Pyeongchang, South Korea • At the moment, he’s a captain. When he gets home, he’ll be on his way to becoming a major, relocating once again, this time on the move to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he’ll go through a year-long course before officially upgrading in rank.
Right now, though, Chris Fogt’s job is to push like hell for a few seconds, and at the bottom of the long, winding track here in Pyeongchang, South Korea, his other job is to bring what he describes as 900 pounds of man sliding down a chute in a bathtub, to a screeching halt.
He’s the brakeman on one of Team USA’s three four-man bobsleds at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, but when not zipping down a tube of ice, he’s also an active member in the U.S. Army. The 34-year-old from Alpine, who ran track and graduated from Utah Valley University, is back for his third go at this.
He won bronze in the four-man event with the late Steven Holcomb four years ago in Sochi. Afterward, he stepped away from the sport, focusing on his duties in the military and duties at home, with his wife and two young children.
“I thought the last one was [my last],” Fogt said, “but I get that itch, man. It’s hard when you’re an athlete and you’ve been competing as long as you have and you think you still have something to give back to the team.”
Admittedly, it’s different this time around.
Part of the reason he came back was Holcomb, who died unexpectedly last May, three months after Fogt made it known he was returning for another go at an Olympic medal. Their bronze from Sochi stands to be upgraded to silver due to the fallout from the Russian Olympic doping scandal.
Fogt, who is part of the American foursome of pilot Justin Olsen, Carlo Valdes and Nate Weber (currently a sergeant first class in the 10th Special Forces), has embraced his role as Olympic veteran in a relatively inexperienced sled. Valdes tried to walk back to a shuttle after a midweek training session this week, but Fogt redirected him to follow him through the mixed zone, knowing it’s Olympic policy that all athletes must walk through.
It’s a familiar role he’s been in before. Except on a much larger scale. Much larger.
Before being stationed in Fort Carson, Colo., he was a company commander in Fort Hood, Texas. He was in charge of about 100 soldiers, waking up at 4:15 every morning to get to work at 4:45 for 16 months. Getting there that early allowed him to stay in shape, utilizing his lunchtime to go to the gym to work out.
The 6-foot, 205-pound brakeman always has found time to push the envelope.
After his Olympic debut in Vancouver in 2010, he was deployed for a year to Iraq, where he helped train local intelligence agencies in Baghdad to use technology to their advantage to locate and identify terrorists. He managed to stay in bobsled shape the entire year, too. But the 125-degree days forced him to get up early in the morning or stay up late into the night to get in sprint training.
His sled mate Weber had two deployments to Africa and another to Afghanistan. Weber said in Africa you had to make due with makeshift training methods like dragging water cans or pushing trucks and ATVs.
“If it’s somewhat similar to pushing a bobsled, you go and you say, ‘Well, this is good enough,’” Weber said.
As Fogt describes it, his first run in a bobsled down the track in Lake Placid, N.Y., both terrified and exhilarated him. It was loud and violent bobbing around in the sled making tight turns. That itch he mentioned is hard to scratch. Both he and Weber say the initial push of the 475-pound sled, that instant jolt of combined energy, is where these burly athletes must go from an NFL linebacker “trying to sack a quarterback to a ballerina,” to jump into the bobsled in rhythm.
“Like that,” Weber said, snapping his fingers.
Will their friends deployed overseas get to tune into the action Friday and Saturday in South Korea?
Fogt said the Armed Forces Network should be broadcasting the Games. Weber said he’s getting messages from members in his former battalion currently in Afghanistan. They’ve told him they’ll find the time, whether it be in between missions or if they’re resting on base.
“I think the Olympic values and the army values are very closely aligned,” Fogt said.
Could 2018 be it for Fogt? He’ll be 35 in May and admits the intense schedule of serving and worldwide travel makes him miss home now more than ever. After he completes his course at Fort Leavenworth, he’ll go wherever the Army sends him next, he said.
“At that point, if it lines up again, I would love to come back, if the body holds up,” he said. “Not going to take it off the table yet.”