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Chris Fogt wasn’t deployed overseas, so he’s back bobsledding

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Capt. Chris Fogt would have rather been deployed to Kuwait with most of his battalion, but, stationed in the U.S. for the near future, decided to revive his other career.

Bobsledding.

Fogt, who pushed sleds at the last two Olympics, earning a bronze medal in Sochi, recently competed for the first time in nearly three years. His goal is to make it to one more Winter Games in PyeongChang, but, really, it was his second option.

Fogt is part of a 450-soldier battalion, about 350 of which are now in Kuwait.

Fogt was chosen several months ago to be the rear detachment manager, meaning he would not ship overseas with the rest of his battalion. He would stay in the U.S., where he has a wife and two young children.

“I would have liked to,” go to Kuwait, he said, “but things just didn’t line up for me.”

So Fogt decided to re-enter a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug-testing pool last year, making him eligible for top-level competition next season, including the Olympics.

Fogt already has his Olympic medal. He has a 2-year-old boy and a 4-month-old daughter. So why spread one’s time even thinner with a comeback and no guarantee to make the Olympic team?

“Winning a bronze medal is awesome, but it’s still not gold,” said Fogt, a former Utah Valley University sprinter recruited to bobsled in 2007. “Having another shot at that is definitely something that keeps me going. I’ve had some success, but I want to have the ultimate success, which is being Olympic champion.”

Fogt’s four-man bobsled bronze medal in Sochi felt like a triumph.

Standing on that podium, he remembered his first Olympics in 2010, when friends stationed in Afghanistan, South Korea and Iraq told him they couldn’t wait to watch his race.

Fogt’s four-man crew at the Vancouver Games, piloted by fellow soldier John Napier, crashed in the second of four runs, ending Fogt’s Olympics prematurely. All seven of Fogt’s siblings were in Whistler, B.C., to watch. An American sled did win gold that weekend, but it was the other four-man team piloted Steven Holcomb ending a 62-year U.S. gold drought in the event.

“The next day, I got a couple of emails [from friends], being like, hey man, sorry, but basically it was kind of quiet, I don’t hear from a lot of people,” Fogt said. “I felt like, crap, here’s my friend, he bobsleds, he’s awesome. Nevermind, he’s in last place. He sucks.”

After the Vancouver Games, Fogt spent a year deployed in Baghdad, training Iraqi intelligence agencies how to use technology to locate and track terrorists. Fogt, whose father served in the Reserves from 1970-2003, had joined the U.S. Army in 2005.

Fogt returned to the U.S. and to bobsled competition in fall 2011. By the 2013-14 Olympic season, he had earned a place in the top U.S. four-man sled piloted by Holcomb.

They were the top crew on the World Cup circuit that winter, but nevertheless underdogs at the Olympics due to the overwhelming home-track advantage held by Russian Aleksandr Zubkov‘s crew. Experience on a track is crucial in bobsled, and Zubkov had up to 10 times as many practice runs at the Sochi venue than Holcomb.

Holcomb’s crew finished third in the four-run Olympic race, .39 behind Zubkov and .30 behind the silver medalists from Latvia.

The medal brought Fogt to tears in post-race interviews on the final day of the Winter Games. Wife Rachel, five months pregnant, wasn’t in Sochi due to travel concerns, but called while Fogt spoke with media to share in the joy. She had watched the race live starting at 2:30 a.m. back in Utah.

Fogt knew then that he would return to the Army after Sochi. He planned to spend two years on active duty and, if it was possible, return to bobsled. Fogt hoped to be shipped overseas, but it never happened, which re-opened the bobsled door. He is currently in Fort Hood, Texas.

Fogt will spend most of his time in Colorado, Utah and, he hopes, Europe with the U.S. bobsled team later this year. None of the current national-team push athletes have Olympic experience, though fellow Sochi medalist Steven Langton is joining Fogt in a comeback.

Still, the newcomers have shown promise. Holcomb ranks in the top three of World Cup two- and four-man standings with his new crew. Displacing one of them will be a challenge, but the U.S. could qualify as man as three sleds for PyeongChang, creating nine Olympic spots for push athletes.

Fogt has spoken with his former driver about his return.

“[Holcomb] has been very honest, his team’s doing pretty good right now,” Fogt said, “but if I come out and get back to where I was [in 2014], then hopefully I’ll have a shot to get back on his sled.”

Fogt has twice met former U.S. President Barack Obama as part of Team USA White House visits after the Olympics. He has the recordings of both brief interactions on his phone.

“He’s commander-in-chief, so ultimately in my chain of command, about 20 steps up, he’s actually my boss,” Fogt joked. “It actually meant a lot to hear him say, thanks for your service, thanks for what you’re doing.”

Obama did more than that, giving Fogt and other military personnel on Team USA special coins. Fogt sometimes carries his with him, and it does hold power. Via the longtime military tradition of “challenge coins,” Fogt can produce the coin in a soldier group setting, where soldiers must buy drinks for the person with the highest-ranking coin.

“You can’t really trump the President of the United States coin,” Fogt joked.

Fogt’s patriotism also factors into his return to bobsled. He remembers Sochi, standing on that podium and watching the American flag being raised. But the Russian flag was higher, and the Russian anthem played.

Fogt is aware of the reports of Russian cheating leading up to and during the Sochi Olympics, allegations that specifically implicate Zubkov.

“I feel like now there will be a lot more of the scrutiny leading up to these Olympics,” Fogt said. “I think they’ll be much more careful with the samples and doing the testing now. Hopefully, a fair race.”

Fogt, now 33 years old, expects this to be his last Olympic run. He plans to return full-time to the Army next year. He said it was weird to train with his battalion every morning from 6:30-7:30, knowing they would be leaving for Kuwait. And he wouldn’t.

“You don’t ever want to be in harm’s way, per se, but you want to be there with the soldiers that you’ve been training with,” Fogt said. “There’s no other feeling like that, that you’ll get in a unit. You’ll rarely face adversity like you do in a hostile war zone.”

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MORE: 18 U.S. Olympic hopefuls to watch for PyeongChang 2018

U.S. men look to fill Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte void at swim worlds

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With Michael Phelps retired and Ryan Lochte suspended, the superstars at the world swimming championships clearly lie on the women’s side.

But the men’s events will include world-record chasers, a stinging rivalry and, perhaps, the emergence of Phelps and Lochte’s successor as leading U.S. man.

Caeleb Dressel came through in Rio under arguably the most pressure of any swimmer, starting off the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay team in his very first Olympic splash with a personal-best time.

Dressel, a 20-year-old who nearly quit swimming three years ago as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, has nine events to choose from at worlds in Budapest starting Sunday.

He qualified in four individual events — 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles — and is eligible for all five relays (two mixed-gender).

In the last 15 years, only two U.S. men have raced in four individual events at a single Olympics or world championships — Phelps and Lochte.

Dressel is in the medal mix in all of his individual events, ranking No. 1 in the world this year in the 100m fly, No. 3 in the 50m free, No. 4 in the 100m free and No. 5 in the 50m fly. He is also almost guaranteed medals in any relays that he enters given the unmatched U.S. depth.

Dressel has never been to a worlds and raced just one individual event in Rio. He’s the potential breakout star on a U.S. team, surrounded by more proven names.

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Event Schedule

Ryan Murphy, who swam for the same Jacksonville, Fla., club team as Dressel, swept the backstrokes in Rio and broke the 100m back world record leading off the medley relay. That dominance has not quite carried over so far in 2017. Murphy ranks third in the world in the 100m and 200m backs this year.

Chase Kalisz, a longtime Phelps training partner in Baltimore, has followed up his Rio Olympic 400m individual medley silver medal well this year. He chopped two seconds off his personal best in the 200m IM and goes into Budapest ranked No. 1 in the world in the 400m IM by nearly a half-second.

The U.S. boasts more medal threats including Nathan Adrian (sprint freestyles), Townley Haas (200m free), Cody Miller and Kevin Cordes (breaststrokes), but nobody is a clear favorite.

The surest bets are world-record holders Adam Peaty and Ippei Watanabe in the breaststrokes and Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri in the 1500m free. Paltrinieri could challenge a five-year-old world record held by Sun Yang.

Speaking of Sun, the mercurial Chinese superstar is set to renew his rivalry with Australian Mack Horton. In Rio, Horton memorably called Sun “a drug cheat,” in reference to Sun’s three-month suspension in 2014 for using a banned stimulant.

Horton then went out and beat Sun in the 400m freestyle, dethroning the Olympic and world champion. Horton and Sun could face off in four individual events in Budapest.

Key men’s finals:

Sunday, July 23
400m freestyle — Sun has been two seconds faster than Horton this year
4x100m freestyle relay — Olympic silver medalist France won’t defend world title; U.S. favored

Monday, July 24
100m breaststroke — Peaty has the eight fastest times ever and fastest by .95 this year

Tuesday, July 25
200m freestyle — Haas the only man within .64 of Sun in 2017
100m backstroke — Rio silver medalist Xu Jiayu was .01 shy of Murphy’s WR in April

Wednesday, July 26
200m butterfly — Japan and Hungary lead the post-Phelps-era world; Chad le Clos ranks 8th in 2017
800m freestyle — Italian Gabriele Detti fastest in 2017 by six seconds, but slower than Sun’s winning times in 2011, 2013, 2015

Thursday, July 27
200m individual medley — Phelps, Lochte won the last 12 Olympic/world titles
100m freestyle — Reigning Olympic and world champions’ absences open door for Adrian, Dressel

Friday, July 28
200m backstroke — U.S. won 14 of the last 15 Olympic/world titles, including Murphy in Rio
200m breaststroke — Watanabe broke WR in January; surprise Olympic champ Dmitriy Balandin ranks No. 127 this year
4x200m freestyle relay — U.S., without Lochte, Phelps, looks to take world title back from Great Britain

Saturday, July 29
50m freestyle — Reigning Olympic and world champions’ absences open door for Adrian, Dressel
100m butterfly — Joseph Schooling eyes Phelps’ WR, but Dressel ranks No. 1 in 2017

Sunday, July 30
400m individual medley — Kalisz ranks No. 1 in 2017, but time is .94 slower than Kosuke Hagino in Rio
1500m freestyle — Sun holds WR of 14:31 but hasn’t broken 14:55 since 2014
4x100m medley relay — Great Britain will lean on Peaty to challenge U.S.

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MORE: Michael Phelps not itching to return like in 2013

Katie Ledecky eyes more history as women to star at swimming worlds

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The year after the Olympics isn’t always known for it, but there should be fireworks in the women’s events at the world swimming championships in Budapest next week.

Katie Ledecky could match Missy Franklin‘s record of six gold medals at a single worlds by swimming one more event than she did at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics. Judging by Ledecky’s times at the U.S. Championships last month, the rising Stanford sophomore is in her usual dominant form.

Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, swimming in front of her home fans, could try to equal Ledecky with four individual golds in backstrokes and individual medleys.

Swede Sarah Sjostrom could do the same in the 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles, where world records are under threat.

Ledecky, Hosszu and Sjostrom are all bidding to become the first women to three-peat in an individual event at worlds.

Then there’s the return of the greatest rivalry in swimming. After their memorable Rio duel, King and Yulia Efimova rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year in all three breaststrokes.

Spain’s Mireia Belmonte and American Leah Smith have never won an individual world title, but they could be the busiest swimmers of all next week.

Belmonte could race 7,4000 total meters if she makes every event final. Smith could get up to 7,000 meters. Both would outdistance Ledecky and Hosszu in mileage.

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Event Schedule

The women’s program could have been even more loaded if not for two notable absences. Australian Cate Campbell, the 100m freestyle world-record holder, is sitting out world champs.

Australia beat the U.S. in the 4x100m free relay at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, but without Campbell, the Americans are about even with the Aussies. Ledecky’s bid for six golds could hang on this race on the opening night.

Ledecky also greatly benefits from Sjostrom’s decision to skip the 200m freestyle. In Rio, Sjostrom was the closest swimmer to Ledecky in her individual events, coming .35 shy in the 200m free while outsplitting Ledecky in the final 50 meters.

Key women’s finals:

Sunday, July 23
400m freestyle — Ledecky hasn’t lost a 400m free since the 2012 Olympic Trials
4x100m freestyle relay — Showdown with Campbell-less Australia crucial for Ledecky’s six-gold bid

Monday, July 24
100m butterfly — Sjostrom’s only competition is her world record of 55.48
200m individual medley — Nobody has been within a second of Hosszu this year

Tuesday, July 25
100m backstroke — Kylie Masse was .09 off the longest-standing women’s swimming world record at Canadian Champs
1500m freestyle — Ledecky is 25 seconds faster than anyone else this year
100m breaststroke — Efimova is .13 faster than King this year

Wednesday, July 26
200m freestyle — Ledecky’s toughest individual event made easier by Sjostrom’s absence

Thursday, July 27
200m butterfly — Olympic champ Belmonte eyes first world title; Nos. 2, 3, 4 from Rio absent
4x200m freestyle relay — China is strong, but Ledecky is the U.S.’ ace in the hole

Friday, July 28
100m freestyle — Heavy favorite Sjostrom .02 off the world record in June
200m breaststroke — Efimova is two seconds faster than second-ranked King this year

Saturday, July 29
200m backstroke — Kathleen Baker can inherit throne from retired Maya DiRado 
800m freestyle — Likely Ledecky’s sixth and final event, could match Franklin’s gold record

Sunday, July 30
50m freestyle — No. of sub-24-second times this year — Sjostrom: 6; Rest of World: 0
400m individual medley — Hosszu, after breaking WR by two seconds in Rio, slower this year
4x100m medley relay — U.S. should gap Australia, China on breaststroke leg

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MORE: Michael Phelps not itching to return like in 2013

*Correction: The integrity of a Lilly King quote attributed to Agence France-Presse in earlier version of this story has been called into question and was removed.