Utah bobsledder used sports, military service to overcome stutter

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

“I saw the light it brought to some of the soldiers,” he said. “It was just great to be able to talk about it with them. … They loved it, and it’s a great inspiration to them.”

Fogt said being moved into USA 1 with pilot and Park City native Steve Holcomb, who drove the Night Train to the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in 62 years, has given renewed hope of earning an Olympic medal, which will belong, in part, to those soldiers he represents.

“After winning the push championships, I was really hopeful it would happen,” he said of being named a member of the Night Train. “I get to start the season with USA 1, which is awesome. I’m very excited.”

Holcomb said Fogt’s earned his spot in the country’s top sled.

“He’s an incredible athlete,” Holcomb said. “He’s stepped up this year, and he’s shown in his testing, he’s the fastest guy on the team right now, both in sprints and in pushing. … He’s been in consideration for my team for a long time, but it’s just been a matter of making that jump.” Fogt said more time off to train allowed him to enter the August camp in top physical condition. His year in Iraq has given him confidence, perspective and focus. And on Aug. 31, his life gained another dimension when he married his longtime girlfriend, Rachel, in the Salt Lake Temple.

Fogt admits that it is frustrating that after all he’s done and dealt with, he still struggles to speak — especially in crowds.

“I don’t know why,” he said. “I had speech therapy throughout middle school and high school, but I quit in high school because I was embarrassed to go.”

Independent and determined, he thought if he tried hard enough, he could overcome it. But the more he wanted to express himself, the more unwilling his mouth seemed to be.

“I think it’s an anxiety thing, for sure,” Fogt said. “It’s tough as a kid to really speak your mind. And other kids are ruthless. You get made fun of, yeah, I got made fun of, but at the same time, I had sports as an outlet.”

Sports became his refuge. It was the place where people tried to help him and where they respected his desire to fight through it.

“My teammates were my friends and they understood it was something I dealt with,” he said. “It was still frustrating. I used to run in all the plays for football and I stuttered. I had to come up with hand signals because it was so bad.”

The worst, however, was in junior high when he withdrew because “kids are so brutal. … People want to make themselves look good, they need an outlet, so they’re trying to laugh and make fun of you.”

His advice to kids struggling with a speech impediment is simply to embrace the very things that are most difficult. People still make jokes, sometimes they still laugh. He is just no longer worried about what people think.

“Don’t be embarrassed about it,” he said. “Just try to remain confident throughout the process. It’s tough because you will fail. I’m 30-years old and I still stutter. But it’s gotten better, and it will get better.” And nothing helps more than finding a passion, a purpose.

“It would have been a lot harder without sports — and the Army,” he said. “That’s the thing, find something that you’re good at, whether it’s athletics, science, whatever, and that way you’ll find friends. Once you have something in common with them, they’re less likely to make fun of you. It’s hard to gain confidence when you stutter. You can’t express yourself; you feel dumb. But don’t let it get the best of you. Just keep talking.”

Twitter: adonsports

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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