Already an Olympic silver winner, US bobsledder Shauna Rohbock sets sights 1 step higher

By Tim Reynolds, AP
Monday, February 22, 2010

Outspoken Rohbock set to resume gold chase

WHISTLER, British Columbia — U.S. women’s bobsled pilot Shauna Rohbock stands by her words.

The Olympic sliding track is “stupid fast.”

She’s already proven to have a smart way of handling it, too.

A silver medalist from the 2006 Turin Games — and if they gave out medals for being outspoken, Rohbock would already have one of those from Vancouver — the former college soccer star will be among the favorites for gold when the two-day women’s bobsled event opens Tuesday on the super-fast surface at the Whistler Sliding Center.

“It’s the elusive medal. Everybody wants to win it,” Rohbock said this week when asked what Olympic gold would mean to her. “You put so much pressure on yourself and you want one, and then there’s combination of that with this track — it gets everything going.”

Oh, she got everything going, all right.

There’s no denying that the track and its speeds have been the talk of the Olympics after a Georgian luge athlete was killed in a training crash.

Rohbock amped up that angst after her first night of training in Whistler, offering the “stupid fast” assessment.

While no other pilot in the field has used the same phrase, competitors agree the souped-up track is maybe the most unforgiving ever built.

“The track is definitely fast and it’s probably, I would say, close to the limit for bobsleigh,” said Canada’s Helen Upperton, who has been down the chute more than 150 times — well over 100 times more than any non-Canadian driver in the field. “They’ve done a lot of work on the track the last two years because we’ve actually had a lot more problems.”

That work continued Monday.

A round of four-man supplemental training was halted for a long meeting between representatives from more than 10 national teams, along with international bobsled officials and those who maintain the Whistler track. A decision was made to shave a bit of ice out of the problem areas — around curves 11, 12 and 13, mostly — to make the track a touch easier to navigate.

It’ll still be faster and probably tougher than any track in the world.

“It’s going to test everybody,” Britain’s Nicola Minichiello said. “And that’s fantastic for the sport.”

Typically, the harder the test, the better Rohbock gets.

Want proof? Go back to Feb. 6, 2009.

That was the day the first World Cup bobsled race was held at the Whistler track. Rohbock had the best time in both runs, giving her a win by nearly two-tenths of a second over Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse — gold-medal hopefuls from Canada at these Olympics.

A World Cup gold is one thing.

Olympic gold, that’s what still pushes Rohbock more than she’ll ever publicly say.

“Having a silver in her back pocket gives her confidence — and gives her something to work toward,” said Mickie Rzepka, Rohbock’s brakeman. “I think she should be confident going into the race and I know as a team we are. Our push will be there, and her experience driving is definitely top-notch. We’re excited.”

Rohbock isn’t letting that show.

Outwardly, Rohbock hardly ever lets her emotions shown. Good run, bad run, it’s fairly tough to ascertain what she’s thinking by seeing her face.

Behind closed doors, Rohbock just might be the comedian of the U.S. roster.

“With Shauna, all you see is the game face, straight face, maybe a helmet toss once in a while,” said USA-3 driver Bree Schaaf. “But she’s one of the funniest people I know. She is sharp. The stuff that comes out of her mouth, it’s always thoroughly entertaining. It makes for a good time.”

So does winning.

That’s what Rohbock came here for.

All the talk of “stupid fast” tracks and the stir that created hasn’t rattled Rohbock. She’s familiar with the view from the Olympic podium, and all that remains is moving up one spot.

Given that she’s won in Whistler once before, that “elusive medal” might not be so elusive after all.

“Four consistent runs will make me happy,” Rohbock said. “Four consistent runs. I think four great runs will make me happy, and if they’re on the medal stand, that’ll just be a positive to that.”

will not be displayed