KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Chris Fogt’s hands kept gravitating toward the shiny disc suddenly hanging from his neck. He’d had it just a few minutes, but already the bronze medal felt like a part of him. “I’m never taking this off,” he said.
“Shower, sleep — I really don’t think I will,” the 30-year old U.S. bobsledder said. “It won’t come off until — I promise you, at least a week it’s not coming off.”
Airport security might have other thoughts when Fogt flies home this week.
“I think they’ll understand,” he said with a laugh.
But how could they? In the four-man bobsled, the man in front — the pilot — usually gets all the attention. Steve Holcomb is the one who navigated the curves and raced the clock, helping U.S. sleds win two bronze medals at these Olympics. He’s a three-time medalist and already among the best bobsledders the United States has ever produced.
Fogt was the fourth man in the sled. Sunday’s event, in which the American bobsledders raced to third and claimed the 28th and final Team USA medal of the Sochi Olympics, likely will be the last competition for Olympian Chris Fogt, at least for a while. That’s because Army Capt. Chris Fogt reports to active duty May 5 at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. He’s not sure where he’ll go from there.
“Whatever the Army tells me to do, I’ll fall in line like a regular Joe and do my job,” said Fogt, an Iraq War vet.
Dissecting the bobsled course
He hopes to compete again before the 2018 Olympics and says his pending break from the sled made Sunday’s accomplishment all the more special.
The U.S. bobsledders came to Sochi hoping for two golds. They leave with a pair of bronze medals and zero complaints. Holcomb and teammate Steve Langton won the two-man event last week and became the first U.S. bobsledders in 62 years to medal in both Olympic races. They also joined figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White as the only Americans to leave Sochi with more than one medal.
Holcomb and his crew, which also included Curt Tomasevicz, began the day in fourth place, just 0.01 seconds out of medal position. Holcomb stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before, receiving treatment on his injured calf and studying video, desperately trying to find areas on the Sanki Sliding Center track where he could make up time.
In the event’s third heat Sunday, the Americans again got off to a fast start and managed to pass the Germany-1 sled in the standings. They entered the final heat in third place, 0.45 seconds behind the Russia-1 sled and just 0.15 ahead of the fourth-place Russia-2 sled. Holcomb, who took gold in the same event in Vancouver, piloted the USA-1 sled — nicknamed Night Train 2 — through a smooth run down the track, posting a total time of 3 minutes 40.99 seconds, which was 0.39 seconds behind the first-place Russian sled and just 0.03 seconds ahead of the fourth-place Russia-2 sled.
Russian pilot Alexander Zubkov had an enviable home-ice advantage at these Sochi Games, and it paid off. Zubkov won gold in both the two-man and four-man events. He became the sixth driver to win gold in both events at the same Olympics.
For the Americans, Fogt was the lone man in the sled who hadn’t set foot on an Olympic medals podium. At the Vancouver Games, he was in the USA-2 sled.
“Today was more for Chris than anybody else. . . . To be able to do that for him was pretty special,” Langton said.
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Fogt took up bobsled in 2007, one year before enlisting in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq shortly after the Vancouver Olympics. When he returned a year later, he trained relentlessly and grew into a world-class brakeman.
Fogt’s job is simple, in theory. He helps push the sled to the fastest start possible. (In four heats this weekend, the USA-1 crew posted the fastest start three times.) Fogt is the last to jump in his sled, climbing in behind his three teammates like a set of nesting dolls. Then he tucks his head down and lets his pilot guide the sled down the track.
Fogt says his athletic life and his military career have some similarities, particularly the camaraderie forged in the trenches.
“In the Army, you kind of bleed together. You sweat together. You work out together. You pal around in downtown Baghdad in 120-degree heat in a Humvee for three to four hours,” he said. “You go through those things with your crew, and it makes you very close.
“For us, it’s obviously slightly different. Your life’s not in danger. At the same time, you’re sliding down an icy track in a bathtub with four men in spandex. You get very close.”
The World Cup circuit takes the team all over North America and Europe. These past three months, there haven’t been many nights Fogt didn’t put his head on a pillow at night just a few feet away from Langton.
“You’re with each other all the time,” he said. “There’s really no break.”
He’s intent on returning to the U.S. bobsled program after his deployment. When he does, it’s possible he’ll still have a spot in Holcomb’s sled. Already a three-time Olympian, Holcomb doesn’t seem ready to walk away from the sport. Holcomb is only 33 years old and noted that Russia’s Zubkov just won two gold medals at age 39.
“I love what I do,” Holcomb said, “and I don’t want to get a real job, so I may stick around a few more years.”