BSU at the games: representing their country on two fronts

Chris Fogt/BSU at the Games/R. Floyd
Chris Fogt/BSU at the Games/R. Floyd
Justin Olsen/BSU at the Games/R. Floyd
Justin Olsen/BSU at the Games/R. Floyd

A group of Ball State University students are experiencing the chance of a lifetime.

They traveled to Sochi to experience, and report from, the 2014 Winter Olympics.

BSU at the Games is part of the university's immersive learning initiative, and 14 News will be featuring their work throughout the games.

Today, BSU's Hayli Goode has the story two members of the U.S. bobsled team whose first calling was the American military:

It's been six years since Captain Chris Fogt decided to join the Army.

His sophomore year at Utah Valley University, where his dad was a professor, Fogt decided to join ROTC to help pay for school.  But he had wanted to join since he was a kid.

"Well, first, I've always loved America. My dad was in the Reserves, and my grandpa was in the Marine Corp. It's just always been a feeling in my family," Fogt said.

But that's not the only way Fogt decided to represent his country. He is currently on Team USA-1 for bobsledding.

"I get to represent my country on two big fronts and in two different uniforms—both with America's finest people," Fogt said. "They're both pretty dangerous but both a lot of fun.

"Both require a lot of teamwork. With the Army you have the whole camaraderie thing to accomplish missions and tasks and travel around with people. You develop brotherhood … It's the same with bobsled. You also get the same high-powered adrenaline rush from bobsledding as you would jumping out of pilot and going to war."

And he isn't the only bobsledder to do this. Steve Holcomb, driver for the USA-1 bobsledding team, and Justin Olsen, a former member of the USA-1 Team, are also members of the World Class Athlete Program.

The mission of the WCAP, based out of Fort Carson, Colorado, is to promote sports and help athletes make the Olympic Games.

It acts as a sponsor for athletes, paying the same salary as "any other soldier," according to Olsen.

The difference: While other athletes can take on multiple sponsors, the U.S. Army prevents its athletes from taking on endorsements from public companies without consent of the its legal department.

"From now until February, they'll pay for flights, hotels, apartments. Our team is great at fundraising. CEOs are very active on trying to raise money," Fogt said. "That's one of the things we love about this sport. People don't do it for the contract but because they love the sport and love to train. Each person competes for their own reason, but those reasons aren't money."

The USOC also provides $2,000 a month before taxes, coming out to roughly $18,000 a year for the athletes.

"I couldn't ask for a better support system. This allows me not to choose between bobsledding or the Army," Fogt said.

It's a decision he almost made once. Before the 2008 Winter Olympic Games, he said he almost quit, wanting to go full-time Army.

But his mentor, a two-star general, convinced him to stay, saying it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I was expecting some harsh feelings, but I've never had anyone say anything bad to me about it. At the last Olympic Games, I was getting texts from friends in Korea and Iraq, always a lot of support. It helps me feel like I'm doing something good," Fogt said.

He also considers his one-year deployment to Iraq, "an awesome experience."

"Now being home from Iraq, you see what they sacrifice. You have fathers with birthdays and kids on Skype. I've watched people see funerals and their wife and kids get sick. I got to see what their job meant to them and what they go through," Fogt said. "Once I got home, I missed that. I missed the soldiers. Going back to bobsled seemed superficial at first."

Olsen says he is competing in the Olympic Games to provide a sense of pride to his fellow soldiers serving the country.

"For a brief moment, maybe they can get lost in the Olympic movement and see one of their own going against the best of the best and know that I am competing for them as well as citizens of America. It's a great honor to stand on the podium after conquering the world in my sport," Olsen said.

While Olsen says he plans to compete in the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympic Games, Fogt says he plans, at the moment, to go back to the Army full-time.

He will first go to Fort Huachuca in Arizona for six to eight months, then wherever the Army sends him.

"I'll do at least two years back with the regular Army. And if the team is doing great and if I can't contribute, then I won't come back," Fogt said.

If the team needs him to come back in 2018, Fogt says he is not sure if his Army career will let him.

BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 41 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.

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