and so I’m always trying to find ways to improve. I took some time and sat down and took stock of what worked and what didn’t work. Obviously there was more last summer that worked then didn’t work, and talking with my strength coach, we focused on the things we felt were beneficial and looked at things that could be improved upon. We made some changes and started to implement them. It’s interesting, changing the athletic programming, because I’m not 23 years old anymore, and what worked then may not work now. I think there’s a lot left in the tank though, I really do. I wouldn’t be coming back for this Quad if I didn’t think there were massive improvements to be made.


USABS: And what about outside of training?


GW: This summer’s going to be a little less stressful than last summer. The pre-Olympic summer is more focus, it’s less extracurricular fun. This summer, we’re letting our hair down a little bit, traveling a little bit more. We’ve burned up some frequent flier miles already, just bouncing around and seeing family. I’m going to Sweden this summer, so I’m really looking forward to that. Earlier in the summer, it’s just about taking some time for ourselves and taking a breath. It’s really easy to get laser-focused and realize that while skeleton is an amazing part of my life, it’s what I do, not who I am. So finding that balance is really important, and that’s my focus this summer.


USABS: You have a great career going that lets you work and slide at the same time. Can you talk a little bit about what you do?


GW: I work for Spartan Race. I’m the operations manager of our global customer services, so I manage a team of 18 people that manage Spartan Race customer service across many different countries. We have offices in the U.S. and the Philippines, as well as being in charge of all the customer service needs for many different countries. It’s a fully remote position, which is pretty cool. I keep a full-time job on the road, which creates an interesting work-life balance on tour. It’s a lot of juggling, but it’s a positive outlet for me.


USABS: What is your favorite sliding memory?


GW: There’s a few, but I’m going to say the last selection race this year, earning the World Cup berth with my mom and my grandfather there. That was a real treat. This was one of those things that took them awhile to get on board with, and now they’re as all-in as I am. They still went to Korea because they had to decide in December whether they were going or not and at that point, I was in, so they got tickets and went anyway. They’re Team USA superfans. But to earn the World Cup spot with them there was pretty cool.


USABS: What is something that fans of the sport might not know about you?


GW: I don’t usually talk about this alot in the athletic world, but I’m a huge video game nerd. I do a lot of simulation stuff. I race in an online simulation racing league, which is a fun release for me.


Lightning round:


USABS: What is your favorite food?


GW: Cheeseburger with bacon. Nothing healthy on it. Side of sweet potato fries. Toasted bun.


USABS: Which USABS skeleton athlete would win an arm wrestling contest?


GW: Top three would be Alex Ivanov, then a battle for second between Chris Strup and Kyle Brown.


USABS: What do you want to pursue after sliding?


GW: I would like to be involved in motorsports in some capacity, whether it’s calling races or working with a team on research and development stuff.


USABS: Dogs or cats?


GW: Dogs.


USABS: If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?


GW: Flying.


Be sure to follow West on Twitter and Instagram @west_greg!


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