All of our TKFLASTANIS are very dear to us, but Citizen #1 will have a special place in our hearts. Bobsledder Josh Williamson, winner of the first season of Team USA’s “The Next Olympic Hopeful” was our first interviewee, and now he returns, on the cusp of fulfilling his “Next Olympic Hopeful” goals and making it to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
We catch up with Josh and learn how he’s approaching this season, what it’s like to become a veteran in the sport, and what the bobsled track at Beijing is like (POV video here).
In our history moment on Atlanta 1996, Alison dives into maybe the most controversial phrase that came out of Juan Antonio Samaranch’s mouth during the Games.
Also on tap, we’ve got news from TKFLASTAN, including updates on Evan Dunfee, Dawn Harper Nelson, Connor Fields and Stephanie Roble.
In our Beijing 2022 update, the Olympic Flame is officially lit and has traveled to Beijing, though not without controversy. The Torch Relay, of which there are few details, includes the inspiring slogan “Health, Joy and Energy.” Alison is not impressed by Jill’s attempts to spruce that up.
And we have news from Milan-Cortina 2026, in which we are completely unsurprised to learn of venue changes due to cost containment needs. The Games aren’t even for another 4+ years, but maybe it’s a good thing that they’ve figured this out now.
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
More about Josh
Links mentioned in the show:
PHOTO: Courtesy of Josh Williamson
Episode 210-“Next Olympic Hopeful” Bobsledder Josh Williamson Returns!
Hello fans of TKFLASTAN and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I am your host Jill Jaracz joined as always by my lovely co-host Alison Brown. Alison, hello. How are you?
[00:00:42] Alison: I feel like I should be requesting asking you a question sitting in the green room, raising my hand, hoping to get called on.
[00:00:50] Jill: Yes. We have been at the Team USA media summit the last couple of days to hear from a lot of winter Olympic hopefuls. And a lot of sports. It was a very interesting couple of days. Long, couple of days, I will tell you.
[00:01:05] Alison: It was much longer than the summer one.
[00:01:08] Jill: It was fewer days, but much longer days. Cause we went.
8:15 1 night and 7:15, the second night. It was a long time, but it was nice to see some old faces, got to ask a few questions. We’re pulling stuff together to share with you and get that to you soon. But looking forward to winter,
[00:01:28] Alison: I know I’m ready for snow.
[00:01:29] Jill: We would like to introduce our Patreon of the Week. These are some of our Patreon patrons who have given ongoing financial contributions to the show. Today, we are celebrating a silver metal patron, Meredith Briski, who is, if you are in the Facebook Group, or if you she’ll tweet with us too, you will know who Meredith Briski is. Because Meredith is fabulous and has a lot of interesting comments and thoughts about sports and the Olympics. And it is so much fun to have her as part of our community. And we really appreciate her presence in the groups and her contributions there.
And also her contributions financially because they really do help keep our flame alive as well. So thank you very much, Meredith. We appreciate you. And if you would like to get a shout out as well, check out our Patreon site at Patreon.com/flamealivepod.
So it is always an exciting day when we get to talk with our very first TKFLASTANI, bobsledder Josh Williamson. Josh was just off of his win of at “The Next Olympic Hopeful” show from Team USA, when we first talked with him, and now he is getting ready for his first real shot at an Olympics for Beijing 2022. Take a listen to our conversation.
[00:02:46] Alison: We’re always excited to talk to you because as Jill and I was like, Josh was our first interview for the show . And now–
[00:02:56] Josh: I remember. That was a lot of fun. Cause I was in the office here in Lake Placid.
[00:03:00] Alison: That’s right. That’s right. And now you’re going into your first Olympic season.
[00:03:06] Josh: Yeah, it’s pretty, pretty surreal to think about that. That’s was, that was four years ago.
[00:03:11] Alison: And then I was also looking about how old you were when we talked to you. You were twenty- one.
[00:03:18] Josh: Just turned 21 that August, and I just turned 25.
[00:03:22] Alison: But just in life, nevermind in your athletic career. That’s a huge difference.
[00:03:28] Josh: Yeah. I mean it, again, it feels like yesterday. It feels so strange to, to think back, that was four years ago now, just, I don’t know, it’s been a little weird.
[00:03:38] Jill: So speaking of the age difference, what have you noticed in your body capabilities ? How have they improved versus being in high school or in college?
[00:03:51] Josh: So, one thing I really I’ve noticed a lot is when I’ve been doing, when I first came into the sport, I came from field sport background, like lacrosse and football. And you don’t really learn how to sprint in those sports.
You’re just kind of labeled all you’re fast, or you’re not this position you get put in if you are, if you’re not, but they don’t teach you the technical aspects of sprinting. And that’s something that’s actually really important in bobsled. And if you come from a track and field background, like a lot of people in our sport, that’s something that you learn a lot about, and that kind of yields some benefits. It’s kind of a two-fold thing. A lot of people come into our sports from track and field and they know the ins and outs of tech is running, but they may not be as, as big, if that makes sense. Like they have a lot hard time putting weight and strength on, but then some of us, you know, I came from a field sport background.
I was much more of a weight room guy, but I didn’t sprint very efficiently. And that’s something that you can lose a lot of time in bobsled. So it was a really big learning curve for me to do that these past four years. And I found some qualified coaches to help me. And now that’s where I think I’ve made the most improvement.
I’ve gotten stronger and it’s not like, I don’t think I’m very majorly different in that aspect. But I do think I’ve made a ton of progress in my technical sprinting, which has helped my pushing a lot. And I think it’s just going back to that, find what you’re not good at and spend a lot of time on it.
And that was where I was lacking, and I spent four years really hammering that down. And I think that’s helped me a lot. And that’s the hard part for a lot of people is identifying what they’re not the best at. A lot of people want to lean into their strengths when you got to kind of identify that weakness and attack that a little bit. And I think that helped me a lot.
[00:05:28] Alison: Okay. So in the four-man sled, what’s your spot right now?
[00:05:32] Josh: Right now I’m at the two spot, so I’m right behind the pilot in the sled. I push from the left side just behind him while we’re kind of pushing and I pushed from a little bit everywhere, but it’s looking like moving into the season, that’s where I’m going to spend the most time.
[00:05:47] Jill: Do you like that spot above other spots or does it really matter?
[00:05:52] Josh: I do like that spot. That was my first position on the four-man sled. That first year that we, we talked, a few months later, I was taking my first four-man trips in Canada, and that was a spot they kind of just plugged me in on because everyone else had already been in their positions and someone actually had dropped off the team and they just plugged me right into where he was, and I’ve pushed the most from there. So I feel the most comfortable. I joke with my pilot that from that position I could push and load with my eyes closed, but any other position that takes the little more thinking, I think I can push pretty well from anywhere, but that one’s just the easiest because I’ve done it so much, I think.
And I think that’s helped me do it really well. And then I pushed two man, brakes, but not really in the four-man. I haven’t spent much time at any other position. So it just kinda makes sense to keep me there. I think one of the coaches look at it if I push well enough, you know, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, I think is kind of how they, they see it.
[00:06:43] Alison: Now, are you still, usually with Hunter Church?
[00:06:47] Josh: Yeah. So my second season, which was the first year of this quad, I spent with Codie Bascue, and we had a great season. It was a really good time and I’m still really good friends with Cody. And at this point, it’s kind of in that position where throughout the season, you know, especially between two-man and four-man, there couldn’t be a lot of moving around.
You know, they’re going to be looking to put the best team together and they’ll move people around and test people and race them off. And, but for the majority of my career, I slid with Hunter. He was my first pilot. Uh, he’s the first one who took me down on a four-man and kind of brought me in when that year that I was a rookie and didn’t know anything, he kind of went out on a limb to bring me in. And I’ve just been pretty much sliding with him ever since, you know, so it’s been kind of a fun ride like that. And Hunter and I’ve grown very close, but at the moment, I’m on his sled, but we haven’t quite solidified that yet. So wouldn’t say, you know, never say never.
[00:07:37] Jill: What things do you look back on your rookie season and your second season that you go, oh, you know, if I knew then what I know now, hurdles that you’ve, jumped over in your growth in this sport?
[00:07:51] Josh: I would say probably it’s hard because I’m someone who I think is pretty hard on myself.
I try to hold myself to pretty high standard, but at the same time, I’ve not been too critical of myself because this sport, there’s a lot of things that there’s no way to prepare for until it just happens. You know, you don’t know what’s what you’re going to be like in a crash until you crash or take a four man trip or, the great example is I’ve never been to an Olympic Games and you know, what, if you’re in medal position in that fourth heat, I don’t know if anyone really knows how they would handle that situation until you get there. So it’s one of those things that I try to take everything with a grain of salt there where I can be pretty hard on myself in the moment, but not other times.
And I think the biggest thing that I learned was, or that I maybe could have done better was really just, I mean, I talked about the sprinting, but just in general, Being a little more fair to myself. And I guess my body and training. It’s very easy that first year to get wrapped up in, everyone’s so good. And I need to train so hard, which is true. You know, you need to train very hard, but you also have to listen to your body. And that’s something that coming from field sports, you do everything as a team, you know? Right. Like you do your warm-up as a team. You, no matter how you feel, you have practice every day.
And in this sport, it’s a lot more like track and field where, okay, I’m fatigued today. I need to do a little less to allow me to feel my best for race day or, you know, Hey, I don’t need to just blow the doors off in the weight room every day, you know? And Hey, you know, there’s a lot more to it. I need to know my own warmup. I need to know what works for me. And that first year I’d go around and mimic people’s warmups around me, ’cause I didn’t have a warm-up for myself. All I’d done was the team sport, count to 10, you know, touch your toes. And I didn’t have sprint drills or, Hey, I know this drill is really good for me. You know, I didn’t know that.
I don’t know how I would’ve known that, but I didn’t know that. And that was something that again, I think maybe I wasn’t predisposed to know that, but I think maybe that could have helped me a lot, especially staying healthy and just being ready for the sport. There’s so much in our sport about listening to your body and being at your absolute best.
Cause when you have a five-second job, you know, it’s sometimes it’s about, who’s the freshest, who slept the best the night before, who feels who’s the sharpest and you know, working hard in the weight room sometimes can be counterproductive to that. So you have to get really good at knowing when you’re fatigued and how you respond to things.
And I never had that in team sports. That’s just, non-existent really. No matter how you feel, you’re at practice, that you can’t tell coach that you want to take the day off because you’re tired, but here you can really kind of dial into that, I think.
[00:10:23] Jill: Do you see that in other people who come up who are, who are younger than you in the sport now? Because bobsled does draw from so many other sports.
[00:10:33] Josh: No, absolutely. It’s a very common thing and it’s, I think that’s with anything really, right? You come into something and you’re excited and you know, you’re gung ho and I just want to do everything. I want to take every trip and I want to do every rep in the weight room and I want to lift hard every day and sprint hard.
And you don’t know what no means. And at that point, I also don’t know if it’s completely a bad thing, cause there’s so much to be learned just from experience. That first year maybe instead of getting 50 high quality reps, it might be better just to get 150 just reps. You don’t just get used to it.
So it’s, it’s a hard thing, but I think that is the biggest thing I know for myself and for a lot of people coming in that you’re excited and you want to do well and you just want to work hard, but at the same time, it’s easy to over cook it, you know? And it’s something that you gotta really be cognizant of when you, come into a sport like this, where we have so few reps available, people get scared to not take every one of them.
You know, I show up to the training day when we actually start bobsledding you know, we get on the hill and I have two runs that day in training. And so that week, if I get to train two to three times that week and then race, I have maybe eight runs a week. And over the season, you know, getting over a hundred runs is a big season. That’s a lot.
And then you think of basketball, you know, where you take free throws, and you can take a thousand free throws in the gym in one day. So it’s just, the reps are so few and far between that, people can want to do everything, but those reps are taxing and you got to respect them and sometimes just be okay with sitting one out to be ready in the long run.
[00:12:06] Alison: How does it feel going into the Olympic season?
Does it feel different than it did- well, last year was different because of COVID, but those first two years.
[00:12:15] Josh: It does. It feels very different. I mean, I know it’s funny. I was talking to one of our luge sliders, Emily Sweeney, who she’s, this will be her second Olympics. I think, I, I don’t know if she went to Sochi or not, but I know she’s been around for a long time and luge they bring athletes in at a very young age and it was funny. She was talking about how to her, it feels different last Olympic year going into South Korea versus this one. But she thinks that it has a lot to do with it being her second go around with the pandemic. She’s she seems to think she’s a little, it’s just, it doesn’t seem as new and exciting, but then for me it was almost the other opposite, you know, it’s like, I’m here and this is the year, there’s just this anticipation for a lot of us.
And obviously we don’t know who or which of us are going to be there, but at the same time, it’s just exciting. You know, you feel like you’ve been working so hard for so long for a fun year and it can be stressful, but at the same time, for me, at least it feels like it’s kind of just all the work’s done, you know, it’s time to show up and do it.
And that’s kind of exciting, and I’m very excited and frankly, this year is just, everything just feels a little different to me. And I know it’s probably because I’ve never been here, never been at this point, but that’s something that I, definitely identify with. It’s just a, even with everything going on in the world and even with all these unknowns, there’s a different feeling with everything. I’ve done a lot of these races before. I’ve done a lot of these testing camps before, but this year just feels a little bit different and it’s, it’s a good feeling for me, but I know that it’s funny.
She talked to other athletes who were more experienced that might feel different than other way, you know? And it’s just part of that, what have you experienced in, in sports so far? And for me, that being the first go around, it’s pretty new and exciting.
[00:13:51] Jill: It’s interesting. The first time we talked with you, it really was, you were very realistic. It was 2018. There’s really, I just got into this sport. There’s no way this next Olympic Hopeful is going to PyeongChang, which was true. Do you remember like watching from the sidelines as everybody else was getting ready for the games and thinking about, do you reflect on that much as you go into the season?
[00:14:18] Josh: Absolutely. Cause I mean, I, I don’t think of myself as a veteran, but I’ve been told a couple of times that I am. Now, kind of just have to start assuming that, because it is my fifth year, you know, going into my fifth season because I mean, right now we have guys on the team, you know, Jimmy Reed, Hakeem, Carlos Valdez, you know, guys who have been to the Olympics and who have competed for a long time.
And I was around to watch that happen. And I think for me personally, I pull a lot of value from that because it was almost more beneficial. I think to me to watch. I was there, but I was almost on the outside looking in, but I had a front row seat the whole year. So I saw the stress and I could talk to people. You know, I wasn’t involved, so nobody saw me as a threat. So people would talk to me, you know, it’s not like they felt like they were confiding in the guy. They were pushing off against to get on the team, you know, in some something they might’ve thought as a weakness or they were worried about this or that. And for me, I was just this new guy there asking questions like, oh, what do you mean race off? How do you, how did you do here? Like what should I expect? And everybody was really great about teaching me. And that was something that now looking back is a huge advantage because the Olympic year, even then, that’s a one thing if you ask anybody who’s been around, Olympic year is just so different.
Everybody brings their A game. You got guys from different nations, and every nation is just a little bit better than you thought they were. And every team pushes a little faster than you thought they would. And everybody’s bringing the best equipment. Everything’s on the table. You know, everybody’s got their best equipment, all the money they can find. Anything they can do to do well this year. It’s just like all chips are on the table. And that’s something that it’s hard to prepare someone for that. And it’s not like I was competing, but I got to see it. And it was like, again, the contrast from that year to the first year of this Olympic quad was night and day, First year, of an Olympic quad, you know, we’re having snowball fights with other nations. And that Olympic year nobody’s talking to each other, cause this is the, this is it. You know?
So it’s just fun to see the contrast and you see that grow throughout a four year cycle. And that’s something that you can’t really prepare for, but I feel very– though, I wasn’t a part of it. I feel more prepared for it because I got to watch it. And someone else who didn’t even know bobsled existed at the time, who is now fighting for an Olympic spot, I at least was here and I got to watch.
And I see that as a big, a big help for me. I feel a little more prepared than I would have been without that.
[00:16:33] Alison: Do you ever just get so scared about the whole thing? Like does it ever overwhelm you?
[00:16:40] Josh: I think the gravity of it all is very heavy. I think that this is a very big dream for not just me and a lot of people. And I’ve even- something that I’ve struggled with and the season hadn’t even started, as we’ve been going through our team selection process for the national team. And even just, there are so many good people in our sport and in our nation. And there’s so many of my really good friends that I’ve built relationships with.
And realistically not everyone, myself included, is going to make it, and that’s really hard sometimes because even right now, I’ve done well and I’ve done what I needed to, and that’s been good, but that’s not the case for everybody. Everybody’s in a different position. And very, just as easily I could be the guy, you know, knock on wood, who pulls something and is on the outside, working in, battling his way back in.
And that’s hard, you know, and that’s something that I think for myself, I’ve done a pretty good job of being more excited and worried about it. And I think that the more I’ve calmed myself down and just taking it one step at a time and not getting ahead of myself, that that’s kept me in a really good spot, but I find myself struggling sometimes when you know, I see my teammate, and we, you know, we’re at push championships and we’re hanging out and we’re catching up. And that might be the last time I see him for awhile. That might be his last competition with us. And that very easily can be you. And that’s, that’s one of those things that it’s just a high pressure environment.
And I think that that’s kinda, it’s hard, but that is also as an athlete, that’s what you want. Right. You know, if you want to be a, compete at a high level, you know, if I want to be an elite athlete and I want to be part of that environment, then that’s kinda what you live for. Right. And that’s kinda, that’s where I’m at with it.
I feel really good personally. And I think I’m handling it pretty well for myself, but I have a lot of friends that I care about them, and I have a lot of people on this team that– everybody’s got to do what they have to do. And I know my friends would think the same thing in me if I didn’t do as well as I hoped I would’ve done.
[00:18:32] Jill: So last year was very different for bobsled and also for you, because did you take a little extra time off because your brother got married so, how does having access to different tracks help prepare you in different ways? because the U S didn’t necessarily get the same runs on different tracks in last season. How does that affect the team going into, what is going to be a pretty new track for everyone?
[00:19:01] Josh: Yeah, so I mean, the really, the big thing I think is, uh, for me personally, I, I, we talked about this the other day with my teammates. There’s, there’s kinda different athletes, you know, you have some people who, one of my friends and then one of my teammates, Chris Horn is- this a really talented guy.
And he’s somebody where if you, he tries something, you know, he’s going to mess it up one or two times. He’s learning something new, but the fourth time you’ll figure it out. He’s got it nailed down and he’s never going to mess it up again. And then for me, I’m the guy who needs 200 reps to figure it out. Cause it just takes a while.
And that’s how I’ve always been like that. And lacrosse and football, I was never the natural, but I was somebody who I worked over a long period of time. And then I got pretty good at it. And that’s kinda, I see a lot of value personally in going over there and being on a track that I’ve never been at, having cameras in your face that you wouldn’t have at a lower level race, other nations being there.
I know my first year on the world cup, it was just like a shell shock. You know, I’m doing so well with it, my nation and I come to the international stage and I’m like, wow, there’s a lot of people who were a lot better than I am. And I have a lot more to work on and I got to look just outside of everybody I’m with over the summer. There’s people around the world who are really good at this. And so it just, it almost just keeps growing and expanding, and that’s a big part of it for our pilots. It’s huge to get as many trips as possible on these different tracks. And then for us as brakemen, then I think it can be undervalued because a lot of time it’s like, Hey, whatever the ramp is, we’re going to show up and push.
And I agree there’s something to that, but I know for myself that, nothing prepared me well for when I first got on the world cup and there was 20 other nations there who were all the best in the world with TV cameras all over the place. And it’s just a different environment. And I know for me, it’s a learning experience, but some people don’t need that.
So I definitely realized that there’s no one size fits all for that, but I think there’s a lot of value to that. And that’s something that did affect a lot of us. I spent a lot of time back in the States and that’s not a bad thing, but it was actually really refreshing. A lot of really good things came from that.
And I got really good training in, but I see a lot of value in exposing myself to different stimulus. I don’t know if that’s the right way to describe it. To get used to it. I’m somebody who can get more comfortable and perform better when they’re comfortable.
[00:21:08] Jill: Have SOPC Next Olympic Hopeful people. Have they been like, Hey Josh, you were our first winner This is your year. Have they been, I don’t want to say on you a little bit more, but had, they’ve just been poking you saying hi, we’re here.
[00:21:22] Josh: So over this quad in general, I’ve gotten at that program has helped me so much more than I could’ve ever imagined.
Not only that first year entering the program was that incredible and the support I got, but outside of that, just there, they would bring me back every year for that show. They they’d have me somehow involved in either the promotion of the show or even a part of the show in some cases. And that was something that was just so helpful.
One, opportunity to make any kind of money. And, you know, in the Olympic movement is few and far between, and that’s something that’s really helpful just personally. And on top of that, just showing their interest in what I’m doing means a lot. US Olympic and Paralympic Committee,
there’s, there’s a huge amount of athletes and coaches and people involved. So for you to sometimes be contacted by them and to be asked how you’re doing is a pretty cool thing for me, because that’s just uh, that’s not something that everyone gets and it’s just not their fault. That’s been really cool to, to be a part of that.
And this year it’s, I don’t think it really, again for me, but any different. And maybe I’m just seeing it this way. Maybe it’s something that, for me, I’ve tried to not downplay, but keep myself as low to the ground as I can this year, not to try to get overwhelmed because it’s a big year and I recognize that, but I also don’t want to, you don’t want to tell yourself so much that this is the year that you psych yourself out and build up so much pressure in your head.
So I think this year, really so far for me then, just another off season it’s been, I’ve worked just as hard as I always have and things have gone, you know, I’ve competed just as hard as I always have. And I’m preparing to go into the season just like I would any other year and try to be the best at what I do.
You know? And I think that personally, I haven’t noticed a big difference, but in the background, you know, there is a difference, it’s an Olympic year, you know,
[00:23:02] Alison: and, and you know, those producers are cheering for you because they want that first Olympic Hopeful on the team. I mean, that’s just, that’s good for them.
[00:23:11] Josh: It’s cool. It’s and, it’s really cool, again, just to be a part of a program like that, that was my first year, that was so new and they didn’t really know what direction they wanted to go with it. And every year watching it grow a little bit and change and the production changed, it’s just, it’s been such a cool thing to be a part of and to continue to be a part of that.
We didn’t do it this past year. They did more of like an online thing just to keep it rolling. And I don’t know if they plan on restarting that program or not just with the pandemic. A lot of stuff had to change, but it was really something that exponent- my whole career thus far has been such a unique and cool part of, kind of my growth as an athlete.
I can’t thank them enough for that. The fact that program existed. A big reason why I’m here and why I’m able to do what I do.
[00:23:54] Alison: I just realized that Josh is the Kelly Clarkson of The Next Olympic Hopeful.
[00:23:57] Jill: Right?
[00:24:02] Josh: I don’t know, exponentially smaller scale.
[00:24:09] Alison: I think you can hit some high notes there. Josh.
[00:24:12] Josh: Yeah, if we’re flying out of a turn. I could probably probably crash. I’m screaming pretty loud.
[00:24:21] Jill: You’re a Florida boy. How are you with winter now that you’ve been in it for four years?
[00:24:27] Josh: It’s still a bit of a novelty to me. I can see how it gets old. I can see why someone, you know, at first it’s cool. I still enjoy seeing the snow and the beautiful sites, but then I can see how January rolls around and it’s really early and you’ve got to go out and shovel your car. And you’re like, okay, this sucks. So I see both sides of it. For me. I really like when it’s colder ’cause that’s better conditions for us.
You know, when it’s colder and dry, that ice is going to be really fast and we’re going to have really fast times, and that’s a fun part of our sport. You can get close to a track record or something. That’s a pretty cool moment, you know? So that’s something that, you know, the colder it is, you kind of get excited when you’re in our sport, but at the same time in the back of your head, you’re like, yeah, it’s gotta be fun to slide, but I also got to stand out there all day.
So I guess it’s a give or take at all times, but I still, it hasn’t really lost it, it’s a excitement for me. I think I still enjoy it a little bit. I probably, because I didn’t grow up in it.
[00:25:22] Alison: You know, it looks, it looks a lot prettier in San Moritz and even in Lake Placid than say, when you’re trying to get to work in the morning,
[00:25:30] Josh: Right. It’s we get to go to some pretty beautiful places and see some, yeah. So that is definitely a part of it. It’s, you know, I think that is a big part of that too. I enjoy it, but I might just be the place, not just a cold weather.
[00:25:43] Alison: So we spoke to you originally when you, when you were first on the team and then the next year, but you hadn’t done two-man when we last spoke to you. So you know, how is that working for you?
[00:25:54] Josh: Good, good. A big goal of mine is not only to make an Olympic team, but to race two-man at the Olympics. I, I really like that discipline. Four-man is definitely, I think one of the coolest parts about our sport, that team atmosphere, it’s really hard to replicate it. And that’s what people think of a lot. And I think that bobsled, and that’s, that’s just, there’s so much speed and it’s such a, great part of our sport, but I just think two-man is a fun discipline. It’s almost like the best way to describe it, like our pilot describes it as four-man’slike driving a bus and two-man’s like driving a sports car. You could just kind of are a little all over the place and it’s a little quicker and it’s a little more of an individual thing. And that’s something that I really has been a goal of mine, and I enjoy the discipline and I’ve done pretty well at it so far, just keeping within the ranks of our, you know, our nation.
Cause a lot of that is those top brakemen from our program are then going to be the two main guys. So that’s part of wanting to do two-man is part of also wanting to be very good at what you do, And that’s, so that’s part of, I think I pushed for that and you know, that’s a goal of mine is to, to race two-man this season and to try to continue that moving forward.
I like to discipline and I, I think it’s a fun variety, not just, uh, sometimes I’m pushing on the side, sometimes I’m on the brakes and it keeps things a little interesting, in my opinion. You race back to back both days, which is a fun challenge. It’s another challenge, another opportunity to compete, you know, so I definitely look forward to trying to do that.
[00:27:14] Jill: Do you feel a difference, pushing from the back or what kind of differences are pushing from the back versus pushing from the side?
[00:27:21] Josh: So pushing from the brakes, there’s a lot more, uh, in my opinion, there’s a lot of technical, a little more technical, kind of know how to it, because there’s a bit of a, like a hand transition, you know, from the side, the loading is tricky, but it takes a little getting used to, but essentially you’re just pushing a bar, you know, the bar’s in front of you.
I push this bar as hard as I can. And then from the brakes, there’s, I hit the sled with my hands behind it and then I have to transition while staying on the sled, get into it. And again, it’s just, it’s a little more moving parts, which I think is a little more of an art to it. I do think a common mistake though, is people thinking the side is easy, ’cause I think that some people spend a lot of time from the brakes because it’s a technical thing and you could push fastest from the brakes. Cause that’s the most, I guess a mechanically advantageous position on a sled behind all the weight. You know, if I’m pushing from the side, all the weight’s to the side of me, and I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage, because I’m almost away from that.
If you’re behind the sled, you’re behind all the weight and that’s technically an advantage, you know, just purely, you know, physics wise. So you can push faster from the brakes. And therefore, a lot of people really focus on that. But at the end of the day side, pushing in four-man is kind of where I think you kinda make your money.
You know, that’s, that’s the fun part. And at the end of the day, brakes pushing is very technical, but I think you can overlook side pushing’s technical ability too. There’s a lot to dive into there, but that is the biggest difference I would say is there’s a little more moving parts from the brakes.
There’s a little more, your hands are moving while you’re moving. There’s a pilot pushing while you’re doing it too. It’s just a, I think it looks a little prettier, there’s a little more going on there. Side pushing is get the bar, push the bar, you know,
[00:29:00] Jill: Is it harder in the four-man for the brakeman to be in sync with the two and the three, if they can push faster?
[00:29:08] Josh: So the brakeman, essentially in the four-man, what would you usually look for for a four-man brakeman as someone who’s very fast, because if you think of our, uh, like our sequence loading, the pilot will get in first. You know, my position I’ll get in immediately following the pilot, the right side guy has to wait for me to get in, to get in. And then the brakemen is last to enter the sled. So they’re on the ice the longest, and that sled gets cooking. You know, when you get down to 30, 40 meters downhill on ice with four guys pushing it, that slide’s moving pretty fast.
So not only do you want to keep up, but you also don’t want to slow the sled down at all. Hopefully you’re still applying to that sled, not just getting pulled by it. So that’s a. There’s a bit of an art to that. And there’s usually a pretty much a there’s a, a certain type of person we look for to be on the four-man brakes. Generally speaking now, not all the time, there’s always, you know, nuance there, but I think most times you’re looking for somebody fast enough to keep up and get in. So that’s a, that’s a big part of it. And I think that’s one of the most, every position poses, its own difficulty, I think. And that’s the four-man’s brakeman’s I think biggest struggle pushing is making sure they got to get in the last.
[00:30:15] Jill: I have this vision of when you’re learning that job, that the sled is, you can’t keep up anymore. And the sled just goes.
[00:30:23] Josh: Sometimes, sometimes people just get in early. If they can’t get, keep up or falls are a big thing, you know, not only for the brake into, they have to get in and they have to pull the brakes at the bottom, you know, so they gotta know where they’re at more than anyone, you know?
So there was a lot, there’s a. Every job has their responsibilities, but that’s a big one. It’s a pretty important one, pull the brakes is one of the more important jobs you can have in the sled to make sure the sled stops at the bottom.
[00:30:48] Jill: Well, how do you know when it’s time to stop? Because usually you’re, tucked way down.
[00:30:54] Josh: It’s all memorizing the track, really? Yeah. All memorization. And that’s a big part for any of us, you know, even in my position, like I really need to, we don’t necessarily like Bob with a sled, but essentially knowing where you are in track is really important because I don’t want to be dead weight.
If we have a rough exit and I hit the side of the sled, I can maybe put the sled into a skid, you know, and we don’t want that. And so ideally we’re all in an aerodynamic position, you know, where you’re at in the track, you’re counting the turn is so I, you know, one’s a right. I mean, yeah, turn one’s a right turn to the left. Okay. Turn three usually feels like this. Okay. We were on the turn a little long. I can tell, but that was a little off, and those are, as you get better, you actually feel where you’re at. Your first few trips, it’s just like you jumped in, you feel like the world is exploding around you. And then at the bottom, they scream at you to pull the brakes and that’s, that’s it that’s, and that’s what it’s like for a few weeks.
And then you learn the nuances of the track and you memorize the turns and the track. And that’s part of, I think becoming better at the sport is really owning the whole ride. My job is to push a sled, but my job is also to help that sled get down as fast as possible. And a lot of that has to do with my ability to know the track, my ability to, to be and hold the good aerodynamic position without getting kind of jostled out of it.
[00:32:12] Alison: So how are you learning the Beijing track right now?
[00:32:17] Josh: The biggest thing we use is a, uh, it’s a POV it’s like they they’ll strap a GoPro to the front of the sled. They send it down and post it on YouTube. And for me, that’s easy enough for the brakeman to memorize because I’m remembering, I’m remembering lefts and rights, and then we get in sled and then I’m remembering what that really feels like.
The pilot, obviously it’s a lot harder cause they actually have a mind run where they’re going through. Okay. One, they do this steer and two, they do this. So they have much more of a, memorization. And for me it’s more about, Hey, make sure you can count the terms. So, you know, after turn 20, you supposed to pull the brakes and then as you take more trips, you’ll learn what it really feels like.
You know, that’s something that actually Hunter for example, really asks us every time we get to the bottom, he knows that we know the tracks pretty well. And we’ve, I’ve slid with him a lot. He’ll ask us ,how how’d that trip feel to you? Cause he may not notice that he did something and I’ll be like, okay, it’s the highway, you know, the 4, 5, 6, 7 felt a little rough today.
You know, I don’t know if anything happened there and they’d be like, oh yeah, this happened. But sometimes he asks us, I don’t know what he did, but he asked us how it felt like all this felt, we thought we were on a little long here. I go, did something happen in three? And I’ll bring that up. And he likes that feedback because then it gets him a good idea of somethings you might not have remembered, or he might not have noticed.
[00:33:34] Jill: I’m very curious about the Beijing track because don’t they have a 360 turn in there?
[00:33:39] Josh: They do. They’re calling it spiral because normally a kreisel is what you call these longer turns. And Allen’s technically a spiral. It’s, it’s one of the most interesting turns in the world. I think definitely the most interesting turn in the world.
I haven’t been there yet, but you enter the turn going uphill It flattens out and then it drops out downhill towards the end of it. And it’s like 380 degrees, I want to say. So it’s almost like a corkscrew, like you’re coming in and then you’re almost like flushing down and sliding out the bottom of it. And there’s nothing else like that in the world.
There’s no, there’s not a single track in the world that has a turn like that. So it’s just presenting a different and interesting problems for pilots to figure out there’s also at the end of that track, there’s an uphill bend away. So it’s a straightaway, straightaway because it goes right left all ongoing uphill.
So if you hit a wall while going uphill, you might as well kiss your own goodbye because that’s when you can lose a lot of speed because uphill, you’re already not going to be going as fast. You don’t have gravity helping you. And if you hit a wall, you can scrub a lot of speed there. And those are little things that nowhere else in the world has that China has built into their track.
And it, from what I’ve heard, it’s a work of art. It seems like that track is just like immaculate and it’s so unique and it’s posing a really fun problem. And at the same time, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of risk of crashing. It’s just really hard to find speed, which I think is a perfect track, right?
It’s fun to have dangerous tracks, you know, and have high stakes, but this one, you might not be at risk of hurting yourself, but you might not have a fast run. It’s hard to crack the code. And I think that’s maybe something perfect for a brand new Olympic track. No one’s gonna hopefully get hurt, you know, knock on wood, but at the same time, it’s going to be really hard to be fast there. And that’s the perfect challenge for, you know, the biggest sporting event in the world.
[00:35:27] Alison: And nobody’s going to get a lot of time on the track to figure that out.
[00:35:32] Josh: Yeah, nobody but China. China’s got a lot of time on for that’s the, you know, the home nation benefit, you know, homefield advantage is you get to know the track more than anyone else.
And that’s why in our sport, there’s a great track record of home nations doing well at their home Olympics.
[00:35:45] Jill: Thank you so much. Josh. Josh is on Twitter and Insta @jwilliamsonusa. USA Bobsled will be heading over to Europe next month to start the world cup season. The first race is scheduled for November 20 and 21 in Innsbruck, Austria and Olympic team announcements will be made in mid January. And I will say there’s a test event going on now in China. American drivers, Kaillie Humphries, and Elana Meyers Taylor are in China now trying to learn that track and test it out for them.
[00:36:15] Alison: Two things we learned from the media day was Kaillie Humphries still does not have a US passport. Yes, she’s trying. She may or may not be competing this time around. USOpC is working with the State Department to try and make that happen.
[00:36:30] Jill: She has to become a citizen. Because she is a Canadian citizen, but she’s allowed to compete for Team USA until it comes to the actual Olympics, when you must be a citizen of the country that you compete for.
[00:36:41] Alison: And Josh kind of buried the lead on what was happening with him and Hunter Church.
[00:36:47] Jill: I know!
[00:36:48] Alison: So Hunter Church was also at the media summit and he told a story about how, I guess in late summer, early September, I wasn’t quite sure about the timing, he had a freak accident in the weight room destroyed his big toe, had to have immediate surgery and it’s pinned and sewed together. He’s got a Frankenstein foot.
[00:37:08] Jill: That’s scary because he needs that toe for running. It’s got to hurt. Probably can’t put much weight on it now, but he also could not start a bobsled unless he started in the sled. And everyone else pushed him, which I think has happened before.
[00:37:24] Alison: Yes. So Hunter Church said he should be ready to go for the when the world cup season begins that he was just getting back on the track. This week was going to be his first attempts, so we’re pulling for Hunter because we know how good Hunter and Josh are together. And we want that in Beijing.
[00:37:45] Jill: Exactly. The Beijing track sounds fascinating. I will say. And that’s exciting. We, I should put a link to the POV video that they’ve got on YouTube, which I’ll do that in the show notes, because it’s really fun too. If you’d like POV videos of rollercoasters, you will like POV videos of of bobsled tracks too. And this one is this one’s pretty cool. It looks like a fun track.
[00:38:09] Alison: Just sit in a trash can like those old metal trash cans and you’ll get the real feel.
[00:38:14] Jill: That sound means it’s time for our history moment and all year long, we are celebrating Atlanta 1996, which this is the 25th anniversary of those games. Alison it’s your turn for a moment. What have you got?
[00:38:32] Alison: Well, we’re coming toward the end of the year and we’re coming toward the end of our Atlanta time. So I wanted to talk a little bit about the Closing Ceremony. Happened on August 4th, 1996, and of course was at the Centennial Olympic Stadium. We had Al Gore, who was then vice president, the Sydney mayor, Frank Sartor, who would then be the host for the following Olympics and the governor of Georgia, mayor of Atlanta, all the dignitaries, all the IOC. dignitaries.
It had all the pomp and circumstance that you would expect. There were singing children. There were fireworks, there were birds, all the things you want. But there were a few little things that I loved. This was the debut of “Summon the Heroes,” the John Williams composition that has become so standard on NBC coverage, but even just throughout all Olympic coverage. This is when it debuted at the Closing Ceremonies. Juan Antonio Samaranch one of, your favorites, threw a little shade at Atlanta So traditionally in his Closing Ceremony, speech, he would say it was the best Olympics ever No, he simply called them most exceptional.
[00:39:45] Jill: I love this. Everybody made such a big deal about this. Do you remember? And I love Juan Antonio Samaranch in the way… the man made up his own title for crying out loud, he liked things just so, and he liked all this pomp and circumstance, even though he wasn’t royalty, I think he wanted to be considered that way.
[00:40:04] Alison: He at least wanted nobility.
[00:40:06] Jill: Yes. Yes, exactly. And it was so interesting how he managed to get everyone fixated on this one phrase. Will these be the best Olympics ever? And Barcelona, of course his, that being his home country, those were the best ever. And when it didn’t come for Atlanta, whoa.
[00:40:27] Alison: And we know as we’ve learned over this past year, the IOC and the USOC at the time, and the Atlanta organizers did not see eye to eye when it came to these games on many ways.
But here’s how I really want to take you in the way back machine. Here’s the performer lineup from the Closing Ceremony. Okay. Boyz II Men sung the USA Anthem.
[00:40:53] Jill: Okay.
[00:40:54] Alison: Additional performers included Sheila E
[00:40:57] Jill: Wow!
[00:40:59] Alison: BB King.
[00:40:59] Jill: Okay.
[00:41:00] Alison: The Pointer Sisters, Little Richard, Tito Puente. Stevie Wonder, and my personal favorite Buckwheat Zydeco and for those of you that can recognize Buckwheat Zydeco’s name. You can sit in the rocking chair with me out in the back.
[00:41:22] Jill: But Stevie Wonder would have been fabulous. Like BB King, you can not- Pointer Sisters, you can not go wrong with.
[00:41:28] Alison: Yes, it was a great Closing Ceremony. I was rewatching some of it in preparation for this, and it was so old school in a sense. And yet we see so many of these same things over and over again. And I think 96 had some of this, first of all, these pop stars and all these names. And I don’t think we would have seen. The Spice Girls on a bus in London if Atlanta hadn’t done it first with Buckwheat Zydeco.
[00:42:06] Jill: Speaking of Atlanta, book club is coming up soon. We are reading Dominique Moceanu’s Off Balance: A Memoir, and she was one of the Magnificent Seven as they have come to be known, the US women’s gymnastics team. So we will be having that coming up soon. If you’ve got thoughts on the book, hit us up in the Facebook group or on Facebook or Twitter or Insta, or email us at flame alive pod at Gmail dot.
[00:42:36] Alison: Welcome to TKFLASTAN.
[00:42:37] Jill: Evan Dunfee, our race walker, is now the second fastest Dunfee. If you don’t follow Evan on social, do follow him because he is fun. He and his brother both were in Toronto doing a 10 K race, I believe. And his brother ran it and Evan walked, and his brother just beat him out. Not by much.
[00:42:57] Alison: But enough that when they took the Instagram picture, Evan had to hold up two fingers. His brother got to hold up one finger.
[00:43:06] Jill: Dawn Harper Nelson was at the, I Define Me Movement event over last weekend and was able to share her life experiences with others and have the light bulb come on for them that they are able to do what they set themselves up to do.
[00:43:23] Alison: Connor Fields will be hosting two BMX clinics, one this Saturday, October 23rd in Boulder City, Nevada. And the second on Thursday, November 11th in Roosevelt, California. There’s more information available on Connor’s Instagram page. And I’m so excited that he’s feeling well enough to do this.
[00:43:43] Jill: Right. To have the stamina, to host a clinic. So good for you, Connor. I’m – I hope that means that you’re healing well, and at least you’re feeling strong enough to do this.
[00:43:51] Alison: And sailor, Stephanie Roble was inducted into the Old Dominion University Sports Hall of Fame last week.
[00:43:58] Jill: That is exciting news. Good for her.
So we have some news from Beijing 2022. The flame has been lit. Everything has been low key about this whole flame lighting and what’s going on with the torch relay. ‘Cause I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what is happening because there have been no real announcements until the flame actually got to China of what they were going to do with the torch relay.
They had the flame lighting in Athens, as they do with the big ceremony and they had a lot of police for security, but still some Tibetan activists got through and protested. Waved around the flag of Tibet and protested against the Olympics. They were arrested and charged with destruction of a monument.
They will stand trial on February 3rd, which is the day before the Opening Ceremony, and TBach said at the lighting ceremony that only, quote, political neutrality ensures that the Olympic Games can stand above and beyond the political differences that existed in ancient times, as well as today. End quote, which is nothing new for TBach to say, Hey, we don’t do politics and we will be a neutral.
And I do want
[00:45:25] Alison: to mention something that SuzanneLyons from the USOPC mentioned during the media summit in relation to this, she said the calls for boycott seem to have quieted. She’s not hearing a lot of that talk anymore. And last week the official Olympic truce was signed. So it seems like we’re going to be heading towards the protest rather than big political stances on this.
[00:45:56] Jill: Well, that’s good. There were some questions about boycotts and of course, plenty of questions about China and human rights in the media summit. And I think once again, the call for boycotts for an event that lasts for two weeks, a little over two weeks, nothing will happen in that time.
And. And a few, a handful of athletes, being forced to not go to something that they’ve trained for to make some sort of statement. That’s not really going to matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s going to be just a little blip on the radar that does not make sense. And those boycotts seem to come from people who don’t realize that probably half of the things they own or more are made in China. And if you really wanted to make a statement, you would not own those things, but such is life. I don’t know how many more times we’ll say that.
[00:46:48] Alison: And going back to something you said earlier about not being able to find information, I think the organizers of Beijing are being very careful with what they’re releasing in terms of information far ahead of time. Cause they don’t want to change anything. They want to announce it once when they’re absolutely sure. Because Tokyo went through, we’re doing this, we’re doing that. I mean, obviously they were in a very different place within the pandemic and within scheduling, but Beijing is just keeping its head down until it is rock solid information.
[00:47:21] Jill: Right. They also probably don’t want any protestors at their events to have time to come up with a plan.
[00:47:30] Alison: That too.
[00:47:30] Jill: The flame went from Olympia, got taken to Athens. There was a handover ceremony there. The flame then went to Beijing and well, there were a few torch runners and there were a few Greek torch runners and they handed it over to Chinese torch runner.
The relay uniforms are I think quite nice. They are a predominantly white tracksuit with some yellow and red of around the shoulders to reflect the colors of the flame, the sleeves side stripes, and the shoes are linked by one red line, which designer said mirror the dynamic red ribbon on the torch and demonstrates everyone’s high spirit during the relay. And the design also will have the torch relay emblem and the rings. They’ll have gloves and a headband, as well as a white bobble hat, which I’m interested in seeing they did not have those items in Greece because it was too warm for that. But I’m very curious what this white bubble hat will look like.
The flame got transported to Beijing and they had a little ceremony. At the Olympic Park where Cai Qi, Beijing communist party secretary and president of the organizing committee for the Olympics and Paralympics, he transferred the flame to a cauldron. That cauldron will be at the park and will stay there until early February next year, when they’ll have a very short relay through Beijing and uh, Zhangjiakou, and Yanqing, which are the competition venue areas.
And they’ll just have 1200 Torchbearers for that. And I’m very curious if they have the torches all already manufactured. Or like, did they plan to have a 10,000 person relay and made 10,000 torches? Or did they make, were they able to just make 1200 torches? Which if that’s the case, like if you’re a collector, because there are collectors, this then becomes a more rare torch.
. And then finally for the torch relay, the slogan of the relay is Health, Joy, and Energy.
[00:49:35] Alison: Yeah, can we stop with the slogans? Because they all mean nothing.
[00:49:38] Jill: That’s not a very good one. I hope that the translation has made it worse.
[00:49:43] Alison: Does it all have the first, is there some alliteration or some musicality in Chinese? And it just doesn’t flow very well in English.
[00:49:52] Jill: I will prefer to think that. I don’t know, but it’s very much-
[00:49:56] Alison: We’re just going to continue to lie to ourselves.
[00:49:59] Jill: Well, with our little theme, it could go health, joy, and energy.
[00:50:03] Alison: No. I find that unacceptable. I am boycotting your use of our song.
[00:50:08] Jill: Know that boycott has no effect on me. I will continue singing unless listeners boycott. Then I will not sing anymore.
Anyway there are test events happening. During the media summit, some bobsledders were at the track learning it and testing it for safety and everything. They did say the food is okay. They’re like, the track’s really cool. The food is okay. Like, Ooh, this is a signal.
[00:50:34] Alison: Like Juan Antonio Samaranch saying most exceptional, not the best ever.
[00:50:40] Jill: Exactly!. There was a wheelchair curling championship there. So one of the wheelchair curler skips was there testing that venue. Short track speed skating is having a world cup event there coming up, so they are also testing that track. So very like this big flurry of events to make sure everything is nailed down and it’s gotta be stressful because usually they get like a year. To hammer, you know, they test it, they find all the details that are wrong, and then they have that time to make changes. But now they don’t have a whole lot of time to get those things done.
[00:51:18] Alison: So it was a flurry of events for the winter Olympics.
[00:51:22] Jill: Yes, it was. Team Canada has mandated that everyone going to Beijing with the team will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They said they had no positive cases associated with the Tokyo Olympics and they want to repeat that for Beijing.
We have a little bit of news from Milan Cortina 2026.
[00:51:45] Alison: Oh, gee, we’re having venue issues. Shocked!
[00:51:52] Jill: The Opening Ceremony for the Paralympics has now been moved from Milan to Verona and will be held in the Verona Arena, which is a large Roman amphitheater. That is going to be the venue for the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games and a) it looks beautiful.
It’s probably going to be very cool, but the reason they moved it is because of cost containment factor.
[00:52:15] Alison: I thought they may have been feeling very Shakespearian.
[00:52:17] Jill: No. I think they’ve realized four years out. We’re not even, we’re over four years away from Milan Cortina, and already we’re talking about budget problems.
I’m like, oh wait, you over-thought this.
[00:52:28] Alison: Or, just like under thought it.
[00:52:30] Jill: Yeah, exactly. And it was just like, we have the passion for the game. Let’s put all of these things in. It will be magnificent. Now they have to pay for it. They haven’t decided where to put the Closing Ceremonies for the Paralympics yet. I don’t understand why they can’t just have them at the same place.
[00:52:47] Alison: My guess is the cost containment has to do with keeping the venue ready and available. Okay. So that if you have the Closing Ceremonies for the Olympics, then you have, and then the Opening Ceremony for the Paralympics. That venue is kind of sitting there, but the venue where you had the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics is released to do other things with
[00:53:11] Jill: That makes sense. So we will see what happens for the Closing Ceremonies for the Paralympics. Also ski mountaineering will take place at Bormio, which is also slated to host men’s Alpine skiing.
[00:53:22] Alison: Ooh, that’s a nice facility. I mean, they’re on all the world cup circuits, these different, I mean, Bormio is a stop on the the skiing world cup circuit. So they know what they’re doing.
[00:53:34] Jill: Yes. So that part of the games gives me hope because some of that will be very good. I mean, we don’t know about the sliding yet. And I think they’re trying to construct some skating and hockey venues, but we’ll see at least some of it’s going to be fantastico.
[00:53:52] Alison: Jill, have you ever had sambuca?
[00:53:55] Jill: I don’t know. I must have.
[00:53:57] Alison: Okay. Well, if you haven’t, we’ll just give you a lot of that and the Olympics will seem fantastic.
[00:54:05] Jill: I will take your word for it. And on that note, we will wrap up the show for this week. Let us know what you think about bobsled.
[00:54:14] Alison: Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. We’re @ flamealivepod on Twitter and Insta and Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Group on Facebook.
[00:54:30] Jill: Next week join us for more stories of the Olympics and Paralympics. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive.