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Army, faith helped push Mormon bobsledder Chris Fogt to Olympic success

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26 2014 9:23 p.m. MST

The team from the United States USA-1, with Steven Holcomb, Curtis Tomasevicz, Steven Langton and Christopher Fogt, celebrate after they won the bronze medals in the men's four-man bobsled competition final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Dita Alangkara, ASSOCIATED PRESS

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Olympic bronze medalist Chris Fogt’s time in Iraq almost meant the end of his bobsled career.

That’s because the 30-year-old Alpine, Utah, man never aspired to represent his country in athletics. Instead, the American Fork High graduate and Utah Valley University track standout chose military service after serving a two-year mission in the Philippines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“When I got home from my mission, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Fogt told the Deseret News before the Sochi Games. “After a year, I knew I wanted to join the Army.”

It was when he was competing for the Wolverines that recruiters saw him and convinced him to give bobsled a try.

“I definitely didn’t like it right away,” he said, laughing. “After my first trip, I thought, ‘This is real rough. It can’t be fun for people.’ I wasn’t too fond of it.”

But he was fond of the guys on the team.

“I ended up staying around, and I ended up being good at it,” he said.

But it was his introduction to the Army’s World Class Athlete Program that convinced him to commit to bobsled rather than seek deployment overseas.

Fogt made the 2010 Olympic team as a push athlete for John Napier, another WCAP soldier/athlete in the USA-2 sled in four-man bobsled. But they crashed on the second of four runs and didn’t get an official finish. That experience has stayed with him for four years — including the year he spent in Iraq after the Games.

“When people meet me, they say, ‘Oh, you went to the Games? How’d you do?’ ” Fogt said after winning bronze as a push athlete for USA-1, which was driven by fellow Utahn Steve Holcomb, on Feb. 23. “ ‘Oh, last place.’ It’s been tough to say that, and now I have something to show for it. I’m very proud of how we did, proud to have raced with these guys.”

Fogt was the only member of the team without a medal when they began competing on Feb. 22 at the Sochi Games. While Steve Langton was with Fogt in USA-2 when it crashed in 2010 in Vancouver, the Massachusetts native earned bronze with Holcomb in the two-man event earlier in the week.

When the four-man team crossed the finish line assured of a medal, Fogt broke down.

“It’s been unbelievable, to tell you the honest truth,” he said, tears welling in his eyes, as teammate Curtis Tomasevicz put his hand on his shoulder. “I was overwhelmed with emotion, like I am now. It just felt great. It just means a lot for me and my family, my wife, who is home pregnant, and for the military. I’m very excited I could be out here to win something for them.”

Military service

Fogt returned to the U.S. bobsled program after serving in Iraq as a member of the Army’s Military Intelligence. Now a captain, he said he enjoyed his service so much, he thought about not returning to the sport.

But he found that the soldiers he served with wanted him to compete for them. They were intrigued and inspired by his Olympic experience, and he said it helped him pass time on long rides through the desert.

His stories distracted them from the tedious and tense stretches.

"It was something to talk about," he said. "It really helped us gel. They think it's awesome."

The guilt he felt for not continuing to serve with them was assuaged by their support of his efforts.

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