C odie Bascue’s bobsled career reaches a major milestone this Sunday, and he’s hoping it will help him take one more step toward his dream of representing the United States in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Sunday, the 17-year-old from Whitehall will step to the starting line at the top of the Olympic Sliding Centre Innsbruck where he will represent the United States at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, which are being held until Jan. 22 in Innsbruck, Austria.
At his back are years of determined hard work. In front of him will be 1,506 meters of icy drops, banks and turns; and an opportunity to fulfill his dream of earning an Olympic gold medal in bobsledding.
“It’s going to be crazy (walking into the Opening Ceremonies under the American Flag). I don’t know how it’s going to feel. It’s going to be unlike anything I’ve felt before,” Bascue said during a spaghetti dinner fundraiser held at the Elks Lodge earlier this month.
More than 1,000 athletes ages 14 to 18 representing over 60 nations, including about 40 from the United States, will compete in the games.
A senior at Whitehall High School and standout athlete on the football and baseball teams, Bascue has been bobsledding since he was introduced to the sport by his grandfather, Alan, a former push athlete, when he was eight years old.
At 13, Bascue began piloting adult sleds and last year began competing on the America’s Cup Tour, finishing eighth overall in the series as a two-man driver, and 11th overall in the world as a junior.
Competing in the Youth Olympic Games has been one of Bascue’s goals since he learned he was eligible for the event, and he’s spent the last year working toward that goal.
Last month the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announced that Bascue and brakeman Jake Peterson of Princeton, Minn. would be the lone American bobsledding team competing in the youth games.
They qualified for the games after sweeping the men’s qualification races which were held in Park City, Utah and Calgary in November, earning gold medals in all four races.
But Sunday’s event will feature seven teams that Bascue and Peterson have not seen, including Germany and Austria, both of whom are considered gold medal threats and who have traditionally dominated the sport.
“It’s the toughest competition we’ve seen. The Germans have a very good coach and they and Austria will have the track advantage,” said Bascue.
Optimism is high for the duo. According to Amanda Bird, Marketing and Communications Manager for the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, Bascue and Peterson are a strong threat to stand on the podium on Sunday.
Bascue said past Olympians, including his coach and teammates father, Darin Peterson, have been giving the duo advice on how to deal with the stress of such a large competition.
“The U.S. Olympic Committee won’t stop talking about our chances for gold. I think it’s possible if we can maintain our push, drive well and deal with the atmosphere. There are going to be a ton of people there-more than the any event we’ve competed in-and it’s going to be extremely loud. We’re going to have to block that out and focus on our specific duties.
I’m hoping to place. If I get gold, I’ll be ecstatic, but I want to be on the podium no matter what.”
The track at the Olympic Sliding Centre Innsbruck, located at the foot of Patscherkofel Mountain in the village of Igls, Austria, isn’t completely unfamiliar to Bascue.
He slid on the track for a week and a half last year and will have made nearly eight practice runs on the track by the time of Sunday’s race.
“It’s slower than most tracks in North America, but more technical. A lot depends on the push and finding speed where you can,” Bascue said.
If the race comes down to a good push, it could play right into the hands of Bascue and Peterson, who are both former football players and set a new youth race push record earlier this season in Park City and Calgary.
Bascue will also be buoyed by his family, who have joined him in Austria and will be rooting him on.
Regardless of how he performs this weekend, Bascue will have little time to savior the experience.
Following the Youth Olympics, he’ll remain in Austria for the Jr. World Championships and won’t return stateside until the end of the month.
In February he’ll be a fore-runner at the World Championships, testing the track in Lake Placid before some the best competitors in the world take their runs.
“It’s quite an honor; only two people get to do it. I’m looking forward to it,” Bascue said.
He’ll finish the season competing in the America’s Cup final in Lake Placid and he’s hoping to get some more time in a four-man sled, which he said opens more doors in the sport.
Bascue said he plans to eventually enter the National Guard and enroll in the World Class Athlete Program as he pursues his ultimate goal of competing in the 2018 Winter Games.
“That’s my big goal,” he said.
The Youth Olympic Games are not expected to be televised locally, but fans and friends can catch highlights of the action on youtube.com/innsbruck2012.