Sean M. Haffey/Getty/@TeamUSA/Twitter
On Sunday, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced the 12 men who will represent the U.S. in South Korea on the men's Olympic bobsled team.
Four of the men — one-third of the team — have also represented their country outside of the Olympic stage — as soldiers.
Sgt. Justin Olsen, New York National Guard
After high school, Sgt. Justin Olsen studied at the Air Force Academy for a year. However, after realizing he had an extraordinary talent for bobsledding, he focused entirely on it.
During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Olsen roomed with National Guardsman Mike Kohn, who talked to him about joining the National Guard.
“I already represent my country,” Olsen told The San Diego-Tribune in January 2011. “Now it's an opportunity to serve and represent my country at the same time.”
He met with recruiters during a 2010 World Cup event in Lake Placid, New York, and he asked if he could complete the physical and testing the next day.
Olsen won gold at the 2010 Olympics and also participated in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. The 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will mark the 30-year-old's third time representing the U.S. in the bobsled portion.
Sgt. Nick Cunningham, New York National Guard
In 2003, Sgt. Nick Cunningham had “never really been to the snow.” Seven years later, he competed in the 2010 Olympics on America's bobsled team.
Mom and Dad- We did it!... AGAIN!! You were always there when I needed you the most. Through the good times and the bad, your love and support always kept me going. I love you and more importantly, thank you. @TeamUSA #ForMyFamily pic.twitter.com/xjC1PRfg5y
— Nick Cunningham, OLY (@BOBSLEDR) January 15, 2018
According to The Mercury News, his mom half-joking suggested he try bobsledding. As it turned out, he was fast, and more importantly, he was fast on the ice, which made him a perfect fit.
“I just decided to try out for the United States bobsled team as a graduation gift to myself,” Cunningham told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “I knew nothing about the sport other than it required speed.”
Eight years ago, he joined the New York National Guard, and in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit, his unit was activated, but he was told to return to Lake Placid for bobsled training, according to The Mercury News.
Instead of making the four-hour drive north, he and another member of his unit, who was also an athlete, drove to New York City and worked to remove debris and clear drains.
Outside of his military duty, he called it his "American duty.”
“It’s unique to wear both uniforms,” Cunningham told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “The Army has been gracious enough to let me chase this dream.”
This will also mark his third Olympic Games, which he told the Santa Cruz Sentinel he believes with 95 percent certainty it will be his last.
Capt. Chris Fogt, U.S. Army
Similarly to Cunningham, U.S. Army Capt. Chris Fogt grew up competing in track and field. In 2007, while at Utah Valley University, two men in black Team USA jackets asked if he had ever tried bobsledding. During an episode of “Day Jobs” for the Olympic Channel, he said:
“The first time I went down a bobsled run was a pretty terrifying experience, to be honest with you. About three or four curves in we're going about 50 miles an hour. I started to feel the G-forces and I was like, 'I have to get out of this thing, now.'”
He added he thought, “this sport isn't for me.”
Oddly enough, by the time he was in a “terrifying” bobsled, he'd already jumped out of helicopters with the Army.
Three years later, in 2010, he made the Olympic team, and on the “50-50” curve, at 90 mph, the bobsled turned and the four men finished the rest of the course on their heads.
“As a kid, you dream of being a world champion, you dream of winning a gold medal ... and I had a shot,” he explained. “The Olympic games being every four years, I didn't know if I'd have another chance.”
Immediately following the games, he deployed to Iraq for a year, and as a commander, he's responsible for 100 soldiers.
“I have to plan all of their training to prepare these guys for war,” Fogt explained.
Fortunately, he did get another shot, and in 2014, his four-man bobsled team took home the bronze medal.
Somehow, despite 12- to 13-hour days at work, two kids, and a wife, he still manages to find time to train and will represent the U.S. in South Korea.
Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Weber, U.S. Army
While Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Weber was always athletic, instead of going to college for sports, he joined the Army.
“[The terrorist attack on] 9/11 was something that really affected me,” he said in a DVIDS video. “I remember seeing that in my freshmen year in high school in class and I really wanted to serve my country after that.”
He eventually became a Green Beret and then decided after a few years of that to start bobsledding. In fact, the decision came after he read an article about Olsen.
“I don't think I would have ever got to the level as an athlete had I not been a soldier, had I not went to selection and got my Green Beret,” he explained.
— Nate Weber (@NateWeberActual) January 16, 2018
Last summer, he was running wind sprints in Afghanistan when a gun blasted a mortar out of the sky, and it started “sprinkling” down on him. While others ducked behind barracks and waited for the all-clear siren, Weber kept running.
“Everybody was looking at me like, ‘What is this lunatic doing?’” Weber told Team USA. “But I’m not going to let anything get in front of me and getting on this Olympic team.”
On Sunday, his midnight training and hard work paid off, and in Pyeongchang, he'll race in the same sled as the man who inspired him to get into the sport. Despite knowing he's going to the Olympics, his future in the sport is still uncertain.
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) November 11, 2017
He explained that if he's told “Pack up, you're going to Afghanistan,” the day after the Olympics, he'll go. If it's an order to do public relations and recruiting, then he'll do that because his love for his country trumps his love of the sport.
“I have such an amazing time bobsledding,” he told Team USA. “But if my country asks me to do something, I’m going to do it for them.”
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