Military Olympians: A Different Kind of Military Presence

 

Sochi Russia Olympic Rings

The men and women of our military are a diverse collection of people with a wide range of talents and skills that they bring or acquire. So it should come as no surprise that there is a strong military presence even at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The game this year features 7 current and former Army National Guardsmen from the WCAP, the World Class Athlete Program. Clearly, the work ethic and training provided to our military extends far beyond the rank these soldiers proudly hold.

The 7 competitors from the WCAP have been preparing to make a strong presence for USA in bobsled and luge and bring the gold back home for these highly competitive events. The squad is comprised of 6 current and one former Guardsmen, who is looking to defend his prior Olympic achievements. This is in addition to the three WCAP coaches that have been guiding and training our elite athletes.

Their presence is just one part of Team USA’s staggering roster of the 229 finest athletes seeking to bring home as much gold as they can in the 7 sports they are competing in. This year’s appearance of the WCAP athletes is a point of pride for the National Guard as well as the USOC. Alan Ashley, the USOC’s chief of sports performance had only great things to say about the inclusion of the WCAP.

“This distinguished group of athletes represents the largest delegation in the history of the Olympic Winter Games, which is a true testament to the growing number of winter sport opportunities across the United States. With 106 returning Olympians, this year’s team is an exceptional blend of youth and experience and represents the finest our nation has to offer.”

Alan Ashley

USOC Chief of Sports Performance

 Military Steve Holcolm with Gold Medal

For the USA’s bobsled team, the WCAP has sent Steven Holcomb, Capt. Chris Fogt, Sgt. Nick Cunningham, Sgt. Justin Olsen and Sgt. Dallas Robinson for the bobsledding two-man team events February 16th through the 23rd.

 

Rounding out the WCAP squad are the competitors of the Luge; Sgt. Preston Griffall and Sgt. Matt Mortensen who represented the USA in the February 8th through 10th event. Aside from the military training of both Sergeants, Griffall and Mortensen have a history through years of training together as civilians.

In 2010 the duo had very nearly qualified for the Winter Games, this resulted in a falling out that left them not speaking for several months.

After training together as civilians for three years, they narrowly missed qualifying for the 2010 Winter Games. They wouldn’t speak to each for months afterward. Fate intervened however, as they were offered a second chance from the WCAP upon joining the National Guard. They would get their chance to qualify again, and they did with a dominant qualifying run on December 19th in Park City, Utah.

Military Army WCAP

Sadly Griffall and Mortensen fell short of their dreams for Olympic gold. This doesn’t diminish the incredible performance of these two elite athletes in the least; simply appearing in the Olympics is an honor beyond compare. Unfortunately Griffall announced that the 2014 games was his last appearance in the Luge. However Mortensen looks to be more committed than ever, and plans to continue training and attempt to qualify in the next games.

It is so important to remember how much the young men and women of our military bring to their service. Proudly representing the US and the WCAP is just one of the many contributions they offer. It will be exciting to see what the bobsled event will bring. Hopefully the WCAP will bringing home the gold for the USA.

 

By Bob McAllister

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