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A Push for the U.S.
U-Idaho alumnus trains for spot on Olympic bobsled team
For Sam Michener, it was just a shot in the dark – one that turned into a chance at the Olympics.
The 2011 University of Idaho alumnus and senior Western Athletic Conference track and field champion was leaning toward nuclear medicine when he discovered his knack for bobsledding.
Having gone to U-Idaho on a full-ride track and field scholarship, the idea of propelling through the air at max speeds is nothing new – but the logistics are different. Instead of focusing on pushing his body, Michener will be pushing a metal sled to reach upward of 85 miles an hour down an icy track.
“Pushing a bobsled is a lot like being a sprinter,” he said. “You’re just pushing something heavier.”
Michener is vying for a spot in the 2014 Winter Olympics come February, to be one of the 11 men selected as part of the three Olympic teams to compete.
Selections are made based on athletic performance during the August Push Championships in Calgary, Canada. In 2012, during his rookie year, Michener was ranked eighth.
“As a rookie, you’re playing catch-up on how to push the sled, how travel works, how finances go … and sponsorship,” he said. “Now I’m a second-year guy.”
Michener has been through several trials throughout his college athletic career. On his way home from track practice during his junior year, he was struck by a negligent driver while on a motorcycle. The accident left him with a broken foot, separated shoulder and a cracked vertebra. As a result, he had to have knee surgery.
It also cost him his athletic scholarship senior year. There was fear he would never run again. But during his fifth year at U-Idaho, he managed to earn his scholarship back and was named WAC champion in the 4x100 meter relay.
Michener said having an athlete mentality already engrained has been a benefit.
He said half the athletes competing for the Olympic team have track and field backgrounds. If he is selected, he will be the youngest on any team. Michener is in the middle of his training, balancing time between the Olympic Training center in Lake Placid, New York, and his hometown of Gresham, Ore.
“A typical day of training at the Olympic Training Center is as many hours as working a full-time job,” he said.
A two-hour weight room session is followed by half hour of recovery, including sitting in ice baths and compression machines that help remove lactic acid buildup in the muscles.
After two hours of speed work at the track and field complex, it’s back to the weight room for a final evening session. Michener said most athletes finish the day with a massage or chiropractic session - and this routine is repeated 5 to 6 days a week.
“I have a good speed background and strength background from Idaho,” he said. “Though I trained very hard while running track at Idaho, I have found that training at the Olympic Training Center is much more comprehensive. I think that this is normal when you move from representing your school to representing your country.”
Now, he said, his focus is on gaining weight while still maintaining speed.
“That’s the bridge I’m trying to close right now,” he said.
The United States is one of the few countries in the world that does not fund its Olympic athletes. As a U.S. bobsled athlete, Michener relies on sponsors to help fund travel, training, equipment and more.
Interested in learning how you can help? Email Michener for more information.