USA bobsledder Johnny Quinn is Olympic's bathroom 'breakout' star
Michael Sohn, Associated Press
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — After the sleek USA-3 bobsled pulled into the finish, a broadcast assistant rushed over in search of the man who unintentionally became a worldwide phenomenon by busting through a locked bathroom door.
"Are you Johnny Quinn?" the woman asked American driver Nick Cunningham.
"No," Cunningham said, raising his thumb to point to the smiling, swaggering Texan walking a few feet behind him. "That's Quinn. International superstar."
Welcome to Johnny's Games.
An unknown during stints in the NFL with Green Bay and Buffalo, Quinn literally burst onto the world's stage last week after he tweeted a photo of a bathroom door he destroyed in the athlete's village when the door lock jammed and he needed to get out.
I was taking a shower and the door got locked/jammed....— Johnny Quinn (@JohnnyQuinnUSA) February 8, 2014
It all seemed so innocent. And then it went viral.
Go, Johnny, go. Go global.
Quinn never imagined what would follow, and the clock doesn't seem to be ticking on his 15 minutes of fame. At least not as long as the Olympic flame still burns over Sochi.
He's been making his rounds doing network TV interviews ever since, and his fame only grew when his bathroom episode was followed by his getting stuck in an elevator.
"I figured we'd get some retweets, some funny comments, but nothing like what has happened over the past couple days," Quinn said Friday following two training runs with Cunningham on the Sanki Sliding Center track. "It was a couple of situations that could have happened to anyone at anytime and anywhere. It just happened to me here at the Olympics."
Since he posted the photo on Feb. 8, his Twitter posting has been retweeted 29,000 times and seen by an estimated 10 million pairs of eyes on Twitter alone, says Walter Delph, chief executive of Adly, which helps brands build buzz via social media.
He's gotten a kick from the publicity — he's nearly doubled his Twitter followers — and the exposure certainly doesn't hurt bobsled, a sport pretty much ignored in the United States except for a few days every four years during the Olympics.
"The neat thing is that I've had to do a lot of interviews and got to talk bobsled," said Quinn, who will ride in USA-2 in the four-man competition. "I've talked about our new BMW sleds and talked about the dates we race, so to get viewers to tune in and to hopefully get some of our youth to say, 'Hey ya know, maybe I can be a bobsledder,' and to have that kind of impact is pretty cool."
He's excited about an invitation he received to train with a SWAT team in Denton, Texas, after the games and Quinn said his newfound notoriety may land him some endorsement deals.
"We have some other things in the pipeline that my agent is working on," he said.
There is one down side to being a pseudo celebrity on a team of 11 alpha males: Quinn is an easy target.
"You better believe my teammates are giving me a hard time about it," he said. "When I go down in an elevator, no one wants to go down with me anymore. They're having a good time."
But Cunningham, gold-medal winning four-man driver Steven Holcomb and the rest of the U.S. bobsled contingent didn't come to Russia for any parties — not yet, anyway. This a business trip with the goal to win medals.
While Quinn has definitely pulled the spotlight toward the Americans, the team wants to make sure the added attention doesn't distract him or sidetrack any of the U.S. bobsledders from their mission.
Curt Tomasevicz, who helped push Holcomb's sled to gold four years ago in Vancouver, has mixed feelings about Quinn's sudden prominence.
"Different athletes react differently to certain situations. I maybe would have had a little more patience in the bathroom, I guess," he said.
"It turned out to be a positive story where it could have gone negatively rather quickly. You know, the ugly American," he said. "And he's now an American hero for breaking out of prison it sounds like, too. But I think bringing attention to our sport in that way can be good.
"But I'd rather bring it with a medal."
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