Soldier-athletes begin training on Olympic ice at Whistler Sliding Center
In this file photo, Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program bobsled pilot Sgt. Mike Kohn (front right) leads his four-man squad at the start of a U.S. World Cup Team Trials race in 2009. Soldiers competing on Team USA's two-man bobsled squads at the XXI Olympic Winter Games were delighted to resume their Olympic training Wednesday night at Whistler Sliding Center.

WHISTLER, British Columbia, Canada -- Soldiers competing on Team USA's two-man bobsled squads were delighted to resume their Olympic training Wednesday night at Whistler Sliding Center.

"This is amazing," said Sgt. John Napier, who is scheduled to drive USA II with Steve Langton aboard. "It feels great to be sliding again, especially on this track. It's so fast and so fun. I love driving here. It's one of the most incredible feelings to guide a sled down this course. I can't wait to do it again tomorrow."

Napier arrived Feb. 8 in Canada and spent several days in Vancouver, where attending the Opening Ceremony of the XXI Olympic Winter Games made him yearn to become a life-long Olympian. On the eve of his return to a bobsled track, Napier discussed the pre-competitive Olympic experience.

"Fifteen years of hard work to get here," Napier said. "I told a lot of people I would go through 10 times the troubles and sufferings to make it to this point now that I know what it's about. I was fighting for something before I really knew what it was and didn't know what it was for. But now I know."

"Now I've witnessed it, and I'm like, 'Man, I'm hungry to keep going more, too.' I want four more Olympics after this. Being here all week and seeing the atmosphere and all the help of the volunteers and just to see how large of an operation it is and how small a piece of the puzzle we are is kind of cool."

"The ceremony was the big point that really stood out and said, 'Wow, you've made it.'"

His brief time out of the sled, however, made Napier itch to get back to work on Wednesday.

"We need to be on ice; we're bobsledders," said Napier, a bobsled pilot in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. "Being here and having to wait for several days was difficult, so it feels amazing being here (at the track) tonight."

WCAP brakeman 1st Lt. Chris Fogt echoed that sentiment.

"Our runs felt very fast and very smooth," Fogt said. "I haven't been behind a sled in a couple of weeks, so I was happy to push today. It felt good to get some rust off. We had a good push and we're ready to roll."

Former WCAP bobsled pilot Sgt. Mike Kohn, now a member of the Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program, will drive USA III.

"I love this track," Kohn said. "I really feel like this track suits my driving style well. I'll be honest, I was a little nervous, but we're from the U.S. and we don't back down from a challenge."

"I had a lot of help from the coaches and the other drivers, plus Todd Hays shared some of his lines with me. This track isn't nearly as difficult as I thought. I just need to dial it in and iron a few things out."

Former WCAP pilot Steven Holcomb, the reigning four-man world champion, will drive USA I with Curt Tomasevicz aboard.

"This is fantastic," Holcomb said. "The ice is smooth and in great condition. It's what you expect Olympic ice to be. It feels so nice to be back on ice again because we've been waiting around for 10 days for this moment. It's nice to get after it again."

The bobsledders resumed training at 11 a.m. Thursday and they will make two more training runs down the track on Friday. Competition is set for two heats on both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, followed by the medal ceremony at 7 p.m.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16