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Combat Bobsledding


For many of us who have a conscious memory of the 1980s, the sport of bobsledding holds a special place in our hearts for one, simple, pop-cultural reason: the Jamaican bobsled team.

I'm not proud of the fact that more than 20 years after a rag-tag crew from the Caribbean island made an attempt at Olympic glory, it's still my first association with the sport. But I was young and impressionable. I can still hear the catchy little theme song that some clever (read "sadistic") television network marketing agent came up with to stick in my young and impressionable mind.

Regardless of the impetus, every winter Olympics since 1988, I have made time to watch the bobsledding events. The idea of jumping in a sled and hurtling down a twisting, ice-covered track is inexplicably appealing. Maybe it's because, in my mind at least, the sport has a vague association with childhood sledding.

I realize that bobsledding is far more complicated, dangerous and challenging than sledding down a hill in the back yard, but it still just sounds like fun.

While, alas, I doubt I will ever have the chance to put on one of those aerodynamic one-piece jumpers and fly down the ice in a near free fall, some lucky Treasure Valley athletes will have their shot at the dream.

The U.S. men's bobsled athlete recruiting tour--organized by fellow Olympic hopeful Jay Noller--will be in Boise on Saturday, July 4, at Timberline High School, giving area athletes the chance to earn a spot on the team.

That's right. Now, even bobsled virgins will have a chance to be part of the U.S. men's bobsled team--at least the guys will.

The tryouts are open to all male athletes age 18 and older, and the top performers from events held in Orlando, Denver, San Francisco, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as Boise, will be signed to a one-year development deal with the team.

The only cost for trying out will be sweat and blood, and possibly, a little dignity. Wanna-be bobsledders will be put through their paces to test strength, speed and agility, as well as something called "explosiveness" in a release sent out by organizers.

Upon analysis, I'm assuming they mean how quickly someone can get going from a dead stop, but I can't help but think how much more exciting bobsledding would be if it involved actual explosions. Imagine the high-tech sleds screaming down the track, dodging fiery explosions to the roar of the crowd ... it would surely earn the sport some avid new fans.

Until that time comes, and tactical training is considered a plus, athletes trying out will run 60-meter sprints, toss a medicine ball and complete a vertical leap test. But with images of combat bobsledding in my head, that all seems kind of mundane now.

Men who want their shot at the team should show up at the Timberline High School track, 701 E. Boise Ave., by 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 4. For those who would rather just take in the spectacle, the tryouts are open to the public and will get under way at 10 a.m.

Personally, I'm going to hold out for the time when the event requires experience handling C4. Maybe that will finally get the Jamaican bobsled song out of my head.