The Winter Olympics is six months away, and many Olympic hopefuls are using this remaining time to train in East Tennessee.
East Tennessee State University is an Olympic training site. Brad DeWeese, head performance coach, is working with about three dozen athletes in bobsled, luge and skeleton who hope to see their Olympic dreams come true.
"No one's a guarantee even though a lot of them are returners to their second or third Olympics," DeWeese said, "but I would safely say that nearly a dozen should be on the Olympic team if they play their cards right."
Hunter Church is one of the bobsledders working with DeWeese. He took his first trip on a bobsled when he was seven and has grown up learning the curves of the track.
"I'm a third generation slider so my great uncle slid after World War II in the 1946 Olympic trials, and then my father was an Olympic hopeful for the Calgary games in '88 so it's in the blood, for sure," Church said.
At 20-years-old, this is his first time to vie for a spot on Team USA at the Winter Olympics. He said he hopes the time spent training pays off.
"I'm ranked within the top five pilots in the United States right now so I hope to make a strong push and gather enough points to see what I can make happen," Church said.
Christopher Kinney is another bobsled athlete who originally got his start in track and field events and hopes those skills translate onto the bobsled track.
"After my first crash, I was like why am I doing this, this is crazy," Kinney said. "I kind of think you have to be a little bit, a little bit crazy to even hurl yourself off the top of a mountain in a bobsled going up to 80, 90 miles an hour."
Kinney said he had to adjust his workouts to include more weightlifting, which was a challenge, but he is putting all of his focus into his training for the next six months.
"It's something I've dreamed about since I was a child so I'm hoping to make that dream come true," he said.
Kristen Hurley came to ETSU with a similar track and field background as Kinney, but after trying out bobsled, she decided her path to the Olympics would be in the sport of skeleton.
"It's sort of like bobsled, but it is a single person sled and you're going head first down the track," Hurley said. "It's the same track as bobsled, and you get close to similar speeds, so high 80s, low 90s."
Hurley describes herself as an adrenaline junky who isn't afraid of much. She only recently started training in skeleton, so she is putting her life on hold to train for the 2018 Olympics and even further down the road in 2022.
"It's a slow process, but it's trusting that my coaches here have the right plan for me," she said, "and I'm putting the work that I need to do to get to that point down the road."
For the next few months, the athletes will focus on strength and speed training before hitting the track for trials. The Olympic team for bobsled won't be named until two weeks before the opening ceremonies in February.
DeWeese said he wants his athletes to take in their training one day at a time so that when they compete, it's just like another day in practice.
"I like to watch people attain their goals and to be a part of that process and find new levels of competition and show themselves how far they can grow personally," DeWeese said. "And to be a part of that is a true blessing."
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