I was floored when I heard the number of people adventuring west. About two months ago, I sent out an email to some friends and family and invited them to come to the 4-man bobsled race in Utah because I knew that many wanted to see the Olympic race that will be held in Russia in February. But because of distance, time, and financial situations, very few could make it. The second best place to watch a live race would be Park City, Utah. I called home a week or two after sending the emailed invitation with time to let it circulate. I thought maybe there would be a dozen or so people that would respond. Instead I was told that my home town of Shelby, Nebraska would be chartering a bus to make the trip!
The weekend’s schedule included a 2-man race, two women’s bobsled races, and the grand prix event, the 4-man race. I would only be competing in the last event. But I wanted to have time to talk to and greet all those that came. So I reserved the party room at the Park City Ruby Tuesdays near the bobsled track for the night before the 2-man races. However, when I made the reservation, no one knew that the bus would lose its heat and force its passengers to spend an extra 12 hours in Kearney, Nebraska. So the initial reception was limited to only those that flew into Salt Lake City or those that drove separately.
I briefed everyone that could attend on what to expect at the races and what to look for. I not only wanted to have the usual passionate and boisterous Nebraska fans. I also wanted the educated fans that the Huskers are accustomed to on football game days. I told those at the reception about start times and down times, about start order and second heat protocol, and about the favorites and the underdogs of the race. I also warned them that, as many already assumed, it would be cold.
That night, at about 3 a.m., the bus finally arrived in Park City giving the passengers a short night before the 2-man race the next day. Because I was not pushing in the 2-man race, I was able to mingle with friends and family during the race and give as many hugs and handshakes as I could.
On Saturday, despite snowy conditions and temperatures reaching only about 10 degrees, the 4-man race was held in the late morning. My team drew first, meaning we were the first ones off the hill at the 11:04 a.m. start time.
The moment was exactly how I would have dreamed. It was one of the loudest starts I can remember, next to the Olympic Games. The one hundred crazy fanatics screamed, yelled, and rang cow bells like they had been bobsled fans all their lives. After the first heat, we were in a three-way tie for first place, a tie to the hundredth of a second. Needless to say, I have never been a part of a closer contested race.
The second heat was going to break the tie with the German team and the Russian team. With the other two teams going before us, we were the last sled off the hill that day. Again, the chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” gave us the needed fire to have the fastest push of the race. And we were able to pull away from the other two teams. We won the World Cup race by over a third of a second (a big time win in bobsled). That was the icing on the cake.
The best part of the day was after the race. Winning the gold medal was great, but the pinnacle was after the award ceremony when I was able to celebrate with everyone that made the trip. I was incredibly moved by the support that I felt. My yet-to-be-born cousin, my 80 year old great uncle, and everyone in between that came to Park City reminded me what every Olympian should know… competing for the USA is the greatest honor any athlete could ever experience. Each person at that race as well as those that could not attend, shared in that victory. I can only hope that I can be a part of the team that stands on top of the podium again in February in Russia.
|Most of the 100+ Nebraskan's that attended the race in Utah|
|After the award ceremony|