NAC slides into bobsledding history
Even with all of the American victories this weekend at the
International Bobsleigh and Toboggan Federation (FIBT) Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP), the most historic feat took place before the competition even began.
For the first time, a two-man disabled bobsled foreran a World Cup Bobsled event.
The National Ability Center’s (NAC) Aaron Laningham and brakeman Matt Profitt drove their way into the history books all weekend long, culminating with a special reception in honor of the occasion before forerunning the four-man event. On hand were sled designer and former NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine and NAC chief executive officer and co-founder Meeche White, as well as countless people that helped the dream finally become a reality.
"It feels great," White said. "I feel proud of how many communities came together to make it happen and we are so excited. This is something I’ve wanted to see since the Park opened."
White said the dream became a reality thanks to many people within and outside of the sport working hard to make it happen.
"All the representatives of bobsled were supportive," White said. "We are so appreciative to the staff of the Olympic Park, because everyone went out of their way to make it happen for us."
For Laningham, the driver, the experience was almost surreal.
"We’re not used to having anyone up here. To have a bunch of people up here cheering is neat," Laningham said. "The World Cup is the best racers in the world and to just have the opportunity at the same time they’re here…"
"Just the whole thing," Profitt said. "The crowd is a big part of it the other athletes, the other countries."
The duo has been practicing for months together and finished just a few seconds over that of some America’s Cup drivers. Profitt, an amputee, says that pushing using his prosthetic foot has not made a big difference in his abilities as compared to those of able-bodied brakeman. In fact, he prides himself that, unlike his able-bodied counterparts, he gets no help from his driver who only has use of his arms, and must push all 180 pounds out of the starting area.
The two count about 35 runs together on the Park City track and hope to travel to Calgary to help spread the disabled bobsled fever to another country. Seven countries need to be able to compete in the sport to make a bid for it to one day become a Paralympic sport.
For a speed junkie like Laningham, who used to race motorcycles, the thought of continuing to advance the sport is thrilling.
"I’m looking forward to a different track," Laningham said. "I’m a racer from before, so I’m anticipating going somewhere else."
The NAC is waiting to hear if they can compete with the able-bodied racers in the America’s Cup competition this week at the UOP.
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