Going for the gold medal

  • Published
  • By Lee Anne Hensley
  • Hilltop Times staff
Staff Sgt. Michael Bradley knows how to serve his country in multiple theaters and on any terrain -- both on sand and ice. After Bradley returned from his last deployment in Iraq with his squadron, the 34th Fighter Squadron, in October 2008, the sergeant took his spot on the Air Force World Class Athlete Program bobsled team to train for the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

"I have been driving bobsleds since I was 12 years old and started in Lake Placid, New York," where he is currently training, Bradley said. 

He is training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with one other bobsledder Airman, a technical sergeant from the Georgia Air National Guard, under the guidance of head coach, 2002 Olympics bronze medalist Brian Shimer, as he prepares for the National Bobsled Combine and Push Championships.
"The combine is a test of both speed and power which involves testing in sprinting, broad jump, shot toss, max squats and max power cleans," Bradley explained. "All events are based on a point scale and those with the highest points after all events are tested will be selected to go to Calgary Canada in order to participate in a push camp at their indoor ice facility." 

If Bradley places in the top 10th percentile in the Calgary championships he will have a chance to officially compete in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games wearing the U.S. Air Force team jersey. 

"I will have to compete this season and accumulate enough points at every race in order to qualify for the games," Bradley said. "The top three U.S. (bobsled) drivers with the most points at the end of the season will be selected to compete in the Olympics."
If he accomplishes that, both of his lifelong goals will be fulfilled. 

"The Air Force had a way to provide a path to accomplish my goals of being an Olympian and wearing the uniform at the same time," Bradley said about the Air Force's WCAP. "It wasn't guaranteed that I would make it into the program when I joined but it was worth the risk." 

The WCAP funds and trains Airmen with Olympic-caliber athletic abilities for a two-year period prior to the Olympic Trial of their respective sport. 

"The World Class Athlete Program is absolutely amazing," Bradley said. "They are there for me every step of the way and are truly the backbone of my training. Without the hard work and efforts of those behind the scenes at Air Force Sports, none of what I have accomplished would have been possible." 

This will be Bradley's second time participating in the WCAP. During his prior participation in WCAP in 2004, Bradley earned seven medals and competed in the Junior World Championships in Igls, Austria, and placed 12th in the Europa Cup in Winterberg, Germany. Bradley was unable to qualify for the 2006 Olympic Games and was required to report back to his job as a life support technician at Hill AFB.
From 2006 until 2008, Bradley continued to work with local bobsled trainer David Cunningham, and took the opportunity to work on his weaknesses and increase his speed and strength. His recent accomplishment was becoming the Utah Winter Games Champion for 2008. 

If Bradley qualifies to compete in the winter Olympics next year, he would see it as an opportunity to further serve the Air Force and his country at the same time.
"As far as what I get from going, well, I get the glory and honor of representing the U.S. Air Force as an Airman and as an Olympian, as well as representing the United States," he said. "It is also a great way to show off the Air Force in a positive way and get people involved who maybe had not considered the Air Force to be an option.
"It feels great to show up to a race in my Air Force gear and see the reactions on people's faces. When we take the sled off the ice, everyone asks to take a picture with it and asks about the Air Force. So it's nice to know that maybe we inspired some young kid to follow his goals and show that anything is possible." 

The only personal gain Bradley gets from competing in a bobsled race is the experience itself. 

"There is nothing like jumping into a sled that's about to go 85 mph down an ice track, just on the brink of being out of control," he said. "And, to know that everything that happens after we jump in depends on how I negotiate the course is a huge rush ... unlike anything else." 

Bradley realizes that none of his accomplishments could have been possible without the support of Team Hill. 

"I just want to thank all those at Hill Air Force Base for the support, especially all the members of the 34th (FS) Rude Rams," Bradley adds. "Schwarma!"