Passing the pigskin
Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, brakeman and push athlete Justin Olsen spent his high school years playing tight end and quarterback at Sandra Day O'Connor High School, leading the Panthers to the playoffs during his senior year in 2004. His football career continued at Air Force, where he mostly played as a tight end with the practice squad until leaving in early 2006. He was later diagnosed with Patellar tendinitis aka jumper's knee and underwent surgery on both knees that summer. The following fall, Olsen returned to school and playing football at a nearby community college.
Breaking the ice
Olsen credits his bobsled start to his mom, Kim, who encouraged her son to test the sport in 2007 after hearing about tryouts on the radio. Olsen says the adrenaline fix kept him going, once attending a series of bobsled camps. He recalls his first trip down the track as "great," but the "second trip down was amazing."
Taking the 'Night Train'
After his first year on the U.S. bobsled team, Olsen synced up with Steve Holcomb's four-man squad, the Night Train. Earning one silver and two bronze medals during the first half of the 2008-09 World Cup season, the Night Train's crowning achievement came the next spring when Olsen, Holcomb, Curt Tomasevicz and Steve Mesler led USA-1 to the first four-man World title in half a century. The "Night Train" squad also claimed the four-man bobsled World Cup title for the nation's first win in 17 years and took the overall 2010 World Cup crown.
Holcomb, who first met Olsen in 2007, says it's been pretty incredible to watch him improve on and off the bobsled track. "When he first came out, he seemed like he just wanted to do bobsled as a side thing," Holcomb said during a USBSF teleconference prior to the Vancouver Games. "But over the summer of '08, he decided he wanted to be serious about it. He came out and made my team, and six months later he's a world champion. He's worked hard. He's very focused, and he does a great job at everything he puts his mind to."
Olsen's father, Brad, is a national sales manager and a former Augustana College football player. His mother is also a national sales manager. He has one sister, Brittany, and two younger brothers, John and James.
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.