Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Second Olympic Bobsledder Joins National Guard

A second Olympic bobsledder has joined the New York Army National Guard. Nicholas Cunningham, a member of the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team in 2010, will take time away from training in Lake Placid to become a Carpentry and Masonry Specialist for the 1156th Engineer Company in Kingston, NY.

In January Olympic Gold Medal Bobsledder Justin Olsen enlisted in the New York Army National Guard under the same program. Olsen has been a member of the United States Bobsled team since 2007; he will report for basic training at the end of April.

“I just signed my papers with the New York Army National Guard and I’m off to basic training in two weeks,” Cunningham said in a Twitter message sent last Monday.

Olsen said he began thinking about the National Guard when his fellow USA Bobsled teammate Mike Kohn, who was then a sergeant in the Virginia Army National Guard, told him about the Army National Guard and the Army Athlete Program.

Olsen made the World Cup team in his first season and became one of the nation’s top bobsledders, he is one of two pushers on the four-man team.

In 2008, Olsen earned a spot on sled USA 1 with driver Steven Holcomb, winning two silver and two bronze medals in the first half of the World Cup tour. Olsen also helped push Holcomb to a first place finish at the 2009 National Championships for four-man and a silver medal at the inaugural World Cup in Whistler, Canada.

At the 2009 World Championships, Olsen teamed with Holcomb again to win gold in the four-man and a Gold Medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Cunningham, 27, who took 12th place in the 2010 Winter Olympics in the two-man bobsled category, made the official switch from the back of the sled to the driver’s seat, and has been named as an emerging elite driver for the U.S. program. Coaches expect Cunningham to be vying for a spot on the national team as a pilot next season.

Once they complete their individual entry training, both men are expected to apply for the Army World Class Athlete Program which provides athletes with support and training to compete in national and international competitions while maintaining a professional military career and promoting the US Army.

Selection in the Army World Class Athlete program is open to members of the active Army, Army Reserve and National Guard who compete in an Olympic sport and have maintained good military standing. Once a National Guard Soldier is selected, they are brought on active duty and performance is monitored for selection and attendance to required military schools to ensure program Soldiers remain competitive with their military counterparts.

Since the program’s inception in 1997, 40 Soldier-athletes have participated in the summer and winter Olympic Games winning Gold, Silver and Bronze Olympic Medals.

Photo: 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Winner Justin Olsen displays his Gold Medal after enlisting into the New York Army National Guard, Jan. 7. Photo by SFC Steven Petibone, New York Army National Guard.

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