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Nebraska native seeking Olympic medal in bobsled competition


Curt Tomasevicz, second from right, will be racing on one of two U.S. four-man bobsled teams at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Tomasevicz, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Shelby, hopes to win a medal when his team competes Feb. 24-25.

By S.L. HANSEN
Catholic News Service

SHELBY, Neb. "“ At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, Shelby native and Sacred Heart parishioner Curt Tomasevicz was ready to push one of the U.S. four-man bobsled teams down a twisting, turning track and "“ hopefully "“ win a chance to stand on the podium and accept a medal.

The four-man bobsled competition is scheduled for Feb. 24-25. The U.S. was fielding two four-man teams. There was also the possibility Tomasevicz would compete in an earlier two-man event, as bobsled drivers were free to pick the teammate they felt would give them the best speed on the day of the run.

A former linebacker for the football team at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Tomasevicz has been athletic all his life, according to his mother, Amy.

'He was constantly in motion," she told the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper of the Lincoln Diocese. She teaches art at Aquinas Catholic School in David City and, along with her husband, Dennis, attends Sacred Heart Parish in Shelby.

After his football career as a Husker walk-on was over, Tomasevicz entered the master's program in electrical engineering and continued to train in the university's sports center.

Two years ago, another former Husker athlete who was on the U.S. women's bobsled team told him he would make a great pusher "“ one of the guys who help the sled quickly get up to speed for the fastest possible score.

Tomasevicz was not only great, he was just about perfect. Standing 6'1" and weighing 220 pounds, he said, 'I'm right at the average size of a bobsledder." His athleticism was a huge advantage, and he took to the sport rapidly, ousting several more experienced bobsled athletes for a spot on the national team.

"˜God gives everyone different gifts'

'I believe that God gives everyone different gifts or potentials," Tomasevicz said. 'It is what we do with those gifts that define how successful we are."

One of the gifts in his life has been his hometown of Shelby, where locals staged several fundraisers, earning roughly $26,000 to cover his training and travels.

'They've been terrific," he said. 'I couldn't have had the opportunity to be here without it."

It's an expensive sport, especially since there are only 16 bobsled tracks in the world, and the closest ones to Nebraska are in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Calgary, Alberta. Tomasevicz divided his training time between those two sites and strength conditioning in San Diego.

Training to push a bobsled is surprisingly similar to training for football.

'Both require a lot of lifting and hard work," Tomasevicz said.

The only trick was altering his running style. 'As a football player, your muscles are tight because you could be hit at any time," he explained. While pushing a bobsled, running requires a more relaxed gait.

Bobsledding intense and violent

Bobsledding might look like a fun, fast roller-coaster ride, but it is far more intense and violent.

As Tomasevicz described it, 'Sometimes during the heavy curves, the G-forces will cause you to lose your breath."

Plus, any time a person is hurtling down an icy track at an average speed of 80 mph with minimal protection, there is danger.

'I've been in two crashes in my brief career," Tomasevicz said. Each time, the athletes could do nothing but continue sliding down the track upside down, helmets against the ice, waiting for the sled to stop.

'It's enough time to say three and a half Hail Marys!" he said.

Though his dad was unable to make the trip to Italy, his mom, brother and two aunts were all going to be there to witness his Olympic debut.

Although when it comes to bobsledding, spectators really don't get to see much. 'You can kind of hear them coming and then, whoosh!" Amy Tomasevicz said.

Tomasevicz and his teammates "“ called USA-II "“ had every intention of putting themselves in medal contention, of course, even if it meant upsetting their countrymen on the other team, the favored USA-I crew.

But medal or not, Tomasevicz felt he would come out on top. 'I've met so many people, seen so many things and experienced so much," he said. 'Above all, I've learned a lot about myself."

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