WHISTLER, B.C. — Chris Fogt's shoulder slid across the ice and then the bobsled went upside down.
The 26-year-old Alpine resident thought, momentarily, about letting go, but the soldier in him fought the fear and allowed him to consider the other three men counting on him.
"It burns," he said of how it feels to be dragged across the icy track when a bobsled crashes. "My right shoulder was on the ice most of the time, then we rolled over; we were upside down for a quick second, but I looked in front of me and the other three guys are still in the sled. I'm the last one. ... If I let go, it's going to sweep the rest of them out and I just had to hold it together. I'm glad we did because we get to race again tomorrow."
Fogt was recruited into the sport two years ago when he was running track for UVU. He's picked the sport up quickly and helped push USA 2 to the second best start of Friday's four-man bobsled competition.
The run was going well until the sled did what five others did in that second run, went too high on the wall around curve 13, the now infamous 50-50 turn, and crashed first onto its side, then rolled upside down before coming to a stop on its side just past the finish line. All of the men were shaken up, and likely would be sore on Saturday, but they were glad to at least have the opportunity to finish what they've been training to do for nearly two years.
Fogt choked back emotion when asked about what it meant to him to finish his first Olympic competition, even though there is no chance he will medal.
"I'm still safe," he said. "We crossed the line, all four of us, so we come back tomorrow and try and finish in the top 10. That's all we can do."
Fogt's family drove and flew in to support him, and it is the first Olympic experience for all of them.
"I have 12 people here supporting me," he said. "It means a lot to me. We're all staying in one house, all 12 of them. It's a four-bedroom condo. Like I said, it's going to be a good time. Here to support me and I'm happy."
It was his affection for the other three men in the sled with him that helped him hang on despite a desire to let go and be free from the pressure of a bobsled crash.
"The biggest thing for me, being in the Army, being a soldier, when I was upside down I was kind of like, 'I can't let go. You've got to finish. ... They do stuff for me everyday, and I've got to do the same for them.'"
His teammates were grateful they would get two runs today and even with the crash, they were in 17th place.
"I had a good trip going," said driver of USA 2 John Napier, who is an engineer in the Army Reserves. "Going 95 miles an hour, you make a mistake, there is no catching it. There's no making mistakes on this track, especially in four-man bob. I said earlier this week it's going to challenge the best drivers in the world and it definitely challenged me today. It got me. But it's OK. I'm just happy that God blessed us and kept us safe; everybody who crashed is safe. Nobody was severely injured, as far as I know, and that's a real blessing."
Asked if the number of crashes was alarming or made the competition unfair, Napier, who took his first trip in a bobsled with his father when he was an infant and has been driving sleds since he was eight, said no.
"It's unfortunate that so many drivers are crashing, but this is a real bobsled track," Napier said. "My father, I know he slid on tough tracks so I'm not complaining. It's a tough track, it is what it is, I'm not complaining. I made a mistake and I paid for it, and my guys paid for it and that's the biggest burden on me. Everybody has gone over at some point. Today was my day. I went over, and I'm just happy everybody is safe."
Napier lost his father in 2005 to cancer, but his mom, who was also a bobsled athlete (that's how the couple met), was in the stands at Whistler with her trademark cowbell and his sister. Both U.S. national team athletes, neither of his parents ever got the chance to represent the U.S. in the Olympics.
"This has been a dream since childhood," Napier said while training in Park City just a week before the Games. "My mom is ecstatic. She's the soccer mom of bobsledding. She's always cheering me on."
Napier said he doesn't know exactly what he did wrong, but he knows it occurred in Curve 12, just before the 50-50 curve sent his sled onto its side.
"It's a lot of pressure on your head," he said of crashing at 90-95 miles an hour. "You're talking four, five six G-forces, and when you're going down the track, they're pushing you in. Now they're pulling you out. And the ice is pinning you. It's kind of rough you know."1 comment on this story
Like Fogt, Napier is grateful they will get a chance to finish what they started, even if a medal is out of reach.
When he talked to the Deseret News in Park City, he said he just hoped (his team) to be "gracious and humble champions" and representatives of the United States, even if they don't win a medal.
In addition to the six crashes Friday afternoon, three sleds chose not to compete at all. Each team that finished both runs Friday will get two more runs today.