How would you describe your sport?
Skeleton is relaxed chaos. It's a sport that combines power, strength, speed, and then a mental state that is beyond any other sport. It requires an intense focus and ability to stay calm in a-in a really intense situation... Have you ever had those dreams where you're flying and you can soar all over the world anywhere you want in your sleep? When you do it right, that's what the sport feels like.
Is fear a daily part of skeleton?
Fear has a lot to do with why I do it. Actually I enjoy conquering my fear and overcoming that anxiety and being able to think calculated and precise about what I'm doing going down the hill. And I don't know if it's so much thinking as it executing a plan. That's what makes the sport unique.
What do you think about the Olympic track?
The Whistler track is my favorite. It's got the speed, it has the steepness, the intensity. You make a mistake, you could easily be on your back within seconds. Or less than a second. It's the steepest track in the world, so you get to top speed by curve three or four... and by the bottom you're getting close to 90 [miles per hour]. So man, the track is right up my alley.
What did you take away from your first Olympic experience?
There's nothing like the first moment you walk into the arena in Opening Ceremonies. I realized while I was there that it wasn't about me and it was about something much bigger than myself. And that was a shocker. Being 21, that young, you know, the world is all about you. You walk in there and the whole world is there and the whole world is watching... And you're there for the Olympic movement, the Olympic spirit. You're not there for yourself. You're there to represent something bigger than yourself, including your country, your family, your hometown. Carrying that through the Opening Ceremonies was inexplicable and it was a huge honor.
How do you avoid getting overwhelmed?
That's something I think I'm going to do better this time around. The first time I went to the Olympics I was young. I hadn't really been to any major event yet. And walking in with the weight of so much responsibility and honor was just overwhelming. I was 21 and just like, ‘Whoa, I'm at the Olympics.' And this time I'm going to walk in and say, ‘Alright, I know what I'm here for. I know why I'm here. I'm going to do it for my dad.'
What did your dad teach you?
My father taught me everything. He taught me how to write, he taught me how to read. He taught me my work ethic and a lot of perspective on life. Everything I have learned from him, I'm able to use in sport and in all walks of life. It's part of what makes it such a huge bummer he's gone. He was my best friend.
What was the hardest part of last season for you?
When he finally passed away and I stepped onto the line at World Championships, and the reality set in that he wasn't there. He's never missed a race. Not a big race. He's been at every World Championships I'd been in. He traveled the world for me. They don't play baseball in Europe, so he got to see some new countries and get some new experiences. And we shared them together.
How tough will it be to put the past year behind you?
I never take anything for granted, but I do feel good going into this upcoming season. I've already been through a knee injury. I've been through the worst, I think, with losing my father. And now I feel even more inspired and motivated to do what I know how to do for different reasons and for more experienced reasons. I learned a lot about myself, about my family. And what it means to do what I'm doing. Because you start weighing your priorities when you lose your family... It gave me a whole new appreciation not only for them, and for life, but also for what I'm doing. It is just sledding, but it gives me an opportunity to live a lifestyle I love, help other people and represent a great country... You remember you're there to be who you are. And who I am is a fun-loving kid. I just want to go sledding and win. Because I don't like losing.
Have you thought about your plans beyond Vancouver?
I think I'm going to figure it out after that. I have some definite dreams and aspirations outside of the sport to become possibly a producer, a writer. I want to finish college. And I think that Sochi would be cool. I would love to go to Russia. I think I can do it.
Compiled by Lee Ann Gschwind, NBCOlympics.com
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.