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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

Alysa Liu lands quad Lutz

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Alysa Liu, a 14-year-old who in January became the youngest U.S. women’s figure skating champion, on Saturday landed a quadruple Lutz, something no other U.S. woman has done in competition.

Liu landed the jump at the Aurora Games, a women’s sports festival in Albany, N.Y. It does not count officially, since it’s not a sanctioned competition.

Previously, Sasha Cohen landed a quadruple Salchow in practice in 2001, but never in competition. At least three Russian teens landed quads in junior competition in the last two years.

Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva became the first woman to land a clean, fully rotated quad in senior competition en route to silver at last season’s world championships.

Liu, who landed three triple Axels between two programs at January’s nationals, makes her junior international debut at a Grand Prix stop in Lake Placid, N.Y., next week.

She will not meet the age minimum for senior international competitions until the 2022 Olympic season. But she can continue to compete at senior nationals.

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MORE: 2019 Grand Prix figure skating assignments

Noah Lyles bests Bolt’s meet record in Paris Diamond League meet

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Noah Lyles set a meet record of 19.65 seconds to win the 200m with ease at Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Paris.

The previous record of 19.73 belonged to Usain Bolt.

Running out of lane 6, Lyles quickly made up the stagger on France’s Christophe Lemaitre and remained several meters ahead of world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, who finished in 20.01.

Lyles’ time was especially impressive because several early races saw relatively slow times despite the elite fields in  the final Diamond League meet before the season-long circuit’s finals, which will be split between two meets Aug. 29 in Zurich and Sept. 6 in Brussels. The meet opened on the new track at Stade Charlety with temperatures in the upper 80s.

“I barely remember any of the race, to be honest,” Lyles said. “I was going around the track and before I knew it I was at the finish line. I was like, ‘Hold up — this happened too fast!'”

READ: Lyles overcomes 2017 heartbreak to reach first world championship

Meanwhile, several meet records fell in the field events, capped by a back-and-forth contest between U.S. triple jump rivals Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who have finished 1-2 in the last two Olympics and the 2017 world championships.

Taylor also won the world title in 2011 and 2015, and his personal best of 18.21m is the second-best of all time. Claye, who also has a long jump bronze medal from 2012 and two more world championship medals, is third on the all-time list at 18.14.

Through three rounds, Claye led by 1cm, 17.39 to 17.38. Taylor took the lead in the fourth, jumping 17.49. Claye responded with a jump of 17.71, just off the meet record.

Taylor broke that record in the fifth round, going 17.82. Claye immediately reclaimed the lead and took the record with a jump of 18.06. Taylor had a strong jump in the sixth round but had taken off just a bit over the line.

“This is the farthest I’ve ever jumped overseas, so it’s a great day,” Claye said.

Omar Craddock made it a U.S. sweep, jumping 17.28. Craddock joins Taylor, Claye and Donald Scott in the U.S. contingent for the Diamond League final.

Though Taylor has taken top honors in the big competitions, Claye has kept it close in the all-time head-to-head matchups between the two former Florida Gators, winning 23 of their 49 meetings.

READ: Taylor, Claye go 1-2 in second straight Olympics

A showdown between U.S. rivals and recent collegians Daniel Roberts and Grant Holloway failed to materialize in the men’s 110m hurdles.

Holloway had broken a 40-year old NCAA record in June, finishing in 12.98 to edge Roberts, who tied the old record in 13.00. Roberts then beat Holloway to win the USATF Championship in July.

Roberts held up his end Saturday, winning in 13.08, but Holloway lost his form late to finish sixth.

“It hasn’t been too hard for me to stay at a high level this long after NCAAs,” Roberts said. “A lot of people tell me after long seasons they feel it a little bit more but my body feels great, everything feels good and I’m just thankful to be here.”

Freddie Crittenden finished third with a personal-best 13.17 to take the last spot in the Diamond League final. Roberts also clinched a berth with his win, his first in Diamond League competition. Holloway was making his Diamond League debut and wouldn’t have made the final even with a win.

READ: Holloway beats Renaldo Nehemiah’s NCAA record in 2019 final

Olympic shot put champion Tomas Walsh of New Zealand beat his own meet record of 22.00m four times, winning with a throw of 22.44 in a contest with eight athletes throwing beyond the 21-meter mark for the first time.

American Joe Kovacs also beat the old meet record, finishing second at 22.11. Kovacs won the 2015 world title and was second to Crouser in the 2016 Olympics, then second to Walsh in the 2017 world championships. 

Ryan Crouser, whose 22.74 heave in April was the best result in the event since Randy Barnes set the world record in 1990, did not compete in Paris. Kovacs, Crouser and Darrell Hill will give the U.S. three of the eight slots in the final.

READ: Crouser passed up NFL shot, now aims at world record

U.S. pole vaulter Sam Kendricks also entered the meet record book, tying the previous mark with a clearance of 6.00m in an event with no Diamond League points.

The meet was the last chance for athletes to claim spots in the Diamond League finals, and some Americans qualified with clutch performances.

Hanna Green won the women’s 800m in 1:58.39 with a late surge to take the last spot in the final. Green’s win gives U.S. three runners in the event alongside Ajee Wilson and Raevyn Rogers, who went out quickly with the pace-setter Saturday and led through the 700-meter mark before fading to sixth.

U.S. high jump champion Jeron Robinson cleared 2.26m to tie for fourth and clinch his spot.

U.S. triple jumper Keturah Orji jumped a personal-best of 14.72m to take third place and secure a spot in the final. Orji’s jump is the second best in U.S. history. Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, the reigning world champion, won at 15.05.

In the women’s pole vault, world leader Jenn Suhr did not clear the first height she attempted but held on to a spot in the final. Canadian Alysha Newman upset the top two finishers in the last Olympic and world championship competitions Katerina Stefanidi of Greece and U.S. champion Sandi Morris. Suhr, Morris and Katie Nageotte will be in the final.

READ: Jenn Suhr ends retirement in 2018

In the women’s 100m, Olympic champion Elaine Thompson put a slight bit of daylight between herself and a tightly bunched group, finishing in 10.98. Thompson shares the world lead of 10.73 with fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

The next five finishers were separated by 0.04 seconds. Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast took second in 11.13, followed by the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, U.S. champion Teahna Daniels and Aleia Hobbs

Hobbs, who did not qualify for the world championships after finishing sixth in the U.S. meet, will be the only American in the Diamond League final. 

READ: Hobbs upsets Thompson to win senior international debut

In the women’s 400m, Kendall Ellis was the only American to qualify for the final, finishing second behind Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson. Two U.S. runners followed  Shakima Wimbley and Phyllis Francis, who finished 10th in the Diamond League standings.

In the men’s 400m hurdles, world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway ran away from the field to win in 47.26, just shy of his world-leading time of 47.12. Americans TJ Holmes and David Kendziera finished fifth and sixth to secure places in the final along with Rai Benjamin, who didn’t race in Paris but has the second-fastest time in the world this year at 47.16. Ireland’s Thomas Barr finished atop the Diamond League standings despite finishing last in Paris.

In the women’s discus, Valarie Allman took fifth to ensure a U.S. representative in the final.

Neither of the U.S. runners in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase earned enough points to qualify, though Hillary Bor already had enough points to qualify.

John Gregorek hung on to the last spot in the men’s 1,500m despite not competing Saturday.

Canada’s Brandon McBride won the 800m, which didn’t count toward Diamond League standings, with U.S. runner Clayton Murphy fifth.

France’s Kevin Mayer won the triathlon, which combined the shot put, long jump and 110m hurdles. U.S. athlete Devon Williams tied for fourth.

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