Five questions with Olympic bobsledder Nick Cunningham

Published: Saturday, Nov. 24 2012 8:02 p.m. MST

Nick Cunningham piloted USA 2 to a fifth-place finish in just his fourth World Cup race last week in Park City.

photo courtesy Nick Cunningham

Cunningham has competed in bobsled since 2008 and was a 2010 Olympian. He was a brakeman for driver Mike Kohn, but switched to driving the bobsled this season. He is a Sergeant in the New York National Guard in the1156 ENG CO. Vertical, and his job is a Construction and Masonry Engineer. Cunningham graduated from Monterey Peninsula College in 2005 and Boise State University in 2008 with a degree in communications. While at BSU he was a elected team captain for the track team. He finished third in Lake Placid in the first World Cup of the season. Deseret News winter sports writer Amy Donaldson talked to him last week.

Q: How did you get involved in bobsled?

A: I actually got into bobsled because my parents made a joke about it while I was in college. We were on a Sunday drive after a track meet and we saw the road curving down the mountain back towards campus. My mom laughed and said it looked like a bobsled track and my dad said "Yeah, you're fast ... why don't you bobsled?" Mind you, I grew up surfing everyday. We are not a winter family. Once I graduated from Boise State University I decided to go to an open tryout for the team and ended up getting a call back from a pilot. I always wanted to be a race car driver but never had the money to do it. This way I'm racing and my engine just happens to be my body.

Q: Why did you join the National Guard?

A: I joined the National Guard as a way to not only compete for my country but also serve it. I am very patriotic. I cannot bobsled forever and the National Guard gives me that extra training and skills that I can carry with me for the rest of my life.

Q: Are you ever torn between your military service and being a professional athlete?

A: Being in the WCAP (World Class Athlete Program) definitely makes life a lot easier. Without this program I would not be able to continue bobsledding. It is too expensive. I try and visit my unit (the 1156 Eng. Co. Vert) as often as possible. I felt torn when my unit was deployed after Hurricane Sandy. It was not mandatory that I go and try and help, but I saw it as more of my duty as an American to help when others are in need. I was able to help, so I was going to do whatever was needed. At that point, helping families and flood victims was a little more important than my workouts for the week.

Q: You were a rodeo athlete — how did you get involved and what events did you compete in?

A: I am not a rodeo athlete per se. I rode bulls in college for fun. I love going to rodeos and during my off season that's generally where you will find me. I love everything about it and believe it has made me a better athlete/person being around the rodeo scene. The blue collar worth ethic and never quit attitude has brought me to a level I never thought possible. Don't count rodeo out in my future though! I'm looking at possibly trying my hand at bareback broncs after the 2014 Sochi Games.

Q: You recently spent some time helping victims of Sandy, how did that come about?

A: Helping the victims of Sandy was a definite eye opener as to what's important. In a "materialistic society" I really saw what's important. People lost everything ... but each other. Watching neighbors helping each other and helping remove their ruined possessions really put it all into perspective for me. At the end of the day all we have is each other. We tend to lose sight of that.

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