U.S. bobsled coach still fired up in his eighth Olympics

Associated PressFebruary 15, 2014 

Bobsled Hall of Fame



KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Brian Shimer rarely shows emotion.

Except, that is, when he's talking about the Olympics.

The Sochi Games are the eighth Olympics for the Naples, Fla., native, who competed in five as a bobsledder and the last three as a U.S. coach. He's been in bobsledding more than half his life, always driven by the spectacle that comes around once every four years and gets the soft-spoken 51-year-old fired up like almost nothing else.

"This is where I belong," said Shimer, who played football in college at Morehead State. "I don't wake up every morning and find it hard to get up and get after it. It's not work to me. I feel lucky, really, that I'm able to do something I love so much. Simple as that."

In normal conversation, he sometimes can be tough to read.

Get Shimer going about the Olympics, and his tone changes in a hurry.

"Shimer cares more about athletes, more about our well-being even more than I think he even cares about how we do on the track," U.S. push athlete Curt Tomasevicz said. "That comes out in the way he talks and the way he acts around us too. He'll tear up. He'll show emotion and he's not afraid to show how much he cares. That means the world to us."

Shimer's career as part of U.S. bobsled is perhaps as storied as anyone's. He raced with Herschel Walker in the 1988 Olympics, piloted USA-1 in three different Olympic races and capped his career with a four-man bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, when he was chosen to carry the U.S. flag into the closing ceremony.

"Goosebumps kind of come over my body," Shimer said, talking about his Olympic emotions. "I have a hard time getting up and speaking about it, I get emotional and that doesn't change. It's a passion. It's an honor to represent your country."

Much of his success came in four-man. The two-man, that's a void, one he wants desperately to fill.

"This would be the one achievement that is left for me ... the pedestal that I'd like to reach," Shimer said.

He has two children, ages 6 and 8, and being away from them for long stretches of time does take a toll on him. Shimer has questioned whether it's worth it to make such a personal sacrifice, and while he said he doesn't know what he'll be doing next year, the U.S. program is clearly hoping that he'll stick around.

Although it would make sense for Shimer to think about retiring if his two-man goal is finally fulfilled, all that talk can wait.

His sliders, as he urges them repeatedly, are just focused on the present. And they know that a two-man medal — the U.S. has not won a single gold, silver or bronze in two-man at the Olympics since 1952 — would show Shimer that those personal sacrifices he's made were worthwhile.

"We probably don't quite understand what it would mean to him," Tomasevicz said. "He's been in the sport, what, 20 years more than we have? He's had good times and a lot of bad times too. He'd be very fired up. Seeing how he was after we won the four-man gold medal four years ago, it'll be that times 10 for him."

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