You want to do well, but in our sport, the way it is, we knew by curve two that our chances to win a medal were over. But we came out today, we had faster pushes, faster runs. You just can’t quit. —Chris Fogt
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Fighting for the last spot in the fourth round of the Olympic bobsled competition is not the reason 2014 bronze medalist Chris Fogt came out of retirement.
“I was pretty sad,” said the 34-year-old Alpine native after he helped push the U.S. bobsled piloted by Justin Olsen to 20th place at the Alpensia Sliding Center. “I sat alone for quite a while wondering, was the comeback worth it? Being away from my kids, the family for six, seven months, was it really worth it?”
Fogt, a captain in the U.S. Army (soon to be promoted to Major), retired after earning bronze in 2014, and started his family with wife Rachel. In January, three-time medalist Steve Holcomb talked both Fogt and Steve Langton into returning to the sport one more time for another run at Olympic glory. This time, he promised, it would be gold, like the one he and Justin Olsen earned in Vancouver in 2010.
“I announced my comeback in January, and (Holcomb) passed away in May,” Fogt said. “We didn’t have a lot of experience at pilot, so our expectations were a bit more tempered.”
Still, all three of the Team USA sleds felt they could be in the top 10 in the Pyeongchang Games. So when Fogt’s sled, piloted by Olsen, who began driving two years ago, came down in 21st place after two runs, he was as discouraged as an athlete can get.
The closest competitor was USA pilot Nick Cunningham’s sled, and that meant finding 0.23 of a second. It seemed an insurmountable amount of time to Fogt — and for what purpose?
Who comes to the Olympics to take what would be essentially last place in the fourth round?
As Fogt struggled with whether it was worth all the sacrifice and where he might find the motivation to compete for a prize most people would never understand, he began to scroll through hundreds of messages from friends, family and fellow soldiers.
“That kind of brightened my spirits,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about how you finish. You want to do well, but in our sport, the way it is, we knew by curve two that our chances to win a medal were over. But we came out today, we had faster pushes, faster runs. You just can’t quit.”
He meant to send a message to his children, just 3 and 1, dressed in Olympic gear and waving American flags back home in Utah.
“If I could teach one lesson to my kids, or kids out there, when things don’t go your way, because, in life sometimes they don’t, you have to keep on going,” he said. “I don’t care who you are, you’re going to have bad days. The thing is to keep trying to improve each day.”
That was Sunday’s goal.
Be faster on the push. Get down the track faster.
They did both, and they jumped a sled to make the top 20 and earn that precious fourth and final run.
"Coming down (for the bronze) in Sochi, you want to see that number one on the scoreboard," Fogt said. "I craned my neck, I obviously was not just as excited, but I was pretty excited to see the number 20, which showed we would get a fourth run."
That was not the finish he dreamed about when he left his young family to train and travel around the world. That was not the goal he had in mind when he and Holcomb and Steve Langton, who was part of the top American sled (9th), driven by Codie Bascue, hatched a plan to put together an Olympic bobsled dream team.
But Fogt knows that Holcomb, the man who helped him earn his only medal in three Olympics would be proud of all three U.S. sleds and their effort just to compete in these Games.
“You can’t replace him,” Fogt said, choking back emotion. “Try and do our best to honor his legacy, and I think he would be, well, he’d be proud of what we did. We did not quit.”