Utah bobsledder used sports, military service to overcome stutter

Published: Monday, Oct. 7 2013 8:55 p.m. MDT

U.S. Olympic Winter Games bobsledder Chris Fogt poses for a portrait at the 2013 Team USA Media Summit on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Park City.

Carlo Allegri, Associated Press

PARK CITY — When Chris Fogt was struggling to survive junior high, he thought he might be able to avoid the barbs of bullies if he could just hide the fact that he stuttered.

So the American Fork alum spoke as little as possible.

“I really withdrew because I think that’s when kids are the most brutal,” said Fogt, who was named to the bobsled team’s USA 1 after winning the U.S. push championships in August. “I got really quiet, so it got worse.”

What the newest member of the famed Night Train found was that the only way to conquer the speech impediment was to keep talking.

“It’s definitely been a challenge,” said Fogt. “It’s always been a frustrating thing. I feel like it’s so simple, like how can I not speak. It’s just speaking, one of the simplest things. I feel like I’ve been to college, I’m educated, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve been to the Olympics, I’ve been in the Army, how can I still stutter? It’s embarrassing to tell you the truth.”

The Utah Valley University graduate was introduced to bobsled when coaches saw him at a college track meet. His speed and strength, they said, made him the perfect candidate for the sport. After an impressive training camp, Fogt joined the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, which allowed the captain to compete for the U.S. while serving his country as a soldier. He made the U.S. Olympic team in 2010 as a member of USA 2, just 10 months after taking up the sport. That bid for a medal ended in a crash on the first day of four-man competition. Immediately after returning home after the Games, he was deployed to Iraq as a military intelligence officer.

“It was amazing going from the glitz and glamour of the Olympic Games, walking into opening ceremonies, everyone wanting to shake your hand, take pictures with you, and going to just being a regular Joe,” he said.

But the soldiers who served with Fogt in Iraq loved hearing his stories. They put Olympic rings on their Humvee and told everyone they met about their bobsledding first lieutenant. It gave them something to talk about, something hopeful and something far from the dust and danger of war zones.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said, adding that the soldiers he served with still follow his career and laud his accomplishments. “I have had a lot of support.”

Before serving in Iraq, Fogt said he felt some trepidation about splitting his time in the Army between being a soldier and being an athlete.

“I almost chose not to keep bobsledding because I love being in the Army so much,” he said. “I love serving my country that way. (The Olympics) seemed a little superficial at the time, coming from a war zone, coming from Iraq, guys are dying, guys are serving, and I’m going to go slide down the hill with my friends in spandex.”

Fogt knows it sounds silly, but he struggled with representing his country when he could be serving it.

“You almost feel a sense of guilt,” he said. “I almost felt like I’m letting soldiers down, I’m letting my friends down. (They) are waking up at 5:30 or 6 and either working out, getting bombed or going on a convoy. And I wake up in Lake Placid at 8:30 in the morning and I lift weights for a living. You have this sense of guilt, this lack of purpose. Once you realize what you’re doing, you gain that perspective back that this is still a great thing, and you’re representing your country in a different way.”

It was conversations with his boss — a 30-year Army veteran — that convinced him to keep his Olympic dream alive.

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