Former track star? Nope, this bobsledder played football

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Aja Evans. Lolo Jones. Ryan Bailey. They all have one thing in common: they took their skills from the track to the bobsled slope. The 2018 U.S. bobsled team is stocked with former track stars (see Evans, Bailey and Chris Kinney), but another squad member is crossing over from another sport — Sam McGuffie got his start on the football field.

McGuffie, who’s high school football reel is filled with outlandish highlights, played collegiately at the University of Michigan and Rice University, and was signed by the Oakland Raiders in 2013. He was subsequently waived, but had stints on the practice squad for the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots. The bobsled was calling his name, though. By 2015, he was a member of the USA Bobsled National Team.

NBCOlympics.com: 2018 U.S. Olympic bobsled team

He will be on both the two-man and four-man bobsled teams for Team USA starting February 18 as a crewman for pilot Codie Bascue. He’s not the only former football player on the roster — Carlo Valdez played at UCLA. But McGuffie player has been turning heads within the bobsled community in the lead up to PyeongChang thanks to his athleticism — and it seems he’s a perfect fit for the sledding world.

“He insanely gifted,” Bascue said. “He is also the most natural athlete I have ever seen.”

McGuffie has been showing off that athleticism since he was hurdling would-be tacklers on the football field not that long ago. He knows his quickness that he honed in football is a good thing. “When you are a running back,” he told reporters on a conference call in January, “you have to explode through the hole. That’s what I do in bobsled.”

“He’s like a cheetah,” U.S. bobsled head coach Brian Shimer said. “He just steps up and is about as explosive of a guy as I’ve ever seen.”

McGuffie is even drawing comparisons to one of bobsled’s biggest stars: Aja Evans. In fact, the Olympic bronze medalist compared McGuffie to herself. “I feel like he is the male version of me with his explosiveness and dynamic power,” she said. “To watch him do so many things with that pop and power is pretty cool.”

NBCOlympics.com: Meet Team USA’s bodybuilder-turned-bobsledder

Like Evans, who was a five-time All-American on the track for the University of Illinois, McGuffie was on the track team in college, too. While football was his specialty, he competed in everything from the 60-meter hurdles to the pole vault. He’s hoping he can be like her on one more way, too: by winning an Olympic medal. Team USA won four medals in the bobsled in Sochi, three bronze and one silver.

No matter the result, McGuffie is already looking to the future, and how he could possibly make another team — this time in the 2020 Summer Games in rugby. “The next Summer Games is in Tokyo,” he said. “It would be kinda cool if I can do that.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to his bobsled brethren.

“We are glad that we can have him,” Valdes said. “He definitely still has NFL potential if he still wanted to do that. Or if he wanted to do something else, he would probably be good at that, too. Like rugby.”

Seth Rubinroit contributed reporting to this story. 

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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