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Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Bigger, badder bobsled squads ready for Games


The U.S. men's bobsled and skeleton teams fall under the same governing body, but as they announced the teams each are sending to Vancouver over the weekend, it was with a decidedly different vibe.

The American bobsled team will show up with muscles bulging, walking tall along that razor's edge that comes with being a favorite, while the skeleton team (like its luge counterparts) will be having nightmares about a tough German team.

The Night Train Crew, the four-man bobsled team of Steven Holcomb, Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz, struck gold at the nationals and world championships in 2009, and were first in the World Cup standings. In Whistler, where the speed of the track will be a constant reference point as the Olympics near, the American four-man team won silver at the World Cup.

The first thing to remember about the bobsled team is to forget everything you know about the rest of the sliding sports, in which the luge and skeleton athletes are lithe, slim and muscular. The USA bobsled team looks like it was searching for the Minnesota Vikings' practice facility, took a wrong turn and wound up in Vancouver. Either that, or they double as bouncers at the local night club.

Holcomb, the decorated driver who broke out in 2009, should be blocking for Adrian Peterson. He's a block of granite, 5-foot-10, 231 pounds. His team is just as imposing: Justin Olsen (6-2, 235 pounds), Mesler (6-2, 206) and brakeman Tomasevicz (6-1, 220), who is a former Division I football player from Nebraska. Holcomb, Tomasevicz and Mesler competed at the 2006 Torino Games.

The first key in gauging a run is a team's start out of the gate. When the Night Train Crew won gold in Cesena, Italy, last month, it was with an average start of 4.75 seconds. By contrast, when Mike Kohn finished sixth to qualify to drive USA III in St. Moritz, his team's push times averaged 5.2 seconds.

Here's a look at how the men's teams shape up:

USA I: Holcomb (Park City, Utah), Mesler (Buffalo, N.Y.), Olsen (San Antonio, Texas) Tomasevicz (Shelby, Neb.).

USA II: John Napier (Lake Placid, N.Y.), Chuck Berkeley (Clayton, Calif.), Steve Langton (Melrose, Mass.), Chris Fogt (Alpine, Utah).

USA III: Mike Kohn (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), Jamie Moriarty (Winnetka, Ill.), Bill Schuffenhauer (Orem, Utah), Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.).

The American women also qualified three sleds for Vancouver (women's bobsledding is of the two-person variety). Here's a look at the lineups:

USA I: Shauna Rohbock (Park City, Utah) and Michelle Rzepka (Novi, Mich.).

USA II: Erin Pac (Farmington, Conn.) and Elana Meyers (Douglasville, Ga.).

USA III: Bree Schaaf (Bremerton, Wash.) and Emily Azevedo (Chico, Calif.).

Rohbock is a member of the Utah National Guard and the only member of the bobsledding team who spent some training time wondering if she was going to be sent to Vancouver, Iraq or Afghanistan.