About Nicholas Kohn and Marissa Heiser
Sunday, Feb. 21
Today wrapped up a very emotional and heartfelt two-day bobsled event in Whistler. We had a little more time today as the second day of two-man races was moved from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
After breakfast we made our way to the mountain, and because we had more time, we took the shuttle into town and could walk through the village. Whistler Village was a maze packed with hopeful Canadian hockey fans. We navigated our way to the Gondola and we were whisked away to the bottom of the bobsled track. The tiny village looks like Disney World from the Gondola.
Greeted by a show choir ala Glee, we waited in line for security to get into the event. We decided to stay at the finish line this time. We perched in the right bottom corner of the stands directly in front of the TV camera. (Yes, we’re those people). For maximum exposure, Marissa had made red, white and blue Team Kohn letters to hold up to show our support of our boy.
The races started with one of the forerunner sleds crashing in turn 13 (alias 50/50). The female driver and brakeman got out of the sled unharmed and once again everyone cheered. It is quite a sight to see one of those sleds tip over. It makes a scrapping noise that you’ve never heard before, and one that you never want to hear again.
We met some fans new to the sport that were curious about rules. They wondered why some sleds were disqualified and others not after crashes. FIBT rules state that if you cross the finish-line in your sled, no matter if you’re upright, on your side, or on your heads, the run counts. It is standard practice to try and stay in the sled for safety reasons. If one or more of your athletes fall out of the sled then you are disqualified. Holding yourself in that sled is a Herculean task, as the G forces pulling you at that speed turns a 220-pound man into 1,000 pounds.
These athletes are nothing short of Greek gods in terms of strength and toughness. Bobsledding is a different sport than any other. Most of the guys are former football and track athletes, so they are certainly tough. But every time one of them goes down the first time in a sled, they know right away whether they want to do this sport. It takes an incredible amount of mental and physical ability and certitude as well as a great deal of persistence. Mike has been doing this for 20 years, and we don’t know anyone who is more dedicated to the sport.
Mike’s first run was fast and furious and put him into 12th place. His pusher Nick Cunningham is also one of his pushers in the four-man event. Mike and Nick waved to us and we could see how happy he was to be competing and representing his country. We geared up for the next one, activated the hand warmers and prayed for a safe and swift final run.
Mike was ninth in line to go down the track for the fourth and final gold medal run. As the sun went down the temperature dropped considerably, making the track faster. Every time the TV camera turned towards us we cheered loudly and chanted Team Kohn and USA! Mike tore down the hill and drove extremely well. He arrived at the finish line and was pleased with his run.
The tenth sled of the night was John Napier (USA-2), who slightly edged out Mike for 11th place. John and Mike are good friends and Mike was as excited for his finish as he was for his own. Mike was anxious to greet him and the two teammates hugged and high fived as they celebrated their completion of their two-man bobsled event.
We waited and watched the remaining sleds. The results were as expected. Germany I driver Andre Lange claimed his fourth career gold medal. He is a great driver, a great sportsman and well respected by all the other athletes in the sport. We left the stadium with a huge sense of camaraderie with all the other nations attending the events.
The day culminated with a quiet Sunday dinner back at the condo with our own Olympian. We toasted his success. It was nice to get the behind the scenes perspective. We looked at his photos from the opening ceremonies, meeting Vice President Biden and the Governator. He brought out all the Olympic swag, Ralph Lauren scarves, jewelry, Olympic coins, and started handing them out. It was nice to get him for a night. Training will start up again for the four-man soon, so we enjoyed the time we had. Get ready for Friday! Kohn will be on!
Here is a link to the pics the press took of us in the stands: