Shelby, Neb. native Curt Tomasevicz was part of the U.S. bobsled team competing at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. NET News followed the three-time Olympian with stories, photos, social media posts and comments from Tomasevicz, including this in-depth interview after he returned to his home state.
"Olympic Homecoming" segment from the NET Television program "Nebraska Stories"
After Sochi: Tomasevicz Reflects on the Olympics and His Future
(Feb. 28 NET News Signature Story by Mike Tobias, NET News Senior Producer/Reporter)
take video of the crowd, many of whom were family and friends from his hometown of Shelby wearing matching t-shirts celebrating his bobsledding career. Tomasevicz hadn’t slept much since earning a bronze medal in the four-man event in Sochi, but he patiently did media interviews, posed for pictures and signed autographs for a couple hours before heading to his parents’ house near Columbus. That’s where we sat down with him the next day to talk about Sochi, his Olympic career and his future.
MIKE TOBIAS, NET NEWS: Were you surprised by the airport homecoming?
CURT TOMASEVICZ: Absolutely. After talking with my mom and dad, I thought maybe a dozen people might come, some friends and family, and maybe we’d grab a quick bite to eat and head back to Shelby right away. But yeah, I didn’t expect the 150, 200 people who were there. That was pretty awesome getting to meet some people for the first time and see some faces who didn’t get a chance to go to Russia who wanted to. It was a lot of fun.
TOBIAS: After four races down a track that’s a little less than a mile long, the difference between medaling and not medaling is three one-hundredths of a second.
TOBIAS: The difference between success and perceived failure in your sport is tiny.
TOMASEVICZ: Exactly, and in a lot of ways, that is “perceived.” It’s easy for me to say because we did get a medal, but that was our best effort. That was everything we had and if it wasn’t enough to medal, there’s nothing else we could have done. So I think maybe it just has to do with the satisfaction of controlling what you can and giving forth your best effort.
"Built a full town from scratch"
TOBIAS: After being there for a little more than two weeks, was Russia ready for the Olympics?
TOMASEVICZ: Yeah, I think so. They pretty much built almost a full town from scratch in some ways, so there were a couple of hiccups with the housing and maybe a little bit with the food and that kind of thing in the athlete village, but for the most part, it met our expectation and surpassed it. We don’t have any major complaints about it at all. Security was a concern and there were no major incidents, no minor incidents that I had heard of either, so maybe you had to wait in line for another five minutes to get through security, but it was all worth it.
TOBIAS: In terms of organization and facilities, how would you look at Sochi compared to Vancouver in 2010 and Torino in 2006?
TOMASEVICZ: In some ways, it’s hard to compare from place-to-place just because the cultures are so different. Vancouver was almost like a home race for us just because there was such a heavy American influence and so many Americans that were there at the race. But from a facility standpoint, there was always security concerns at each place I guess, but I’ve never been around an Olympics where anything major happened or there were any problems. So I think in that way, all three Olympics I’ve been to were definitely considered a success.
TOBIAS: You were on the “The Today Show” and nationally syndicated radio shows. You were in commercials. Even MTV wanted to know your taste in music. Did you ever think that you or any bobsledder could become such a media darling?
TOMASEVICZ: It’s been pretty fun. That’s not why we got into bobsled, it’s just kind of one of those pretty cool side effects that come with getting to go to the Olympics. We know that our sport is popular for about 10 minutes once every four years and it fades pretty quick, but it’s been a lot of fun to get to meet a number of different people, a number of pretty awesome opportunities, and they continue too into March, April and May. So this is definitely the fun time of the year.
TOBIAS: Even William Shatner tweeted you.
TOMASEVICZ: Yeah, that was pretty great. I didn’t know what his response would be after I called him “Bill,” but he did right back.
"That's what I'm going to remember from Sochi"
TOBIAS: Other than the races and the opening and closing ceremonies, are there special moments that you’re going to take away from Sochi?
TOMASEVICZ: This Olympics I really spent a lot more time going to other events. I think I got to see two or three hockey games, a couple of short-track speed skating events, the men’s moguls (skiing), and I think that really helped me kind of appreciate what it means to compete at the Olympics, not just from an athlete’s standpoint, but also a fan standpoint. That was a lot of fun getting to see Team U.S.A. athletes get to do their best and then I had to turn around and do my best as they watched me. That was something I hadn’t done at the last Olympics and that’s what I’m going to remember from Sochi.
TOBIAS: When you’re there and with everything that’s going on, do you ever get a chance to just kind of step away for a second and appreciate the moment?
TOMASEVICZ: When you’re there, there’s not much opportunity for that. I think this is the time for that. I took as many pictures as I could and tried to absorb all the moments that I could, and hopefully now for the next few weeks, I can look back and talk about it with some of my teammates and kind of say, “hey remember that time we did this” and go from there.
TOBIAS: Olympic four-man bobsledding has been around for 90 years. In that time, there’s only been six Americans who have earned more than one medal. You’re one of them.
TOMASEVICZ: Wow. That’s quite an honor. Not something I had thought about but yeah, that’s pretty cool.
TOBIAS: If you think a little bit about your legacy in terms of what you’ve been able to accomplish, you’re one of the most successful American bobsledders in history.
TOMASEVICZ: Wow. It’s kind of something where, when you’re in the moment you don’t think about what people are going to think of me five years from now, 10 years from now. You don’t compete in each race thinking about what it’s going to do for your entire career. But in over 10 years, I guess it’s been a long time and eventually some of the statistics are going to add up. It’s a pretty awesome honor.
TOBIAS: Before the Olympics when we talked, you said that you were going to probably retire after Sochi. Is that still the case?
TOMASEVICZ: Yes. More so probably right now, I guess I can say that. It’s been so much fun and from what I’ve learned, the athletes who try to make a decision right after the Olympics are the ones who always end up changing their mind about four or five times. So it does take a little bit of time to put my feet back on the ground, come back down from out of the clouds, and really kind of figure out what direction I want to go.
TOBIAS: Why do you say “more so”?
TOMASEVICZ: Just because I have a hard time picturing the 2018 Olympics ending any better than what these Olympics did, even if it’s a gold medal. The way that bronze medal came to us in this last couple weeks was almost picture-perfect just because the team really came together and it was our very best effort.
TOBIAS: You’ve been an athlete competing at the very highest levels for probably about 15 years, if you count your Husker football career, and even if you go back into high school it’s longer than that. Is it going to be hard to give that up?
TOMASEVICZ: Absolutely. I think a lot of athletes struggle with that. You have so much focus on one event, one day, one second of a race. All your attention is on that, then all of a sudden it’s over. A lot of athletes, they don’t know how to fulfill that want, that need, that drive that’s in them. I think having that awareness, that that part of your life is gone will help. But I definitely need to find something that will keep me motivated and drive me and keep me on my toes.
TOBIAS And what might that be?
TOMASEVICZ: I have no idea. Honestly, it could be a hobby of some type. It could be a my job or family life. But I definitely need to find something to fill that void.
TOBIAS: And in the short term, a little rest?
TOMASEVICZ: Hopefully a little rest. But again, we need to continue to ride our wave of short-term popularity I guess. So trying to do as many events and have as much fun as I can for the next few weeks and months.
CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH TOMASEVICZ
(Feb. 25) - News media, friends and family (including a large group from his hometown of Shelby) greeted Tomasevicz at the Lincoln Airport tonight when he returned from Sochi. Listen to NET Radio Friday for an extensive interview with Tomasevicz about his Olympic experience.
(Feb. 24) - "I'm not sure I could put my feelings and thoughts into words about the race," Tomasevicz told us this morning, via e-mail. "It was complete chaos and it was nearly the perfect ending to the season and the Olympics. I couldn't have been happier to celebrate with Steve (Holcomb), Steve (Langton), and especially Chris (Fogt), who just earned his first Olympic medal. We knew how hard it was going to be to stay ahead of the Russian team, and it was going to depend on our push. So we went ahead and put down the fastest push times in three of the four heats. It was a complete cat fight and every hundredth of the second counted."
(Feb. 23) - Tomasevicz and the rest of USA 1 men's four-man and two-man bobsled teams are among the finalists for the 2014 Best of U.S. Olympic Awards from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Fan voting begins today at 6 p.m. CT and continues through March 21 on the Team USA Facebook page.
(Feb. 23) - Is this the end of Tomasevicz’s bobsled career? Here’s what he told us just before the start of the Sochi Olympics: “It’s my last Olympics and honestly, it’s probably my last season as well. There’s a chance I could maybe come back for one year, kind of a final tour. At the same time, I don’t want to take a spot away from athlete (who is) up and coming and wants to compete at the 2018 Olympics. My knees and back are getting a little tired. It’d be good to take a break and I think I’ll be ready for a new adventure pretty soon. I’ve thought about going back to school and maybe getting my Ph.D. in engineering. I think I’d really enjoy teaching, being the professor. There are a few options maybe with sports, coaching in bobsled or working with United States Olympic Committee as far as high-performance planning and that kind of stuff, which would be a pretty good adventure too.”
(Feb. 23) - With bronze in Sochi and gold in 2010 in Vancouver, Tomasevicz and driver Steven Holcomb are the first U.S. four-man bobsled athletes to earn medals in back-to-back Olympics in 62 years. Since four-man bobsled became an Olympic sport in 1924*, only six Americans have won two medals (no American has won more than two):
- Curt Tomasevicz - gold in 2010, bronze in 2014
- Steven Holcomb - gold in 2010, bronze in 2014
- Patrick Martin - gold in 1948, silver in 1952
- Clifford Grey - gold in 1928 and 1932
- William Fiske - gold in 1928 and 1932
- Jay O'Brien - silver in 1928, gold in 1932
With his bronze in the two-man event this year, Holcomb became just the second American (with Martin) to earn three total bobsled medals during his career.
* teams competed with five athletes during one Olympics, 1928.
(Feb. 23) - “I’m very happy,” said Steven Holcomb, driver of Tomasevicz’s USA 1 team, in an article posted by the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “We came here to win a medal. It was a tough race, and it wasn’t easy. Coming away with a bronze medal, we’re pretty satisfied.” This marked the first time since 1952 that U.S. bobsledders won medals in the two-man and four-man races. Read the full story here.
(Feb. 23) - The medal ceremony; from left, Steven Holcomb, Curt Tomasevicz, Steven Langton and Christopher Fogt (Photo from USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation Facebook).
(Feb. 23) - It's bronze for Curt Tomasevicz and the United States in the four-man bobsled! With a time of 55.33 in the fourth run, USA 1 edged Russia 2 for third place by just 0.03 seconds. Finals results (with fourth-round times):
- 1 - Russia 1, 3:40.60 (55.39)
- 2 - Latvia 1, 3:40.69 (55.31)
- 3 - USA 1, 3:40.99 (55.33)
- 4 - Russia 2, 3:41.02 (55.21)
- 5 - Great Britain 1, 3:41.10 (55.26)
"I told you it would be NUTS," Tomasevicz tweeted. Complete final results here; if you don't want to wait for this afternoon's broadcast, watch a replay of the full third and fourth rounds here. The other U.S. team, USA 2, finished 12th with a time of 3:42.70. Less than one second separated the top seven teams.
(Feb. 23) - Tomasevicz's USA 1 has moved into the bronze medal position after three rounds of four-man bobsled competition, posting the fourth fastest time in the third round. Current standings, with third run time:
- Russia 1 - 2:45.21 (55.02)
- Latvia 1 - 2:45.38 (55.15)
- USA 1 - 2:45.66 (55.30)
- Russia 2 - 2:45.81 (55.29)
- Germany 1 - 2:45.82 (55.47)
(Feb. 23) - Some shots of one of the "watch parties" Saturday night in Shelby.
(Feb. 22) - Members of USA 1 are confident going into Sunday’s Olympic four-man bobsled finals, in fourth place but just 0.17 seconds from first and 0.01 seconds from a medal. “It’s going to be a fight for the medals, but we expected that,” said Steven Holcomb, driver of USA 1, after the first day of Olympic competition. “Everyone here wants to win, including us. We’re focused and serious. We have a chance to medal, and that’s what we’re going to do.” Here's the full summary from the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
(Feb. 22) – USA 1, with Tomasevicz, is fourth after two rounds of the Olympic four-man bobsled competition, 0.17 seconds from first place and just 0.01 seconds out of medal contention. Standings after two rounds (with total time and 1st/2nd round times):
- 1 - Russia 1, 1:50.19 (54.82/55.37)
- 2 - Latvia 1, 1:50.23 (55.10/55.13)
- 3 - Germany 1, 1:50.35 (54.88/55.47)
- 4 - USA 1, 1:50.36 (54.89/55.47)
- 5 - Germany 3, 1:50.48 (55.06/55.42)
- 6 - Russia 2, 1:50.52 (55.11/55.41)
- 7 - Great Britain 1, 1:50.53 (55.26/55.27)
- 8 – Switzerland 1, 1:50.55 (55.21/55.34)
In general, second run times were slower for most teams. USA 1 lost ground by posting just the ninth-fastest second round time. The other U.S. team, USA 2, moved up three spots to 11th after a second-round time of 55:48 (1:51.09 total). The field is narrowed to 20 teams for the third and fourth rounds, which begin tomorrow (Sunday) at 3:30 am CT. Check here later for updates and comments after the first two rounds of competition.
(Feb. 22) - The first of four rounds of Olympic four-man bobsled competition is done. USA 1, with Tomasevicz, is in third place. Here's the top five after round one:
- Russia 1 - 54.82 (track record)
- Germany 1 - 54.88
- USA 1 - 54.89
- Germany 3 - 55.06
- Latvia 1 - 55.10
A second U.S. team (USA 2) sits in 14th with a time of 55.61. USA 1, in spite of driver Steven Holcomb's calf injury, has the fastest start time, with a track-record 4.75 seconds. Round two begins at approximately noon CT. USA 1 will be 18th in the second round start order, followed by Germany 1 and Russia 1. You can watch live results here, or watch the race live here.
(Feb. 22) - "The time has come," Tomasevicz writes on his Facebook page. "I'm more grateful for the thousands of e-mails, tweets, and Facebook posts than I could ever show. I will never be able to respond to everyone individually, but I have read every single comment and I have heard every word. Tonight, I will put on a speed suit that simply says 'U.S.A.' on the back. That is the greatest honor any athlete can ever experience. I do this for all of you that can't be here in Russia with me, but care enough to wish me well. I pray that my effort tonight and tomorrow afternoon will be enough to show the world how much I love my teammates, my sport and my country. I hope it will be enough to show my gratitude and appreciation to all those that are rooting for Team USA and the Night Train. I will be thinking about my family and friends that have made me the person I am today. I've trained for this moment for four years, for my 10-year bobsled career and even for my entire life. No words can tell you how ready I am. No words can describe my excitement, enthusiasm and eagerness. I can't portray all the emotion that I'm feeling. But you'll be able to SEE it in just a few hours..." The first two rounds of four-man bobsled competition begin at 10:30 a.m. CT.
(Feb. 21) - “People forget about us 3.5 years out of the quadrennium, but it’s something I liked, and that’s something that I learned when I was growing up in Shelby: You keep working hard whether you get attention or not.” This is from a great profile of Tomasevicz posted today on the United States Olympic Committee/Team USA website. Read the full article here.
(Feb. 21) - The town of Shelby (population 714) might be a little bigger this weekend, at least when Olympic bobsledding is on television. Two local establishments which are a couple doors down from each other (A & B Grill'n Bar and Shelby Hotel) will hold "watch parties" when the races of Shelby native Tomasevicz and his four-man bobsled team are scheduled for broadcast (Saturday 7-10:30 p.m. CT and Sunday 1-5 p.m. CT). You can watch the races live on the NBC Olympics web site at these times:
- Heat 1 - Saturday, Feb. 22, 10:30 am (CT)
- Heat 2 - Saturday, Feb. 22, noon (CT)
- Heat 3 - Sunday, Feb. 23, 3:30 am (CT)
- Heat 4 - Sunday, Feb. 23, 5 am (CT)
(Feb. 20) - Steven Holcomb, driver for Tomasevicz's team, talks about the upcoming four-man competition: “I feel like an underdog especially after the two-man," Holcomb said in comments posted by the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. "(Alexander) Zuhbkov was so fast in the two-man. He hasn’t done a whole lot all season and then he comes out and crushes everyone at the Olympics. Home track advantage is huge. He’s been down the track more than anyone. He knows it. He can do it four times in a row. It’ll be a challenge. It’s going to be a good race. We’ll do the best we can. It’ll take pressure off us and adds pressure to him."
(Feb. 20) - Tomasevicz's "My Sochi Story" in this Team USA produced video.
(Feb. 20) - What's the origin of the nickname "Night Train" for the U.S. four-man bobsled and/or bobsled team? "The original 'Night Train' was named in 2008," Tomasevicz said. "Our sled engineer, Bob Cuneo with the BoDyn bobsled project, named the sled and put a decal on the side of it because he didn't have time to have it painted before the World Cup season started. The name stuck because we started winning immediately with the sled and we became known as 'Team Night Train.' It was an intimidation factor as well. People believed that our sled was automatically going to help us win. That is a big advantage. Since then, the 'Night Train 2' has been developed. That is what we will be racing (this weekend)."
ABOUT CURT TOMASEVICZ Curt Tomasevicz, born in 1980, is a native of Shelby, Neb. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while playing football for the Cornhuskers from 2000 to 2003, earning Academic All-Big XII honors in 2002. He began bobsledding in 2004 and has been selected to three U.S. Olympic teams as a push athlete and/or brakeman (2006 in Torino, Italy; 2010 in Vancouver, Canana; and 2014 in Sochi, Russia), winning gold in Vancouver in the four-man event. Tomasevicz is undoubtedly Nebraska's most successful Winter Olympian. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS WANT MORE?
ABOUT CURT TOMASEVICZ
Curt Tomasevicz, born in 1980, is a native of Shelby, Neb. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln while playing football for the Cornhuskers from 2000 to 2003, earning Academic All-Big XII honors in 2002. He began bobsledding in 2004 and has been selected to three U.S. Olympic teams as a push athlete and/or brakeman (2006 in Torino, Italy; 2010 in Vancouver, Canana; and 2014 in Sochi, Russia), winning gold in Vancouver in the four-man event. Tomasevicz is undoubtedly Nebraska's most successful Winter Olympian.
"I strongly believe in the ability of the bobsled team which Curtis is a part of, and I know they will do their very best, and that’s all anyone can ask of them," she continued. "We are so very proud of Curtis and the team, and no matter how they come in at the end of the race, we will still be very proud of them. There are so many great stories tied to some of the athletes at the Olympics with all they’ve overcome and how hard they had to work to get to even be in Sochi. I know we are joined by parents all around the world in feeling blessed to have the opportunity to see our children competing at this level. It would be wonderful if all countries could continue the camaraderie after the Olympics as well."
(Feb. 19) - Steven Holcomb (left in the photo below), the driver for Tomasevicz's four-man team, talks about his calf injury and the four-man bobsled competition, which begins Saturday. "I feel pretty good and we have an amazing medical staff helping to get me race ready again. I sat in the sled today and I didn’t actually push. We have a plan set up going into the rest of the week," Holcomb said, in comments posted by USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. "It’s going to be a good race, and the Russians are going to be fast again. They know this track better than anybody. The Latvians are fast, the Germans are fast, the Brits are fast, the Swiss are fast. The list goes on, but it’s a tough four-man field. Luckily we’re fast too, so I feel pretty good and I know my team us chomping at the bit to get going.” Tomasevicz has been a push athlete and/or brakeman for Holcomb since 2004, teaming with him during three Olympic competitions.
(Feb. 19) - Just how broad is media interest in the Olympics and Olympic athletes like Tomasevicz? Here he is talking with MTV about his "first album!"
(Feb. 18) - Yesterday Tomasevicz watched as teammates Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton won the first U.S. medal in two-man bobsled in 62 years, finishing .03 seconds ahead of a Russian team to claim the bronze medal. "The two-man race was so exciting," Tomasevicz said. "I was at the finish dock for the final run to see them cross the line. We were more than thrilled to hold up one finger to show them they had clinched a medal. Now we are fired-up even more for the four-man race next weekend. We have room to improve up higher on the podium." Here's the four-man bobsled schedule:
- Heat 1 - Saturday, Feb. 22, 10:30 am (CT)
- Heat 2 - Saturday, Feb. 22, noon (CT)
- Heat 3 - Sunday, Feb. 23, 3:30 am (CT)
- Heat 4 - Sunday, Feb. 23, 5 am (CT)
(Feb. 17) - So you want to be a world-class bobsled athlete? Start by squating 330 pounds, running 60 meters in less than 7 seconds (top world-class track athletes run 6.5 seconds) and throwing a 16 pound shot put more than 15 meters. These are some of the tests athletes like Tomasevicz go through during a testing combine for the U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams. Check out the combine scoring table to see how you might do! And if you want to see an example of the athleticism of a world-class bobsled athlete, here's a video of Tomasevicz doing a simple little workout: hopping over 42 inch hurdles, then jumping onto a 54 inch box.
(Feb. 17) - A good start for U.S. bobsledders. The two-man team of Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton won the bronze medal today. It was the first two-man bobsled medal for the United States since 1952. Both Holcomb (the driver) and Langton are part of Tomasevicz's four-man team.
(Feb. 17) - The U.S. men's bobsled team; Tomasevicz is bottom row, second from right. Two-man races finish Monday; Tomasevicz and his four-man team begin racing on Saturday,
(Feb. 16) - Sochi is the third Olympic games for Tomasevicz. Is it still as exciting as the first time? "Definitely," he says. "A lot of people think three Olympics is a lot of Olympics, but at the same time, three isn’t very many times to do something. So you can definitely tell the difference between the 2006 games in Italy, 2010 in Canada and now these Olympics here in Russia. I have certain distinct memories from each location and I have no doubt that I’m going to have the same type of unique memories coming from here as well. They’re all different. They’re all unique in a special way."
(Feb. 15) - Is there a lot of camaraderie among bobsled athletes from different countries? "Without a doubt," Tomasevicz says. "It’s very much like a NASCAR circuit where it’s the same competitors at every track every weekend, except we’re not necessarily going head-to-head. Some of my best friends are on the Canadian team, the German team; we even get along with a few of the Russians too." Click below to hear Tomasevicz talk more with Mike Tobias about the camaraderie among bobsledders.
(Feb. 15) - We asked Tomasevicz to talk about some of the interesting things he has seen and done at the Sochi Olympics other than preparing for his team's race next weekend. "I really enjoy going to other events, speed skating, moguls, hockey. It brings things into perspective to see an Olympic event as a fan before I compete in my own event," he says. There may be a downside: on his Twitter, Tomasevicz notes that "I may be watching too much Olympics. Last night I dreamt I was on the Finnish hockey team. It didn't go well..."
(Feb. 14) - The students from Shelby-Rising City Public Schools (Tomasevicz's alma mater) recorded a fantastic musical tribute to their bobsledding alumnus. Watch it here.
(Feb. 14) - Four-man bobsled is scheduled toward the end of the Sochi Olympics, with two heats on Feb. 22 and two heats on Feb 23. We asked Tomasevicz about the pros and cons of the long wait before competition, and if it's hard to stay focused. "I think the unusual break for us has allowed us to refocus after a little mental break," Tomasevicz says "The World Cup season is a long one and getting to Sochi early has given us some time to go to other events, cheer on the United States teams and rest our bodies. During the Olympics, it can be a little difficult to see other athletes compete and be done, but we know what is waiting for us if we do stay focused and complete our goal."
(Feb. 13) - The mountains near Sochi, as seen in these pictures from Tomasevicz's Twitter: "My inaugural 'selfie.' Thought this one worthy. Top of the summit far from the coast."
(Feb. 11) - Tomasevicz joking on "The Dan Patrick Show" this morning: "You can try using a gold medal to pick-up girls, but nobody ever believes you." Listen to a podcast of the full interview here...or watch a video clip of Tomasevicz talking about which is better, playing in a college football national championship game or winning a gold medal, here.
(Feb. 10) - How does a kid from Shelby, Neb., end up as an Olympic bobsled athlete? “He and his friends kind of joked around junior high age about hopping in a bobsled and going down a hill and boom, you’re in the Olympics, so they thought that was going to be pretty easy,” says Amy Tomasevicz (Curt’s mom). “He talked about playing football for Nebraska and being a bobsledder, and I mean this is all going through his mind as he was growing up,” says Dennis Tomasevicz (Curt’s dad). Learn more about Curt Tomasevicz’s bobsled journey in stories airing Tuesday and Wednesday on NET Radio (with audio and text posted to this page).
(Feb. 9) - Winning a gold medal in 2010 provided Tomasevicz with nerve-wracking opportunities to realize some other dreams, like throwing out the first pitch for his favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs (watch it on this YouTube video) and playing guitar during a concert of his favorite band, Pearl Jam. “Those moments were pretty awesome,” Tomasevicz says. “To play ‘Yellow Ledbetter’ with Pearl Jam on stage, and staring back at the audience was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done. They were screaming at me, having a good time and it was pretty fun. Throwing the pitch out at Wrigley, I tried to play it cool and act like I wasn’t that nervous and that I was actually an athlete trying to do an athletic feat. But I felt like a lawn chair being unfolded as I threw that pitch.” Learn more about Tomasevicz and his life as a bobsled athlete in stories airing Tuesday and Wednesday on NET Radio.
(Feb. 9) - In 2010, the town of Shelby received the O.C. Tanner Inspiration Award for its support of Tomasevicz. This Olympics, Tomasevicz has nominated his friend and training partner Emily Azevedo for the award. His nomination letter shows the highs and lows in the life of an Olympic athlete.“I would see her fight and strain to last through workouts. And that would give me the strength to do the same," Tomasevicz writes.
(Feb. 8) - Tomasevicz calls Friday’s opening ceremony “ a very overwhelming experience.” A few other comments from Tomasevcz, from an e-mail interview today:
- Any problems with your living arrangements and the mountain athletes village? “I've spent time in both the coastal and mountain village. Both have everything we need and are pretty comfortable. I know there are concerns about safety and the living conditions, but we have very few complaints.”
- What will you be doing in the next couple days? “The next few days we will be doing lifting and sprinting to stay in top form. We will finally get more time on the ice starting on Thursday."
- Any other sports/events you hope to watch? “I hope to get to some speed skating races and the Russia/USA hockey game. Today I went to and saw the U.S. women’s hockey team beat Finland. Once we start sliding, we won't have much time to see other events.”
(Feb. 8) - Tomasevicz (third from left) and the rest of his four-man bobsled team pose before the opening ceremony. Check out more pictures Tomasevicz has posted on his Facebook page from the first couple days of the Olympics.
(Feb. 8) - "The third time is just as sweet as the first. The walk was my favorite part of the course, and seeing the reaction of the first-timers," Tomasevicz, talking about the opening ceremony.
(Feb. 7) - NBC's prerecorded broadcast of the opening ceremony is underway; earlier Tomasevicz posted this picture of the athlete's staging area, calling it his "Where's Waldo chaos pic" (from Twitter).
(Feb. 7) - Tomasevicz and speed skater Jonathan Garcia at the open ceremonies, "the two biggest Pearl Jam fans in the parade," according to Tomasevicz (from Twitter).
(Feb. 6) - Look fast, and you'll see Tomasevicz and other U.S. Olympians in this United Airlines commercial. "Pay attention to the exceptionally fast beverage cart. It was a blast to film," Tomasevicz says (from his Facebook page).
(Feb. 5) - “If he were a cartoon character, there’d be steam coming out of his ears,” teammate Steve Langton says of Tomasevicz, in this NBC Sports story, "14 things you didn't know about the members of 'Night Train Squared."
(Feb. 5) - A great inside look at how Tomasevicz and other push athletes are training in Sochi, and what they're thinking, in the AOL video.
(Feb. 4) - Tomasevicz arrived in Sochi on Friday (Jan. 31); a few days later NET News asked him about his schedule and what he thinks of Sochi, so far: "That first day we came straight up to the mountain village where the bobsled track is, checked into the Olympic village and got situated. The next day we actually went down to the coastal village where all the indoor sports are going to take place. There’s a good running track down there, as well as a good weight room where we can get some off-ice training. Tomorrow (Feb. 5) we will start actually practicing on the track. There’s always talk about how they’re having trouble finishing on time. But for the most part everything seems to be in order."
(Feb. 1) A view from the athlete's village in the mountains at the Sochi Olympics. This is where Tomasevicz (who took the photo) is staying; there is another athlete's village in Sochi.
(Feb. 1) - Tomasevicz and his four-man bobsled "Night Train" teammates relive their 2010 Olympic gold medal in this NBC Olympics video. It was the first bobsled gold medal in 62 years for the United States.
(Jan. 31) - "Made it to Sochi safe and sound. Checking into the village and getting acquainted with the facilities," Tomasevicz says (from his Facebook page).
From Shelby to Bobsled Gold
(Feb. 11 NET News Signature Story by Mike Tobias, NET News Senior Producer/Reporter)
Shelby, Nebraska is a town of 700 near Columbus. It’s an unlikely hometown for an Olympic bodsledder like Curt Tomasevicz.
“There’s not a hill in sight,” said Amy Tomasevicz, Curt’s mother. “ When their grandfather gave them a sled for Christmas, we had to wait until the town man piled up all the snow and then they had a little bit of a hill or we had to get in the car and go find a hill.”
Or sometimes sledding for a kid like Curt would happen in a snowy pasture, in a saucer tied to the back of a four-wheeler. So how does that kid from flat Shelby end up spending the last decade racing down mountain bobsled courses all over the world?
Tomasevicz never forgot that idea. Not as a football, basketball and track star at Shelby High. Not as a walk-on football player at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, seeing most of his playing time on special teams. Not while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. With all this behind him, he started bobsledding in 2004. By 2006, he was on the U.S. Olympic team. Now he’s called one of the world’s most powerful push athletes, one of the non-drivers whose job launching the sled lasts about five seconds each race.
“In some ways you can compare it to the sport of weightlifting in that sense where it’s just one huge burst of energy and that’s all you get,” Curt Tomasevicz said. “You need to be perfect.”
There’s been plenty of success. He won gold in Vancouver but also numerous gold, silver and bronze medals in world championship and world cup events. He’s one of just a few bobsled athletes who receive a stipend from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which, along with sponsorships, allows him to be a full-time bobsledder. Half the year is intense off-season training. The other half is competing in Europe and North America. He calls it fun, but not as glamorous as you might think.
“For the most part it’s a lot of suitcase living,” Tomasevicz said. “We have a race almost every weekend and we practice throughout the week leading up to that, so as soon as one race is over, we have to load our own sled into a big truck, kind of a U-Haul truck, and we drive actually from location to location. We don’t get first-class flights between every race. It’s sometimes a 10, 12-hour drive as soon as we’re done competing. So it’s not as glamorous in that way. But it’s a lot of fun, honestly, and I have some great teammates. They’ve become some of my best friends too, so that makes things a lot easier.”
Tomasevicz is in Sochi as part of the top U.S. four-man team, a gold medal favorite when they race toward the end of the Olympics. But hanging over the excitement of competition are concerns about safety and terrorist attacks.
“It is a concern, but there’s not something that we can do about it. It’s out of our control,” he said. “We don’t want it to become a distraction so we just have to focus on that race and that’s all we can do, and just have faith that the USOC is putting in place a good security system, as well as the Russian government because we definitely know that they don’t want to see an incident.”
These concerns, in combination with cost and the difficulty of getting there, mean mom and dad won’t see their son compete in Sochi. Amy Tomasevicz had traveled to Curt’s two previous Olympics.
“I don’t normally have a hard time saying goodbye to Curtis, but this Christmas I did because I just have nagging feelings in the back of my mind,” Amy Tomasevicz said. “I just pray everything goes okay.”
Instead, she’ll likely watch in Shelby. The little town has supported, backed and followed Curt in a way that amazes his teammates. People in Shelby raised $26,000 to get him started a decade ago. They put up billboards celebrating his gold medal. Last December, when Amy Tomasevicz got the idea to charter a bus and take folks to Utah to watch her son race in a World Cup event, 100 people made the trip.
“The town definitely gets behind him and supports him and it’s a nice thing for everybody,” said Tony Hernbloom, one of the bus trip participants and manager of the A & B Grill’n Bar in Shelby.
The A & B will be one of the places in Shelby packed when the four-man bobsled competition begins on Feb. 22. “This will probably be the bobsled capitol of Nebraska, for sure,” Hernbloom said, laughing.
Because who ever said you need mountains to grow a bobsledder.
Life of a Bobsled Athlete
(Feb. 12 NET News Signature Story by Mike Tobias, NET News Senior Producer/Reporter)
Nebraska native Curt Tomasevicz is competing in his third Winter Olympics as a member of the U.S. bobsled team. Mike Tobias talks one-on-one via telephone from Russia with the Shelby native and past Olympic gold medalist about his career, the life of a bobsledder and his job on the sled.
MIKE TOBIAS, NET NEWS: As a push athlete, you have five seconds where basically it’s make or break for you to greatly impact how your team performs. That’s a lot of pressure.
TOBIAS: It strikes me as something for which there’s really quite a bit of choreography.
TOMASEVICZ: Yes. It’s all timed. We do practice runs and we figure out exactly the perfect depth for the entire team to run and get into the sled as quick as possible, get into that aerodynamic position. I know exactly where my teammate is going to put his hands as he loads into the sled, so I don’t put my hands in the wrong spot and we run into each other. You’re right, it’s very choreographed.
TOBIAS: And the difference between a good start and a bad start is a really, really small amount.
TOMASEVICZ: Two or three hundredths of a second will be the difference between starts. A lot of times we do a tie at the bottom of the run to a hundredth of a second. Our sport is very, very tight, very close, even going at speeds over well over 80 miles per hour.
TOBIAS: So after the start and you’re in the sled, what’s it like? What do you hear? What do you feel?
TOMASEVICZ : I think all your senses are on rapid-fire. First of all, you’re feeling when to get into the sled. You’re looking for your teammates. Also, as you’re going down the course, sometimes it’s your job, since you’re not driving, you’re also trying to hear if something is wrong with the sled, if there’s a certain vibration, if something sounds off. You’re usually the one that the coaches go to to see if there was something else that was not working with the sled. But going down in a sled, it’s I really haven’t found a good way to describe it. One, rough. Two, just pure excitement and adrenaline is flowing. It’s really exhilarating.
TOBIAS: Do you know how you’re doing?
TOMASEVICZ: Yes. I’ve been in a sled, it’s my tenth year, but even after a year or two, you can really start to pick up what the pressures feel like and of course you can’t see, but you know how much pressure you should feel on certain curves and what it’s like to flop out of a curve maybe a little too early or hold onto that pressure a little bit too late. You can really tell if you’re losing speed that way and you’re not kind of rocketing off and slingshotting off a corner. Then of course we can tell if we’re tapping the sides or skidding sideways, but really using those pressures to tell if we’re having a good run is something that just comes with experience.
TOBIAS: Do you have a job that doesn’t involve being a bobsledder?
TOMASEVICZ: No. This is my full-time job minus the pay, I guess. I do a lot of speaking at different events and I’ve got some sponsorships that help me get by financially. But yes, for the most part, this is my full-time job. We are given a very small stipend, enough to pay for cheap housing and a cell phone bill, per month from the United States Olympic Committee and that’s only our top team. Only about four, maybe five guys in the country get to do that and call themselves a full-time bobsledder. Yes, it is a meager living. A lot of guys live at the training centers in Colorado Springs or Lake Placid, N.Y., 25, 30-year-old guys are still living in the dorm, which is kind of humbling in some ways. But I’ve been able to move off site and actually have my own place too. So again, it’s part of the sport and a lot of guys wouldn’t trade it for anything.
TOBIAS: Do you ever stop and think that you know now that you’re on your third Olympic team, you’ve won gold and you’ve done well in World Championships, that you know you were probably one of the more successful bobsled athletes in U.S. history?
TOMASEVICZ: I guess it’s one of those things where it just kind of sneaks up on you how long you’ve been doing it and how successful I’ve been doing it. It’s not something I really thought about year-by-year. Now that this is probably my last race coming up here, you look back and think yeah, it really was a pretty fun life and I guess I accomplished a lot and met some great people too. The awards, first place, second place, third place, they’ve been fun of course. Winning is always a good time. But more than that, I’ve met some pretty incredible people that I’ll know the rest of my life and I got to go through some pretty awesome experiences that aren’t necessarily recorded on paper.
TOBIAS: Going back to some of the experiences that you’ve been able to have because of your success, which is better: playing on stage with Pearl Jam, or throwing out the first pitch for a Cubs game at Wrigley Field?
TOMASEVICZ: It’s a tough call. I grew up a Cubs fan since I was about 6, 7-years-old, since I understood what baseball was, and I’ve liked Pearl Jam since they started in the early 90s. Those moments were pretty awesome. To play (the song) “Yellow Ledbetter” with Pearl Jam on stage and staring back at the audience was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done.
TOBIAS: You’re 33. Is this your last Olympics?
TOMASEVICZ: Yes, it’s my last Olympics and honestly, it’s probably my last season as well. There’s a chance I could maybe come back for one year, kind of a final tour but at the same time, I don’t want to take a spot away from an athlete who is up and coming and wants to compete at the 2018 Olympics. My knees and back are getting a little tired and it’d be good to take a break and I think I’ll be ready for a new adventure pretty soon.