Nick Cunningham

Sam McGuffie
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Olympic bobsled team includes Green Beret, ex-Michigan running back

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The U.S. Olympic men’s bobsled team includes a Green Beret.

Nate Weber, a 31-year-old Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army, made his first Olympic team.

As did Sam McGuffie, a former highly recruited running back who played at Michigan and Rice.

They join a team that includes Olympic champion Justin Olsen and Sochi medalists Steven Langton and Chris Fogt.

The drivers are Olsen, Nick Cunningham and Codie Bascue.

Weber, McGuffie, Langton and Fogt are push athletes, along with Evan Weinstock, Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Chris Kinney, Sam Michener and Carlo Valdes.

The full driver and push athlete combinations:

Four-Man
Bascue-Weinstock-Langton-McGuffie
Cunningham-Abdul-Saboor-Kinney-Michener
Olsen-Weber-Valdes-Fogt

Two-Man
Bascue-McGuffie
Cunningham-Abdul-Saboor
Olsen-Weinstock

It’s the first U.S. Olympic bobsled team without Steven Holcomb since 2002. Holcomb was found dead in his Olympic training center room on May 6. He was 37.

Holcomb drove U.S. medal-winning sleds in 2010 (four-man gold with Olsen among others) and 2014 (two- and four-man bronze with Langton (both), Fogt (four-man) and Curt Tomasevicz (four-man).

The Sochi medals are in line to be upgraded to silvers after Russian gold-medal sleds were stripped due to doping.

Bascue, Cunningham and Olsen combined to earn five World Cup medals this season, all on U.S. tracks. The world’s top-ranked sleds are from Germany and Canada.

Weber has been bobsledding since 2012 and made his World Cup debut this season.

He picked up the sport after reading about Olsen, who won a 2010 Olympic gold medal while serving in the Army. Weber was completing Special Forces training at the time, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton.

“I thought to myself, ‘If he can do it, I can do it,'” Weber said, according to USABS, which added that Weber spent summers in this Olympic cycle deployed in Niger, Cameroon and Afghanistan.

McGuffie, 28, was most heralded as a University of Michigan running back in 2008. He transferred to Rice after one season in Ann Arbor, wasn’t drafted by the NFL but signed with the Raiders in 2013 and played in two preseason games.

McGuffie bounced around on NFL practice squads and in the CFL before turning to bobsled in 2015. He has been part of the U.S. national team for three seasons.

His story is similar to that of Johnny Quinn, the 2014 Olympic bobsledder most famous for getting locked in a bathroom in Sochi.

Quinn announced his bobsled retirement last year, his last competition being Sochi.

Quinn also played Division I college football and in NFL preseason games as a wide receiver.

Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker is the only athlete with NFL regular-season experience to compete in the Winter Olympics. He finished seventh in two-man bobsled at Albertville 1992.

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for PyeongChang Olympics

For Steven Holcomb: U.S. gets 3 medals in World Cup bobsled opener

AP
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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Some of Steven Holcomb’s ashes are scattered at Mount Van Hoevenberg, the track where the longtime U.S. bobsled driver dominated like no other for about the last two decades. His initials are on the speedsuits that his teammates will wear this season. His words still echo in their heads.

He’s gone.

He’s clearly not forgotten.

For the first time in nearly two decades, the U.S. raced in a World Cup bobsled competition without Holcomb — the three-time Olympic medalist — on the roster.

They took three of the six available medals Thursday, a silver in women’s bobsled from Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs, silver in two-man from Nick Cunningham and Ryan Bailey and bronze from Codie Bascue and Carlo Valdes.

“We miss him every day,” said brakeman Steven Langton, who unretired a year ago with hopes of racing with Holcomb this season and was sixth with driver Justin Olsen in his first World Cup since 2014. “I miss him every day. We’re going to do the best job we can to honor him throughout the season.”

Holcomb died unexpectedly in his sleep in May at his dorm room inside the Olympic Training Center, where USA Bobsled and Skeleton has its offices and where many sliders live, lift and sleep when they’re in Lake Placid.

Holcomb won the two-man World Cup gold at Lake Placid a year ago, and Cunningham nearly followed suit Thursday.

He had to settle for second, one spot behind Germans Nico Walther and Christian Poser.

Walther and Poser, the husband of U.S. women’s bobsled pilot Jamie Greubel Poser, finished two runs in 1 minutes, 51.92 seconds. Cunningham and Bailey — a U.S. Olympian in track at the London Games — finished in 1:52.03. Full results are here.

“I needed this to, I don’t want to say resurrect my career, but last year was so hard mentally, emotionally,” said Cunningham, who matched his best World Cup finish after spending some of last season racing in the lesser international tiers. “I regained the love of the sport.”

Bascue got on a World Cup podium for the first time.

“Amazing feeling,” Bascue said. “A little bit of an emotional race, my first race without Holcy, but I took that and kind of used the emotion and it’s nice to be on the podium for the first time.”

It was far from a first podium trip for Kaillie Humphries, who went to bobsled school in Lake Placid and clearly paid attention in class.

The two-time reigning Olympic champion from Canada got her season off to a winning start, teaming with Melissa Lotholz to win gold at Mount Van Hoevenberg in the World Cup women’s bobsled season-opener. It was the fourth time Humphries won in Lake Placid, where she drove a bobsled for the first time in 2006 and quickly became one of the sport’s stars.

“To beat the Americans on any track is difficult,” Humphries said.

Humphries’ two-run time was 1:54.40. She edged longtime friend and rival Meyers Taylor, who paired with Gibbs to finish in 1:54:43 — with a start record in there as well.

Germany got the bronze, with Stephanie Schneider and Lisa Marie Buchwitz finishing in 1:54.60 and nipping Greubel Poser and Aja Evans of the U.S. by .01. Full results are here.

“I love this track just as much as anybody,” said Humphries, whose hair was dyed in the colors of the South Korean flag in a nod to the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics. “I’ve been driving it for numerous years and I’m really happy to do it justice today.”

It was the 13th time that Humphries and Meyers Taylor finished first and second in a World Cup, world championship or Olympic competition. Humphries now has won seven of those, Meyers Taylor six.

“She had a good day. I didn’t have a great day. That’s kind of how it goes,” Meyers Taylor said. “I don’t expect this to be the trend, though.”

Greubel Poser, who won at Lake Placid each of the last two seasons, settled for fourth on her 34th birthday.

“So much went into preparing for this season, it was different for a lot of different reasons for us,” Evans said. “I think to get over this first hurdle with this first race in Lake Placid, it was big just to get it out of the way. Now we can move on and keep pursuing PyeongChang.”

Earlier Thursday, Austrian Janine Flock won the World Cup skeleton season opener in Lake Placid by .26 over Canadian Elisabeth Vathje.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain was third, .33 behind, followed by Olympic bronze medalist Elena Nikitina of Russia.

The top American was three-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender in ninth, sandwiched between the last two world champions from Germany — Jacqueline Loelling and Tina HermannFull results are here.

Races conclude in Lake Placid with two-man bobsled and men’s skeleton Friday.

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MORE: U.S. bobsledders remember Steven Holcomb as Olympic season starts

Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

Courtesy of USA Bobsled
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Sprinter Ryan Bailey proved that he is not just fast on the track, winning the men’s push athlete title at the USA Bobsled National Push Championships in Calgary on Wednesday.

Bailey, who finished fifth in the London Olympic 100m and anchored the 2012 U.S. 4x100m relay team, is just weeks into his bobsled career.

“I didn’t know what to think coming into this competition,” Bailey said to USA Bobsled. “To actually win the first year, it’s a pretty good feeling.”

Nick Cunningham, who represented the U.S. in bobsled at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, was impressed by watching Bailey in Calgary.

“Ryan has progressed extremely quickly,” Cunningham said to NBC OlympicTalk. “He has a medal-filled future if he sticks with the sport.”

Bailey’s performance puts him in a good position to make the U.S. team for the 2016-17 World Cup season, which begins the last weekend of November.

His goal is to make the 2018 Olympic team. He would be following in the footsteps of Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, who both competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics after competing at a Summer Olympics as a sprinter. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

“To get a chance to compete in the Winter Olympics would be amazing,” Bailey said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be possible, so getting this chance is mind blowing.”

Bailey was expected to compete against Tyson Gay, the American 100m record holder. Gay arrived in Calgary on Monday, but after meeting with the coaching staff, decided not to compete today. Gay, who has pushed a sled no more than 10 times, watched the competition and is expected to continue training with the team. He could still enter the combination pushes on Friday or Saturday.

Another former sprinter, 56-year-old Willie Gault, nearly competed in Calgary (his name has been erased in the scoreboard below between Brent Fogt and Nathan Gilsleider). Gault, who played wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Raiders, has been assisting the USA Bobsled coaching staff with recruiting. He flew to Calgary on Tuesday and considered competing, but decided against it Wednesday morning.

Two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor won the women’s driver title. 2010 Olympic gold medalist Justin Olson won the men’s pilot title, and Aja Evans won the women’s push title after a two-year hiatus from the sport.

MORE: Johnny Quinn leaves door open for bobsled return