Ryan Bailey is looking for thrills and another Olympic medal.
Bobsled might be his ticket to both.
Bailey — a longtime sprinting specialist and a Summer Olympic veteran — won the U.S. bobsled preliminary push championship for rookie hopefuls in Lake Placid, New York, on Saturday, the first step on a path that he’s hoping leads to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“That’s obviously the goal,” Bailey said after Saturday’s competition. “I’m not here to be just part of the team. I’m here to actually be on the Olympic team and make one of those spots. That’s what I’m shooting for. Hopefully once I get on ice everything can transition the way I’m expecting. That’s what I want and hopefully the coaches can see that.”
Bailey sprinted for the U.S. at the London Olympics four years ago and left with a silver medal from the 4×100-meter relay, though Tyson Gay‘s doping case eventually meant that medal had to be returned and reallocated. Bailey also made the 100-meter final in those games, racing alongside Usain Bolt and some of the other fastest men alive.
He tried to make the U.S. team for the just-completed Rio Games, but a bad hamstring doomed his chances of qualifying. So now, it’s a winter sport that he’s turning to with hopes of securing a medal — and keeping it this time.
“I’m still not over it,” Bailey said.
It’s not uncommon for bobsled and track to be luring the same athletes.
Lauryn Williams medaled as a sprinter in the summer games, and teamed with Elana Meyers Taylor to win silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Longtime U.S. hurdles star Lolo Jones was on the Sochi team as a push athlete and should be in the mix for another spot in 2018. Tianna Bartoletta won gold in both the long jump and the 4×100-meter relay in Rio, and credited the time she spent as a World Cup-caliber bobsledder as a major help.
And in years past, the track-to-bobsled switch was pulled off by the likes of Edwin Moses, Willie Davenport and Renaldo Nehemiah.
Bailey could be next. His win Saturday earns him a spot at the national push championships, which will be held on ice in Calgary, Canada next month. From there, a national team spot could await — and if that happens, that 2018 Olympic spot would only get closer to his reach.
“I’m an adrenalin junkie, I guess,” Bailey said. “So seeing a sled go 80, 90 miles an hour down a hill, to me that looks like pure fun.”
This was Bailey’s first trip to Lake Placid, and part of the trip included a walk along the U.S. team’s home track at Mount Van Hoevenberg. There’s no ice on the track yet, but even as just a concrete tube Bailey understood the challenge that awaits.
“Walking down the track and through the curves, I was in awe,” Bailey said. “These things are 20 feet tall, it’s ridiculous, it’s basically vertical. I can’t imagine flying through there.”
Other winners Saturday included Briauna Jones in women’s bobsled, Nikia Squire in women’s skeleton and Christopher Strup in men’s skeleton.