What’s it like to take a run on an Olympic bobsled track? I found out yesterday

Highlights of yesterday? A bobsled run at Utah Olympic Park, where the 2002 Winter Olympics took place.

The Winter Olympics are fast approaching, and to get in the spirit I’ve been mingling with Olympians here in Park City, Utah.

The highlight, though, came when I piled into a red, bullet-shaped bobsled and rocketed down the same track used in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

That’s me right behind the pilot, wearing a pink helmet.

As one the attendants said, it’s sort of like putting four people into a bathtub. It’s a noisy ride, too, and we hit a top speed of 62 miles per hour as we whipped through 10 turns on our way down the track. (We started two-thirds of the way up, to keep things safe.) The run lasted 49.7 seconds.

Getting in a bobsled is kind of like stuffing four people in a bathtub.

Carl Roepke, a velvet-voiced announcer who has called the last bobsled event at the last six Olympic games, took time to chat at the bottom of the run. Roepke is headed to South Korea in a few weeks, where he’ll call this year’s event. He shared a secret: Sometimes, he plays music on headphones while he’s announcing so he can follow a beat while he commentates.

 

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The bobsledding experience wasn’t my first brush with Olympic fun of the day. I started by tossing back eggs Benedict and fresh squeezed orange juice (at the amazing Five 3eeds) with former U.S. mogul champion Hannah Kearney, who won Olympic gold in the sport in 2010 and tacked on a bronze in 2014.

I had breakfast with Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

 

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She brought her medal – thicker than a pancake and nearly as big – along for show and tell, and explained a little more about the sport, where athletes are judged in three core areas as they barrel down a short, bumpy run – form in the turns, speed, and the wow factor and difficulty of their jumps.

Kearney, now 31, went to three Olympic games. In Vancouver, she tucked a note in her pocket that said, “I’m here to win a gold medal. I’m ready.” She did just that. She followed up with a third place finish in 2014, then retired in 2015.

I wrapped up the afternoon with a fitness class with former Olympic mogul skier and cyclist Jillian Vogtli, who now leads wellness and fitness classes in the Park City area.

I’m headed to the Park City ski area slopes today, and tonight I’ll be in the stands watching the FIS Visa Freestyle International Ski World Cup event.

Stay tuned…