Codie Bascue may be the youngest member of the men’s bobsled national team, but 13 years of sliding have taught him that age doesn’t matter.
It didn’t matter when he was growing up and his grandfather started a sliding program at his school. Just eight years old at the time, Bascue found the passion that sparked his lengthy career at the helm of a bobsled.
It didn’t matter during the 2011 World Championships when, at 16 years old, Bascue competed against athletes that were more than a decade his senior.
And it certainly didn’t matter on the 2014-15 World Cup tour. Making his first appearance at the highest level of competition, the 20-year-old piloted USA-3 to a tenth-place overall finish, including a season-best seventh place on the tricky Altenberg track.
Instead of allowing his age to hinder him, Bascue has turned it into an advantage, utilizing his experiences as a youth slider that many of his teammates do not have to spur him to the more advanced circuits.
But Bascue is different from many of his teammates in other ways as well. For one, he doesn’t come from a sprinting background, as many of the other U.S. bobsledders do. Instead, Bascue grew up around the sport, learning the intricacies from his grandfather, who had slid in Lake Placid and the Empire State Games, but never made the national team.
“I have never met someone with more passion for the sport of bobsled than him,” Bascue said. “Growing up around bobsled has been amazing.”
Though Bascue did wrestle and run track along with playing baseball and football, bobsled was always his forte. He continued to slide throughout his youth, breaking onto the national scene in 2011, when he raced in the World Championships.
“I think the biggest thing that starting at such a young age helps with is experience,” he said. “I think that the experience I have gained while still being so young has helped me progress in the sport. I have met so many accomplished and great people and made so many memories. I have seen a lot of places around the world that most people never see and I have bobsled to thank for that.”
Bascue began his career as a pilot — he never considered becoming a push athlete — which also differentiates him from other drivers, many of whom were initially brakemen. But solely concentrating on driving has allowed Bascue to establish himself as one of the best young drivers in the world.
It led him to the Youth Olympic Games in 2012, where a 17-year-old Bascue finished seventh. More importantly though, he got a taste of what an Olympic appearance would entail.
And even years later, Bascue remembers the feeling of entering the arena in Innsbruck, Austria, for the opening ceremony of the first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games. It’s a sensation that he doesn’t want to forget, one that propels him to work harder for a spot on the 2018 Pyeongchang team.
“My experience at the Youth Olympics was one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far,” he said. “The amount of people I met from all around the world was outstanding. Walking into opening ceremonies even at the Youth Olympic level was indescribable. I will never lose all of the amazing memories I have from them.”
Following the Youth Olympics, Bascue competed on the North American Cup, where he expanded his resume extensively by earning a medal in every two-man and four-man race except one during the 2012-13 season.
In that first season on the circuit, Bascue surprised even himself by accumulating 10 gold, four silver and three bronze medals.
“My success on the North American Cup has prepared me for the national team by giving me experience competing for medals and given me a taste of victory and now I strive for that feeling every time I race,” he said. “I would love to continue to surprise myself.”
After placing 30th at the 2012-13 World Championships, Bascue continued his domination in the North American Cup, particularly in four-man, where he earned three more first-place finishes in the 2013-14 season.
Then, a driver’s spot on the national team opened up when Sochi Olympian Cory Butner retired. USA-3 needed a driver, and the best option was the 20-year-old pilot from Whitehall, N.Y. who had been tearing it up on the lower level circuits.
Bascue snagged his spot piloting USA-3 for the 2014-15 season following two third-place finishes in the national team trials, including a run during the first race that was the fastest time of the day.
“My previous years on the lower circuits help prepare you for races, but the races between the levels are a world of difference,” he said, “There are more tracks, more competition, tougher competition, more spectators, cameras, etc. It took me awhile to adjust to World Cup, but I loved it.”
This season, Bascue maintained his spot on the national team with a successful tryout and continues to compete on the North American circuit.
“My time on the World Cup circuit last year was great,” he said. “I raced on a lot of tracks I had never raced on before and other tracks I had only been on a few times. The experience on new tracks and in the World Cup atmosphere is very important to my progression in the sport.”
Back on the North American Cup, Bascue returned to doing what he does best: topping the podium. This season, he recorded seven podium finishes in two-man and four-man racing, including five gold medals.
And he has waited. For another chance to appear on the World Cup tour. For an opportunity to surpass at least one of the top-two USA sleds — with only two U.S. sleds slated to compete in the 2018 Olympic Games, Bascue will need to do so in order to make the team.
When it comes time to pick the Olympic team, Bascue will be just 23, a decade younger than Olympic veterans Steve Holcomb and Nick Cunningham, who will also likely be vying for a spot.
But Bascue hasn’t let his age determine any outcome in his bobsled career thus far. Shooting for his ultimate dream won’t be any different.
“I would love to win a World Cup race, World Championships, become an Olympian, maybe even win an Olympic medal,” he said. “I think the only way to accomplish these goals is to keep progressing and stay motivated. These are obviously big goals, so if I don't end up accomplishing these, not all is lost because of the great time I've had within the sport.”
Kristen Gowdy – USABS Media and Marketing Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org, (719) 722-0522