Johnny Quinn leaves door open for bobsled return

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As U.S. bobsledders gathered in Calgary for push championships this week, Johnny Quinn prepared for the pursuit that has taken up most of his time since he became a viral star at the Sochi Olympics — public speaking.

Quinn traveled to Oklahoma City for his latest engagement, at a Retirement Investment Advisors client appreciation event on Tuesday.

Quinn’s presence in a banquet room rather than an ice house confirms that his break from bobsled will continue one more season. Athletes must be at push championships if they intend to compete in 2016-17.

Quinn has not raced in a bobsled since the Sochi Olympics, where he gained global fame for busting through a locked bathroom door and also finished 12th as a push athlete with the No. 2 U.S. sled piloted by Nick Cunningham.

Quinn has not filed retirement paperwork.

He is leaving the door open for a run to the Pyeongchang Olympics and a possible comeback next season. He recently performed a series of tests to gauge his physical shape compared to four years ago. He was pleased with the numbers.

“We’re 18 months away from Pyeongchang, so it’s going to give us some time to make sure that my speed and strength surpass where I was in 2014,” said the 32-year-old Quinn, a former wide receiver at the University of North Texas who played four preseason games with the Green Bay Packers in 2008. “In 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, I want to be on that podium.”

Whether Quinn makes it to Pyeongchang depends on two primary factors.

First, that he can earn a place on the team. Quinn must return from three years off and outperform other push athletes, including those who have been competing for most of the Olympic cycle plus recent U.S. track and field converts.

Second, that Quinn wants to make the team. He’s not fully committed to a comeback and stressed that finances will be key.

“One of the biggest challenges in Olympic sports is trying to find a way to fund your Olympic dream,” he said. “I have to make sure I can afford to compete in the Olympic year.”

Quinn said he’s about 30 percent of the way to a financial goal to dive back into bobsled. The speaking engagements, about 100 per year, have helped.

He has presented to elementary-, middle- and high-school assemblies. And Fidelity Investments. And LiftMaster, a suburban Chicago company whose products include garage-door accessories.

“A lot of what I learned within Team USA and during my time in the NFL really translates over into life in the corporate world,” Quinn said. “Bring me in to help fire them up and motivate them, give them tools and action steps.”

Quinn opens his talks with a video of his highlights from Sochi and then delivers a message — “Think Like an Olympian.” A guide is available to download on his website.

He doesn’t mind that his fame was born out of that viral moment in the athletes’ village.

“Breaking down the door opened the door to some opportunities,” Quinn said. “Had I known it was going to blow up, I would have saved some [pieces of the door], auctioned it off and give it to a charity or something.”

Tuffy Latour, who works with USA Bobsled and Skeleton as a skeleton coach, said Quinn called him last week to say he was still interested in coming back to bobsled at some point. Quinn wanted to know the steps he needed to take in the next several months to best position himself.

“He’s basically just looking to get his foot in the door,” Latour said. “He’s not planning on coming back to the sport full-time this season but next season. We’re trying to build up the ranks on the U.S. team, and having somebody like Johnny, or any of the veterans coming back these next couple years will only enhance the depth.

“If he can come back in any type of shape he was in 2013 or 2014, he’s more than welcome to come out. He knows what it takes to make the team. That’s why he’s given himself a year, I think, to get in the best shape possible.”

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