WHISTLER, British Columbia — SGT John Napier reacted like a 6-year-old boy on Christmas morning after he drove Team USA II to a 10th-place finish in the Olympic two-man bobsled event Saturday and Sunday at Whistler Sliding Centre.
Napier, a bobsled pilot in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, teamed with Steve Langton for a four-run combined time of 3 minutes, 29.40 seconds in their Olympic debut on the fastest bobsled track in the world.
“Steve and I are just having the times of our lives,” said Napier, 23, who began bobsledding at age 8 on his hometown track in Lake Placid, N.Y. “It’s so much fun being out here with the crowd and the spectators and the support. The organizing committee makes it a blast.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ll ever have in bobsled.”
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Napier’s smile revealed that sentiment when he climbed from the sled and waved to adoring fans who were chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
Team USA II powered off the starting blocks in 4.91 and 4.93 seconds for runs of 52.31 and 52.36 seconds respectively.
“The first thing that crossed my mind when I crossed the finish line was, ‘Man, I want to do this again,’” said Langton, 26, of Melrose, Mass. “I’m really happy with a top-10 finish. I think we did really well and I’m looking forward to doing even better next week. I feel like we have a really good shot at the medals in four-man.”
Olympic four-man competition is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
Napier loves the speed generated on the 1,450-meter track that features a 148-meter vertical drop. It cost $104.9-million (Canadian) to build.
“I just love the toughness,” Napier said. “I love the speed. I’m not sure how much faster and how much harder I can drive. Are we going to live in fear of that or are we going to accept it? Or you can quit, which is the third option. It’s fast. It’s challenging. That’s why most of us do it. I love it and I live for the fear and the rush.”
Former WCAP and current Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program bobsled driver Mike Kohn, 37, of Chantilly, Va., teamed with Nick Cunningham, 24, of Monterey, Calif., to finish 12th with a time of 3:29.78 in USA III. Germany and the United States were the only two nations to qualify three sleds for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Steve Holcomb, 29, the reigning world champion in four-man competition and a former WCAP driver from Park City, Utah, drove USA I to a sixth-place finish with Curt Tomasevicz, 29, of Shelby, Neb., aboard with a time of 3:27.94.
“I’d like to say that we were just gearing up for four-man, but we came out here to win just like everybody else,” Holcomb said. “We gave it everything we had. I drove well. We had two good pushes and the sleds are fast. The Germans had something we didn’t today and that’s why they won.”
Olympic bobsled action resumes with four-man training Tuesday through Thursday and competition on Friday and Saturday. Holcomb and his four-man crew broke the United States’ 50-year World Championship medal drought by winning the 2009 crown.
Their goal is to win four-man Olympic gold for Team USA for the first time since Francis Tyler struck gold in 1948.