Chris Fogt

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U.S. bobsledders to receive silver medals from Sochi Games

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Members of the 2014 U.S. Olympic two- and four-man bobsled teams will receive silver medals after initially finishing third at the Sochi Games, USA Bobsled and Skeleton (USABS) announced today.

The USOC received official notification from the International Olympic Committee that the two-man bobsled team of the late Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton and the four-man bobsled team of Holcomb, Langton, Chris Fogt and Curt Tomasevicz would be awarded silver medals, according to USABS. Russian pilot Aleksandr Zubkov and push athlete Aleksei Voyevoda, who originally won gold in the two- and four-man events in Sochi, were disqualified in 2017 for doping violations after a reanalysis of samples. Due to a series of appeals, medal reallocations were not announced until today.

“We have always believed in competing with integrity and respect for ourselves, our sport and for our competitors,” Fogt, Langton, and Tomasevicz said in a joint statement, according to USABS. “It’s unfortunate that our results were not official in February of 2014 and that we’ve had to endure the long process to see justice finally served…We commend the IOC, WADA, the IBSF and the USOC for their willingness to take a stand for what is right…We encourage them to stand firm and continue their fight against individuals looking to undermine the discipline and dedication of clean athletes.”

Holcomb, a three-time Olympic medalist, piloted the four-man “Night Train” sled to gold in 2010, ending a 62-year gold medal drought for the U.S. in men’s bobsled, before serving as pilot again in 2014. He died unexpectedly in May 2017 at age 37.

“This result appropriately bolsters Holcomb’s legacy as one of the very best athletes to ever drive a bobsled,” Fogt, Langton and Tomasevicz said in their statement. “…he would be smiling knowing that we’re one step closer to a fair playing field.”

The reallocated silver medals will be presented to the athletes and Holcomb’s family in an upcoming ceremony. Details have not yet been announced.

“We are so proud of Steven and all that he accomplished, both on and off the ice,” his mother, Jean Schaefer, said, according to USABS. “We are happy that he and his teammates are to be recognized as the silver medalists, their rightful place. While we wish Steven could accept his silver medals alongside his teammates, our family is honored to accept them on his behalf.”

More Russian doping means Steven Holcomb’s medals will be upgraded

Steve Holcomb
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Steven Holcomb remains a winner of three Olympic medals. He will have held only one of them.

Another round of International Olympic Committee sanctions against Russian athletes who were found to have participated in doping at the 2014 Sochi Games came down Friday, headlined by bobsledder Aleksandr Zubkov being stripped of the gold medals he won in two- and four-man events.

Holcomb, who died in May, will posthumously move up one spot from bronze to silver in each of those races, once the medals are formally reallocated.

“It’s going to be weird for his family and it’s going to be weird for us,” U.S. veteran push athlete Chris Fogt, who was part of Holcomb’s four-man team in Sochi, said after the IOC decision Friday. “I’d like to think that we would be all together when it happens. And when we get those medals, we’re not going to have him there.”

A half-dozen U.S. bobsled and skeleton athletes are going to benefit from the Russian medalist disqualifications.

Skeleton racer Matt Antoine and bobsledders Holcomb, Fogt, Steven Langton and Curt Tomasevicz all left Sochi with bronzes and will be getting silvers. Skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender will be getting her first medal, with her finish upgraded from fourth to bronze. And combined, they’ll be collecting a total of $45,000 in additional bonus money from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which rewards medal performances.

MORE: A look at the Russians stripped of Olympic medals from Sochi

Now comes a delicate matter, with Holcomb’s family likely having to surrender his bronzes and await the exchange for the silvers. Holcomb’s father and one of his sisters wore the bronze medals at his memorial service in May in Lake Placid, New York.

“It’s definitely a little bittersweet that Holcomb isn’t here to see this happening,” said Langton, who was with Holcomb for the two-man medal-winning ride in Sochi and was also in the four-man sled with Holcomb, Fogt and Tomasevicz. “He worked hard and he earned those medals. It would have been very nice if he had the chance to enjoy them.”

Zubkov has been at World Cup races this season as president of the Russian bobsled federation. Unless the ruling is overturned on appeal, he won’t be at the Pyeongchang Olympics this winter, or any other Olympics. The IOC says sanctions against him – and other athletes found to have doped – include lifetime banishment from the games.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation provisionally suspended Russian skeleton athletes Aleksandr Tretiakov and Elena Nikitina from World Cup events – both won medals in Sochi that were stripped this week. It’s likely that a similar ban could be issued to the bobsledders involved in Friday’s IOC ruling, including Zubkov.

“It’s important to be able to move forward,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele, also an executive with the IBSF. “No doubt about it.”

Pending the IBSF changing results as the IOC has asked, the two-man gold medal will now almost certainly go to Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann of Switzerland. The four-man gold medal would go to the Latvian sled driven by Oskars Melbardis and pushed by Arvis Vilkaste, Daumants Dreiskens and Janis Strenga.

Holcomb’s sleds would get the silver in both races. Russia would get the bronze in both, with driver Alexander Kasjanov – who had a pair of fourth-place showings in Sochi – set for the upgrade. Neither Kasjanov nor any member of his team has been sanctioned by the IOC in relation to the doping scandal.

Langton said he’s pleased that the process, which sliding athletes from countless countries have been monitoring in anticipation of the disqualifications, is finally nearing an end.

“I had faith that the people handling it would handle it appropriately,” Langton said.

Thomas Bach warns critics ahead of Russia decision

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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