Race car driver Geoff Bodine’s keen interest in helping Team USA propelled the U.S. to its first Olympic bobsled gold in half a century
By Josh Barr and Chase McCleary
The United States won the Olympic gold medal in the four-man bobsled at St. Moritz 1948 and in the two-man bobsled at Oslo 1952. For several decades thereafter, no American bobsledder made it to the Olympic podium.
It took a race car driver’s ingenuity to help bring the U.S. back into the sport’s upper echelons.
Watching the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games piqued Geoff Bodine’s interest. Bodine, a longtime stock car driver from Chemung, New York, traveled to upstate New York to visit the what is now known as the Lake Placid Olympic & Paralympic Training Center. Bodine was shocked when he learned that American bobsledders were using European equipment.
“When I heard that our athletes weren’t using American-made bobsleds, that was unacceptable,” Bodine said.
From that, the Bo-Dyn Project was created to build top-notch bobsleds for American racers.
“It wasn’t really until ’96 when we got it right,” said designer Bob Cuneo, who owned Chassis Dynamics and teamed with Bodine on the Bo-Dyn Project – and thus how the project got its name.
At Salt Lake City 2002, the U.S. won three medals in bobsledding, including the gold in the inaugural two-woman bobsled competition won by Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers.
Four years later, Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming won silver in a Bo-Dyn sled. Going into Vancouver 2010, Team USA was seeking the top of the podium once more. The Bo-Dyn project had relocated to Concord, North Carolina, the heart of NASCAR racing, and was implementing research that helped race car builders and engineers build their fastest vehicles. They tested different materials, aerodynamic models and weight distributions – anything that might pick up valuable fractions of a second.
At Vancouver 2010, the Bo-Dyn Project helped bring Team USA to the pinnacle of bobsledding as Steve Holcomb piloted the Night Train bobsled to the four-man bobsled gold medal, the first gold in that event in 54 years for the U.S. The four-man team also included Justin Olsen (a former Air Force Academy football player), Steve Mesler (a former all-Southeastern Conference decathlete at the University of Florida) and Curt Tomasevicz (a former football player at the University of Nebraska).
The sleek black Night Train that they rode to Olympic gold is now on display at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, as is the shiny red two-person bobsled that Bakken and Flowers rode to their gold medal.