The Barlow High graduate will be a brakeman for Team USA in the Olympic bobsled competition

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Barlow High graduate Sam Michener, second from right, poses with members of his four-man sled after arriving in South Korea late last week.

Four-man bobsled

Team USA sled members Position
Sam Michener, Gresham OR
Christopher Kinney, Stockbridge, GA
Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, Powhatan, VA
Nick Cunningham, Monterrey, CA

Barlow High graduate Sam Michener has been a member of the Team USA national bobsled team for the past four years, but this marks the first time his uniform has been adorned with the Olympic rings.

Michener has been a regular in the back of the sled for veteran driver Nick Cunningham, and coming off a successful World Cup season he liked his chances to be among the 12 chosen to compete in South Korea.

Team USA is one of three nations that qualified to fill three sleds for The Games, and in mid-January the committee brought its athletes together to extend invitations to fill those spots.

"You have an idea where you sit, but I didn't want to celebrate early," Michener said. "I don't think I was breathing the whole time they were calling out names, then somewhere in the middle I heard 'Sam Michener' — it was a big moment."

Still, getting to the Olympics is only part of the goal — Michener wants to find his way onto the podium in PyeongChang.

"It was all these years of work coming to fruition, but the job is not complete — this is one step," he said.

Michener's typical schedule has him stationed at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs during the off-season from April through October.

"It's everything you need in one large facility," Michener said. "It's a lot like college, but it's better funded and we only have to worry about athletics — they have all the tools for us to get better."

For Michener, it's a focused environment to squeeze every ounce out of his potential. That means choosing dense nutrition bars over fast-food stops, top-tier workouts with constant testing, even wearing a bracelet to monitor sleep patterns.

"I've been an athlete my whole life — since early on it's the only lifestyle I've known," Michener said. "I've had 13 years of training with a lot of great coaches to push my genetic potential to the max."

Much of the winter is spent touring the top tracks in Europe.

Key Dates

Event Date
Opening Ceremonies
4-man opening heats
4-man finals heats

After learning of his spot for the Olympics, Michener and his bobsled mates spent a week at the Canadian training facility in Calgary. The site features a specially-designed push track for teams to practice their starts.

The crew also made fundraising stops in Washington D.C. and San Francisco before taking off for South Korea. He arrived in the Olympic Village on Saturday.

Michener is a former state sprint champ at Barlow, who went on to compete at the University of Idaho before transferring his speed and power from the track to the ice.

It's a bit like asking Michael Jordan if he's dunked a basketball.

But yes, Michener has viewed Disney's 1993 release — Cool Runnings — the fictional account of a Jamaican bobsled team. In fact, he's spent time with members of the cast at various events over the years.

"I appreciate the movie — it's generated interest in our sport," he said.

This week Michener looks to begin a script of his own with the Opening Ceremonies set to be televised on NBC at 5 p.m. Friday.

"I expect there to be some pretty powerful emotions at the Opening Ceremonies, knowing that we are the group that is representing the best nation in the world," he said.

The four-man bobsled competition is among the last events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25.

This story appears in our Tuesday, Feb. 6, print edition of The Outlook.

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