Marine captain sets her sights on Olympic gold in 2026

By Denise CaskeyDecember 26, 2023

Capt. Riley Tejcek, left, and her teammate Emily Renna

compete in the two-woman World Cup Bobsled competition

in January 2023 in Winterberg, Germany. (Courtesy photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

When she’s not wearing fatigues, Marine Corps Capt. Riley Tejcek, a support specialist at Expeditionary Warfare School at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia, spends her time careening down a track at 90 mph on a bobsled, her sights set on Olympic gold in 2026.

“I love representing my country,” Tejcek said. “I love everything that the United States stands for, which is why I wanted to join the military and serve. I’m so blessed and fortunate for what this country has given me.”

Tejcek was born in San Diego, California, but calls Indiana home because that is where she grew up. Her father is a professional baseball player, and her mother is a vice president of a pharmaceutical company.

“I grew up really having to focus hard on sports and academics at the same time,” Tejcek said. “That was very much ingrained into my younger sister and me as we were growing up.”

Tejcek earned a Division I scholarship to play softball at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Within her first few weeks on campus, she was approached by a recruiter and decided she wanted to join the Marine Corps. She completed the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class and commissioned when she graduated in 2019.

Transitioning from softball to bobsled

Tejcek played softball all four years she was in school at GWU and when she graduated, she thought that would be the end of sports for her.

“That was hard, but I had the military, and that’s where my focus was,” Tejcek said. “I had a year of training. I went to basic, then to logistics school because that was my (military occupational specialty).”

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Riley Trejcek, an Olympic bobsledder, signs autographs at the commissary on Marine Corps Base Quantico
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Riley Tejcek, a supply officer with the Amphibious Warfare School, an Olympic bobsledder, a native of Carmel, Indiana, signs autographs and talks with others about her experiences during her careers at the Commissary on Marine Corps Base Quantico. Tejcek will be the first female Marine to participate in the Olympics for bobsledding. Her Olympic debut is set to be in the 2023-2024 season. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeffery Stevens) (Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Jeffery Stevens) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Riley Tejcek transforms from Marine Corps captain into a competitive bobsledder competing in the 2023 Bobsled World Championships in February 2023 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Courtesy photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

At this point it was 2020, and Tejcek said she realized she had lost some of her motivation and was unsure what she wanted to pursue goal wise. She knew she wanted to do athletics, so she decided to give bobsled a try.

While Tejcek was still a student at GWU, she was tasked with presenting an award to Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor. That was when the bobsled bug initially bit her.

“She won silver at Pyeongchang in 2018,” Tejcek said. “I loved everything that she had to say about bobsled. I loved the fact that you have to be extremely fast and powerful. She was kind of the introduction.”

Tejcek found an online combine, a sort of test to judge her abilities, and then in November 2020 was invited to try out.

Using her military training on the track

Bobsled is a dangerous sport, and crashes are inevitable, Tejcek said. She credits the Marine Corps for giving her the grit, courage and mental fortitude to recover and get back on the sled. Being a Marine also helped prepare her for bobsledding by training her to make quick decisions.

“I’m going down a track at up to 90 miles an hour. I can’t stop and think and gather information,” she said. “The Marine Corps taught me that when I’m behind the bobsled, if I’m not on the right line or something happens really fast, I can make a quick decision and be confident in it.”

Training to be a bobsled pilot and a Marine requires high mental acuity, Tejcek said, but different physical skill sets.

“Bobsled requires a lot more quick explosive movements and short-term sprinting,” Tejcek said. “The Marine Corps is going to require a lot more body weight and long-distance running. I have to be very particular about training for both.”

Finding a balance between her Marine Corps duties and piloting a bobsled requires her to be focused on what she is doing at any given time — another lesson being in the military taught her.

“My mind has to be where my feet are planted,” Tejcek said. “Whenever it’s time to put on the uniform and go to work, I’m 100 percent focused on that. And then when I’m in a bobsled and I’m about to go down the track, I have to be 100 percent focused on that. It’s a little bit of compartmentalizing. It’s prioritizing exactly what needs to be done and what’s important for that day.”

She said she also must be willing to sacrifice things she wants to do for things she feels she needs to do. She orders her priorities beginning with her faith, then the Marines and finally training and bobsled.

Tejcek’s time training for bobsled is as structured and regimented as the time she spends as a Marine and is based on what she needs to do, leaving little time for extracurriculars.

“You have a regimented time to eat, to sleep, to train, to recover, very similar to the Marine Corps,” she said. “Your schedule is given to you. How I navigate is the same way I approach everything. I want to be present where I am and see growth occur in whatever way possible. I have to be very on top of goal setting to be able to reflect and see how far I’ve come.”

Being a Marine gave Tejcek the discipline and resilience she needed to compete as a bobsledder, she said.

In the Marines, she was taught how to successfully lead a mission, by paying attention to the small details that would ensure she brought everyone home safely. She uses that same attention to detail to successfully navigate a bobsled track.

“In bobsled, you have to be so precise with what you’re doing,” Tejcek said. “You have to understand every single curve. It takes discipline to be 100 percent mentally locked in and focused, like spending an hour walking the track to be ready for a minute bobsled trip or taking care of your equipment by turning every little screw to make sure the bobsled can safely get you and your teammate down the track.”

In her first World Cup race, Tejcek crashed and didn’t cross the finish line. She said that failure devastated her, but it also pushed her to do better the next race.

“I’ve had to own my mistake and do everything in my power to make sure I don’t make that same mistake,” Tejcek said. “That means I study even harder, analyze my mistake and do everything in my power to make sure it will not happen again.”

Facing challenges and inspiring others

One of the hardest challenges Tejcek said she and other women bobsledders face is underrepresentation, and part of her mission is to find a solution and get more women interested in the sport.

“Men have two- and four-man bobsled. When you have a four-man team, that’s way more people that get to participate,” she said. “For women, we only have two-woman and mono, which is one person. We fought hard to get two disciplines in the Olympics, but there’s still a lack of women in the sport compared to men because of the different disciplines.”

Aside from becoming a bobsled pilot on the U.S. Olympic team, Tejcek, who was promoted to captain in September, said she looks forward to being deployed at some point in time and continuing to lead and inspire the next generation of Marines.

Ms. Military 2023 poses with visitors during the SoCal Air Show 2023
1st Lt. Riley E. Tejeck the reigning Ms. Military 2023, poses for a snapshot with visitors during the Southern California Air Show on April 24, 2023 at March Air Reserve Base. The Southern California Air Show, along with dozens of static aircraft for the public to view, featured expert military and civilian aviators taking to the skies for performances viewed by families and fans of military flying during a 2 day show from April 23-24, 2023. (Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Oz Suguitan) VIEW ORIGINAL

Tejcek was also recently crowned Ms. Military 2023. She said she plans to use her platform as Miss Military to inspire and encourage other young women to look at the military as a career.

“Miss Military was something that I was intimidated to go for,” Tejcek said. “What it meant for me is that I’m able to be multifaceted. It also allows me to have another platform to reach young women to show them that you can be feminine. You can be involved in your communities and pursue additional hobbies (while) serving in the Marine Corps.”

She has also written a children’s book about bobsledding and the Marine Corps, which will be published in August 2024. With her book, she said she hopes to show other young women it is possible to succeed in male dominated spaces such as sports and the military.

Although Elana Meyers Taylor inspired Tejcek to pursue bobsled, she said her strong support network keeps her going.

“I wanted to be just like my dad,” Tejcek said. “I always wanted to make him proud. My mom grew up extremely poor, and now she’s a vice president of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the United States. My mom taught me how to prioritize academics and my job and to go into places and do things that a lot of women aren’t doing.”

Aside from her parents, Tejcek also gives credit to her college softball teammates and her bobsled teammate, Keisha, for supporting her and setting such a high standard for her to work toward.

She said she is also grateful that her commanders at the Expeditionary Warfare School, Lt. Col. Jason Graul and Col. James Lively, allow her to pursue her dreams and believe in her ability to balance her Marine Corps duties with her bobsled training.

Tejcek’s place on the 2026 Olympic team isn’t set yet. Tryouts will be held in January 2026, but she will continue to compete in other races, such as (at the time of this article) the North American Cup races in Lake Placid, New York.