Nathan Weber’s training for the U.S. Olympic bobsled team was unusual. Instead of practicing on ice, he ran wind sprints in the jungles of Cameroon and pushed ATVs in the Afghanistan desert. And that’s because this first time Olympian is also an active Green Beret currently deployed in Colorado.
The rigorous training, he said, made the task at hand simpler. “Work(ed) hard then to have an easy job now,” he said to ABC News.
The Winter Olympics kicked off today in Pyeongchang, South Korea while bobsled events are slated to begin on Feb. 18. Weber, who is a push athlete for the sport, is hoping his Green Beret colleagues who are now posted in South Korea can make it to the stands to watch him compete.
Even though each race barely lasts a minute, the four-person winter sport is not just difficult but also dangerous. “It’s the biggest, scariest rollercoaster you can be on,” said Weber.
The team gets around only two practices on the Olympics track before the opening and six before the race. In those trips, they have to memorize every curve, hoping that their mental imagery is accurate when they are racing on ice at over 90 mph. Athletes aim to think at least three or even four curves ahead, all while holding on to bobsleds D-rings with bare hands at minus 20 degrees.
Elana Mayors Taylor, a third-time Olympian, said the secret is to do as little driving as possible since driving creates friction and slows you down. Taylor, who transitioned from the back of the sled to driver, had a major accident in a 2015 crash that gave her a concussion, which took a year to recover from.
It’s an incident, she said, that changed her life. She plans to donate her brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation in a bid to give back to those who may suffer a similar fate.
“To give back, increase awareness, and increase research,” said Taylor to ABC News.