Sunday, June 03, 2001

U.S. bobsledders focus of benefit

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For more than 15 years, Brian Shimer's full-time job has been training and competing as a U.S. bobsledder. He has participated in 14 World Championships, 15 World Cup circuits and four Winter Olympics.

        Time demands have not permitted him to work. Travel demands have prohibited him from calling any place home for more than a few months at a time.

  • What: Fund-raiser for American Bobsled Team
  • When: Tuesday (5:30 p.m. social hour and silent auction, 7 p.m. dinner and presentations, 8 p.m. live auction, including NASCAR, baseball, football and Olympic memorabilia, 1975 World Series baseball bat signed by 45 members of the Reds and Red Sox, New Jersey Generals football helmet autographed by Doug Flutie and Herschel Walker, ski and golf trips, limited edition art work)
  • Where: The Syndicate, Newport, Ky.
  • Cost: $100 a person
  • Reservations: Call Ron Pies, (859) 291-7473
        Financial demands require fund-raisers, such as the one taking place Tuesday night at The Syndicate for Shimer and other U.S. bobsled athletes.

        “Our athletes are not being supported anywhere near their foreign competition,” said Matt Roy, executive director of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “I have heard that the top German (individual) has got a budget that is close to our national budget for the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.”

        Shimer, 39, is taking aim at a fifth Olympics, which begin in February in Salt Lake City, Utah. The former Morehead State running back was a member of the U.S. team in 1988 (Calgary), 1992 (France), 1994 (Norway) and 1998 (Japan). In '92, he paired with former football star Herschel Walker and finished seventh.

        “Herschel was probably, by far, the most gifted athlete we ever had out for the sport,” Shimer said. “But at that level, your technique could be a little bit off, then you're just one of the guys. We trained together for two weeks. If we'd have had a little bit more time, there's no doubt we would've won a medal there. But I was willing to take the chance with Herschel and his abilities.”

        Shimer won bronze medals at the 1997 World Championships in the two-man and four-man competitions. He won a bronze in '93 in the four-man. But no American has medaled in the Olympics since 1956.

        In Nagano, Japan, he missed a bronze medal by two-hundreths of a second and a silver medal by seven-hundreths of a second.

        “After Nagano, I'll be the first to admit, I should've retired from the sport,” Shimer said. “But it was hard to walk away, not only coming that close, but knowing the next Olympics would be in our own backyard.

        “My sole reasoning for going back is to end the (medal) drought.”

        Shimer was born in Naples, Fla., where his wife of more than 2 months now lives. A fund-raiser is being held in Northern Kentucky because Shimer has friends, Morehead classmates and his “second family” living in the Greater Cincinnati area.

        He is in Atlanta training at Velocity Sports Performance, a specialized training facility. Shimer is coming off the worst season of his bobsledding career, having undergone two knee surgeries since May 2000.

        The U.S. National Team trials are in October in Park City, Utah, site of the Olympic competition. The two-man Olympic trials are Dec. 28-30 and the four-man Jan. 4-6, also in Park City.

        Shimer is no shoo-in for the team. Yet his experience and dedication make him a sentimental favorite.

        “Brian's doing it purely for the love of the game, sacrificing a lot and not reaping that many rewards, especially financially,” Roy said. “If there's a person in bobsled who deserves a medal, it's Brian.”

        Shimer has been a part of the U.S. Bobsled program since 1985. If he can make the Olympic team and medal in February, his will be one of the feel-good storylines of the Winter Games.

        “Until you march in the Opening Ceremonies representing your country, I don't know if you'd ever quite understand the feeling,” he said. “The goosebumps. The butterflies. Everything.

        “It's a great honor. And I love to compete.”


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