Terror at the Top: 55 seconds in a bobsleigh

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PARK CITY -- The world's best bobsleigh (official Olympic spelling) driver is Utah's Steve Holcomb. Steve grew up in and around Park City and now command's the USA I sled or the "Night Train" as he and his teammates call it. They are the Gold Medal favorites in the four-man event for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Holcomb was the featured player in Thursday's media event at Utah Olympic Park, promoting his involvement with Sega's Winter Olympic video games rollout. Part of the celebration was allowing a choice few of us to ride shotgun behind Steve on a bobsleigh down the Utah Olympic Park's track.

*The Utah Olympic Park's bobsleigh skinny: nearly a mile long, dropping nearly a thousand feet, speeds reaching 80 mph, G-forces between 4 and 5 and 15 turns, packed in with three of your newest, best friends. Billed as ‘the most intense minute of your life, like nothing you've ever experienced.'*
I'm not exactly a thrill-seeker, but I do love a challenge so since I was up there with KSL cameraman Jay Dortzbach to gather feature material with Steve anyway (shooting his training runs early in the day and his pitch for the video games), I figured it would be cool to take a ride down Salt Lake City's 2002 Olympic bobsleigh run with this era's best.

As the day went on, me being the inquisitive type, asked many of the Olympians and Utah Olympic Park people about the bobsleigh "experience". As Pat told me, "you'll either love it or… you'll hate it. Some people can handle it… some just can't."

Our orientation instructor John added, "If you get in and don't think you can handle it, it's totally ok to just get out, but obviously once we push you off you're committed."

Paul told me, "at about turn four you'll think ‘I can handle this… this is really cool,' but then the turns come fast and furious and the G-forces start working on your mind and body, you'll totally lose your ability to focus. It's total sensory overload."

Then came my time to lock and load. Armed with a mini-camera mounted on the top of my helmet and a mini-cam mounted on the side of the ‘sleigh,' even though I wasn't sure I could handle it, there was too much riding on my sitting down and getting on with it. Cameras rolling and I was responsible for the main video going forward right behind Holcomb. I HAD to stay calm and not let the G-forces throw my head around. Off we went, beginning is smooth and slow, gorgeous view of greater Park City, after a quick prayer I just told myself to hold tight and enjoy the ride.

After turn 4 I not only started to realize I was going to survive and that I could handle it but that's when, sure enough, the ride starts to rocket. I was aware of the noises, really loud, like riding a bouncing locomotive, and was glad they told us to lock in and crunch up to hold our neck straight because the turns were violent and way too many coming way too fast to be able to count and see where I was.

E-mail: tkirkland@ksl.com

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