Justin Olsen has an Olympic bobsled gold medal as a brakeman, and now gets the chance to pursue one as a driver.
Olsen, Nick Cunningham and Codie Bascue were announced Monday as the three drivers on the U.S. men’s Olympic bobsled team for the Pyeongchang Games. Each will compete in the two- and four-man competitions.
Olsen was part of the U.S. four-man sled that won gold at the Vancouver Games in 2010. That sled was driven by Steven Holcomb, the longtime leader of the U.S. program who died last spring. His unexpected death left a void the team has been dealing with this Olympic season.
“We lost our anchor when Steven Holcomb passed away in May, and the athletes on this team stepped up to honor him the best way they knew how, which is by laying it all on the line week after week,” USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele said. “These athletes made sure the legacy of the U.S. program continued to grow on the trajectory that he set for us.”
Holcomb and Steven Langton teamed to win two medals at the Sochi Olympics four years ago. Langton is returning to these games as is Chris Fogt, who was in Holcomb’s four-man sled that medaled in Sochi.
Bascue’s four-man sled will be pushed by Evan Weinstock, Sam McGuffie and Langton. McGuffie will push for Bascue in two-man.
Cunningham will compete in four-man with Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Christopher Kinney and Sam Michener. Abdul-Saboor will push Cunningham in two-man.
Olsen’s four-man team includes Nathan Weber, Carlo Valdes and Fogt. Weinstock will switch sleds for two-man, and push Olsen.
No nation can have more than three sleds in any Olympic competition, and the Americans got their third four-man sled qualified on Sunday – the final possible day. It took Hunter Church, a 21-year-old rising star within the program, winning a North American Cup race in Lake Placid, New York to secure the points that the Americans needed for that third starting spot.
“Hunter is a very selfless athlete, a selfless competitor,” Cunningham said. “He’s all about his team, all about Team USA, and it shows. He did everything he could this whole season to make sure that USA has the best chance to take three sleds to the games.”
If Church hadn’t finished first on Sunday, the Americans would have gotten only two four-man berths – meaning some the Olympians who were announced Monday would have been staying home otherwise.
“Hunter deserves credit for his selflessness, teamwork and composure this past weekend,” Steele said. “We could only name 12 people to the team, but there are a lot of players behind the scenes and on the ice that helped make the dreams of those 12 come true.”
Cunningham is going to his third Olympics, his second as a pilot. Olsen is also a three-time Olympian now, and will make his driving debut. Bascue is headed to the Olympics for the first time.
Among the push athletes, Fogt and Langton are now three-time Olympians. The rest of the push corps is a group that includes an U.S. Army green beret in Weber, a former professional track athlete in Kinney and a former football player in McGuffie – who ran for 131 yards and caught a touchdown pass for Michigan at Notre Dame in 2008, then spent time in the NFL with Oakland, Arizona and New England.
The two-man competition in Pyeongchang is Feb. 18-19, and the four-man competition is Feb. 24-25.
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