By Mr. Tim Hipps (FMWRC)February 26, 2010
WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program bobsled pilot Sgt. Shauna Rohbock teamed with Michelle Rzepka to finish sixth in the Olympic women's bobsled event Wednesday at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
Rohbock, 32, of Park City, Utah, finished 1.78 seconds off the winning pace at the treacherous, 16-turn venue with a four-run time of 3 minutes, 34.06 seconds in USA I.
Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse broke the track record in their first three heats en route to winning the gold medal in 3:32.28. Helen Upperton and Shelly-Ann Brown took the silver aboard Canada-2 with a time of 3:33.13.
Erin Pac, 29, of Farmington, Conn., and Elana Meyers, 25, of Douglasville, Ga., claimed the bronze with a time of 3:33.40 in the USA II sled.
"It wasn't the Olympics that I dreamed of for four years, but the U.S. got a medal today and that's amazing," said Rohbock, a silver medalist at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. "That's awesome. That's all I want to see is the U.S. on that medal stand. I didn't drive the four runs to be on the medal stand and Erin did, so she deserves it."
"I didn't put together the runs to be on the podium anyway."
Bree Schaaf, 29, of Bremerton, Wash., and Emily Azevedo of Chico, Calif., teamed to finish fifth in USA III with a time of 3:34.05.
Although North Americans filled the podium and had five of the top six sleds, Team USA competitors struggled to find the fastest lines.
"I figured it out a little too late," said Rohbock, who held the women's track record of 53.53 seconds prior to the games. "It would have been nice to have more runs on this track. You have two of the best drivers in the world, Sandra Kiriasis and (Cathleen) Martini (of Germany) are probably the best drivers in the world, and Martini crashed. So it's a very, very difficult track. It's just a tough one."
Martini's driving mistake in the complicated 11-12-13 curve combination flipped Germany-2. Brakeman Romy Logsch was ejected from the sled and sent sliding down the track on her back. They were disqualified.
"I feel like if had 10 more runs I could have figured a lot of stuff out," Rohbock said. "Every run I was just trying something different.
"That last run I tried something different in 11 and almost dumped it," she added with a laugh. "It didn't work out, so I wouldn't do that again."
Team USA bobsledders estimated that they made about 40 runs down the Whistler track compared to 160 or more by the Canadians.
"Definitely, home-field advantage gave them that edge, for sure," Rohbock said. "They drove four great runs. Every run I was just trying something new because what I did before wasn't working. We tried to figure some stuff out and everybody put their two cents in during the week."
By the same token, Rohbock found it interesting that North Americans were the primary beneficiaries of the track the Europeans found too tough to tame.
"I think it speaks volumes how difficult the track was to have no Germans on the podium," she said. "They've dominated the sport since it started, really. For them not to be on the podium, I think speaks volumes about the difficulty of the track."
Despite the track's degree of difficulty that drew media scrutiny, the lady bobsledders expressed little fear of one of the most exciting rides of their life.
"We're in the spotlight right now because of the Olympics, but there were 15 crashes when the World Championships were in Altenburg, Germany," Rohbock explained. "I separated my shoulder and people were breaking their backs and stuff like that. It is in the limelight, and of course the tragedy that did happen here, that's horrible, but it does happen at other tracks and nobody really hears about them. Because it is the Olympic Games, everybody wants to build it up. Our sport is dangerous, that's the down part of it, and everybody is aware of it."
Rohbock represented the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program when she struck silver at the 2006 Winter Olympics. She delivered another worldwide boost of military morale from Whistler.
"I'm in the National Guard," she said. "I definitely would not have the silver medal without them and I wouldn't have had such an amazing year. I had a great season this year and I've had amazing seasons leading up.
"It's sad that one race defines you to the world because this is all they really see. There are a lot of amazing drivers that didn't get on that podium today and they've been amazing for years, and nobody will know this because they only see this one day."
Although these likely were Rohbock's last Olympic runs, she is not ready to slide off into the sunset just yet.
"I'd like to maybe end in Konigssee, Germany, next year," she said. "I race really well there. Maybe get a world championship since I missed one in Lake Placid (silver in 2009). It would be awesome to get a world championship on a German track because I've won there before and I know I can drive very well there."
So she's not ready to park the sled.
"I don't think this year, no, but I don't know about four more," Rohbock concluded. "I don't want to say 'no' because I don't want to be that person that says I'm done and ..."