Sprinter Ryan Bailey proved that he is not just fast on the track, winning the men’s push athlete title at the USA Bobsled National Push Championships in Calgary on Wednesday.
Bailey, who finished fifth in the London Olympic 100m and anchored the 2012 U.S. 4x100m relay team, is just weeks into his bobsled career.
“I didn’t know what to think coming into this competition,” Bailey said to USA Bobsled. “To actually win the first year, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Nick Cunningham, who represented the U.S. in bobsled at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, was impressed by watching Bailey in Calgary.
“Ryan has progressed extremely quickly,” Cunningham said to NBC OlympicTalk. “He has a medal-filled future if he sticks with the sport.”
Bailey’s performance puts him in a good position to make the U.S. team for the 2016-17 World Cup season, which begins the last weekend of November.
His goal is to make the 2018 Olympic team. He would be following in the footsteps of Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, who both competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics after competing at a Summer Olympics as a sprinter. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.
“To get a chance to compete in the Winter Olympics would be amazing,” Bailey said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be possible, so getting this chance is mind blowing.”
Bailey was expected to compete against Tyson Gay, the American 100m record holder. Gay arrived in Calgary on Monday, but after meeting with the coaching staff, decided not to compete today. Gay, who has pushed a sled no more than 10 times, watched the competition and is expected to continue training with the team. He could still enter the combination pushes on Friday or Saturday.
Another former sprinter, 56-year-old Willie Gault, nearly competed in Calgary (his name has been erased in the scoreboard below between Brent Fogt and Nathan Gilsleider). Gault, who played wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Raiders, has been assisting the USA Bobsled coaching staff with recruiting. He flew to Calgary on Tuesday and considered competing, but decided against it Wednesday morning.
Two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor won the women’s driver title. 2010 Olympic gold medalist Justin Olson won the men’s pilot title, and Aja Evans won the women’s push title after a two-year hiatus from the sport.
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