With Olympic dream fulfilled, Nathan Crumpton chases another

Crumpton hopes to make his second Olympic appearance just months after first

Nathan Crumpton prepares for his second run of the day at the Utah Olympic Park during a skeleton competition last week. Crumpton, who competes for American Samoa, is hoping to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics just months after his first Olympic appearance in Tokyo.
Park Record file photo

Making his Olympic debut in track and field in an empty stadium during a pandemic probably wasn’t how Parkite Nathan Crumpton had drawn it up years ago, but it was still an experience of a lifetime.

Crumpton, representing American Samoa in the men’s 100-meter event during the Tokyo Games, was placed in the first preliminary heat, far away from the bright lights of the finals. He was next to athletes from countries that most couldn’t find on a map, like the Maldives, Togo and Kiribati. There wasn’t a storybook ending for Crumpton, as he finished dead last in his heat after crossing the finish line in 11.27 seconds.

Still, a trip to the Olympics is a trip to the Olympics, and Crumpton is thankful that he experienced it in the first place.

“The entire Tokyo Olympic experience was phenomenal in spite of COVID and in spite of all the restrictions that were in place, it was still a magical couple of weeks,” Crumpton said. “Even though I knew I wasn’t a contender for the finals, it was more the participation factor. It was a dream come true, and I was absolutely thrilled to be there, and it created some indelible memories for me.”

Crumpton’s Olympic appearance was an odd culmination of his athletic career. He originally competed in track and field in college, just as a triple and long jumper. But he’s been chasing his Olympic dreams in a different sport — skeleton — since then before switching back to track for his Tokyo bid.

Four months later, he’s trying to get on the fast track to making it to another Olympic appearance, this time in skeleton. He’s hoping to be the first athlete to represent American Samoa at both the Summer and Winter Olympics and the first at the Winter Olympics since the territory sent a two-man delegation for the two-man bobsled event at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

As soon as Crumpton returned from his trip to Tokyo, it was time to get ready for Beijing. The transition back from track-and-field athlete to skeleton for the second time in his life has been so demanding that he hasn’t really had the time to reflect on his Olympic experience. The only real change that he’s noticed is a small one — he’s added “Olympian” to his email signature.

Self-branding aside, one of the difficulties that he’s faced is that his training for track changed his body. The two sports require different body types, and Crumpton is still feeling some of the effects.

“I ended up losing a lot of weight for the sprinting, and I haven’t been able to put it back on yet for skeleton,” Crumpton said. “It’s a tough set of demands on my body, but overall I think I’m managing it about as well as I can.”

Between training, competing and traveling for races, Crumpton doesn’t have a whole lot of time, let alone extra time in the gym to put the weight back on. But whatever he’s doing is working for him as he pursues Olympic qualification in skeleton for the 2022 Beijing Games.

Qualification is, needless to say, complicated. Crumpton isn’t competing against anyone else from American Samoa for a spot in Beijing, but there are still benchmarks he needs to hit. For one, he needs to be in the top 60 in the world to be eligible in the first place. Crumpton is tied for 25th in the world, so that’s not a problem.

However, there are seven spots for countries that don’t have allocated positions. Those seven positions go to the top-ranked athletes in those countries. Currently, Crumpton is in that top seven, but he’s not kicking back and relaxing until the opening ceremonies, either.

“Basically, I have to stay ahead of the top Spanish slider, the top Australian slider, the top Irish slider and a handful of countries,” he said. “And so far, I’ve done that and I’ve got a bit of a gap between myself and them. So, at the moment I’m sitting in a good position.”

Crumpton celebrated his 36th birthday in October, so he knows that this is likely his last shot at qualifying for the Olympics in skeleton, the sport that he has dedicated his life to for over a decade. But he also knows what he’s capable of and that there’s plenty of gas left in the tank to carry him to February.

“I’m on the back end of my career for sure, I’m past my athletic peak,” Crumpton said. “But I’m still able to put down some competitive runs and still able to mix it with some really fast European sliders, and so I’m feeling alright about it overall. And hopefully the rest of the season goes well, and hopefully I can make it to two Olympics in about seven months, which would be pretty tough and pretty cool, though.”


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