ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Seven current and former members of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program earned spots on Team USA for the XXI Olympic Winter Games, scheduled for Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.
Five current and former WCAP bobsledders, along with U.S. men’s assistant bobsled coach SGT Bill Tavares, will tackle one of the world’s fastest tracks in Whistler, site of the bobsleigh competition Feb. 20-27.
WCAP SGT Jeremy Teela earned a spot on his third consecutive U.S. Olympic Team in biathlon, a combination of cross-country ski racing and rifle shooting from standing and prone positions. Five men’s biathlon races of different distances will be staged Feb. 14 through 26 in Whistler, site of the best performance of Teela’s career last year.
Four of the six U.S. men’s and women’s bobsled pilots learned the tricks of their trade while serving in WCAP under the tutelage of five-time Olympian Tavares, who will assist U.S. men’s bobsled head coach Brian Shimer.
WCAP SGT John Napier of Lake Placid, N.Y., will drive Team USA II’s four-man sled. His WCAP teammate, 1LT Chris Fogt of Alpine, Utah, will be among that crew, joined by Chuck Berkley of Clayton, Calif., and Steve Langton of Melrose, Mass.
Napier will also pilot USA II in the two-man competition with Langton aboard.
“Since my earliest memories, all I remember thinking about is this moment,” Napier said after being named to the U.S. Olympic Team. “It’s a dream come true.”
SGT Mike Kohn, a member of the National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program, was one of Napier’s boyhood idols. A former WCAP bobsledder, Kohn will drive Team USA III’s four-man sled with the crew of Jamie Moriarty of Winnetka, Ill., Bill Schuffenhauer of Orem, Utah, and Nick Cunningham of Monterey, Calif.
Kohn capitalized on a career-ending concussion suffered by Todd Hays that opened the door for the National Guard athlete to qualify a third Olympic sled for Team USA. Only three nations were qualified to enter three men’s sleds into the 2010 Olympics.
“This was one of the best experiences I’ve had in this sport,” said Kohn, who won the 2002 Olympic bronze medal as a push athlete with Shimer, after he secured another Olympic berth at St. Moritz on Jan. 16-17. “Winning an Olympic medal was amazing, but it doesn’t compare to the team camaraderie felt over these last few weeks. The Olympics is about more than winning medals, and this experience is one I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Kohn will also drive USA III in the two-man competition. His brakeman has not yet been determined.
Reigning four-man world champion Steven Holcomb, a former WCAP pilot from Park City, Utah; will drive the Team USA I sled, backed by Justin Olsen of San Antonio, Steve Mesler of Buffalo, N.Y.; and Curt Tomasevicz of Shelby, Neb.
“The Night Train is becoming more and more popular and getting a lot of notoriety as we lead up to the Games, and it’s well deserved,” Shimer said of Holcomb’s four-man sled. “These guys have the whole package.”
Holcomb also will drive the USA I sled in two-man competition with Tomasevicz aboard.
On the women’s side, former WCAP bobsledder SGT Shauna Rohbock of the Army National Guard Outstanding Athlete Program will pilot Team USA I. Rohbock will be joined by Michelle Rzepka of Novi, Mich., in America’s top-rated women’s sled.Erin Pac of Farmington, Conn., and Elana Meyers of Douglasville, Ga., will compete in USA II. Bree Schaaf of Bremerton, Wash., and Emily Azevedo of Chico, Calif., will be in USA III.
“We are thrilled to be sending our best U.S. women’s team ever to Whistler,” said U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation Chief Executive Officer Darrin Steele, another former WCAP bobsledder. “The selection committee had to make some very difficult decisions regarding the push athletes chosen to the team. Our deep pool of talented athletes is what makes us hard to beat.”
Only two nations were granted three sleds in the 2010 Olympic women’s bobsled competition. Germany locked up the first spot earlier in the season based on points, but the second nation to qualify a third sled came down to a battle between Canadian Amanda Stepenko and U.S. pilot Schaaf, who secured her Olympic berth with two solid runs in St. Moritz.
“Today’s race was won by only one-hundredth of a second,” Rohbock said. “The competition is definitely picking up as we get closer to February. Every week is a challenge, and next month won’t get any easier. I’m excited that we qualified three sleds, because I think all of us are competitive and have a chance to do well.”