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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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A golden interview

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Buffalo's very own Steve Mesler made Western New York and the United States of America proud when he won a gold medal in the four-man bobsled. A City Honors School graduate and former decathlete at the University of Florida, Mesler pursued a bobsledding career after college and didn't look back until he was on top of the podium. His team beat out Germany's silver medalists by just 0.39 seconds to bring home the USA's first gold medal in the event since 1948. Mesler arrived home in true Buffalo fashion, throwing a party that was open to the public at the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery. During the party, Assistant Sports Editor Luke Hammill got the opportunity to take Mesler away from the crowd for a few minutes and sit down for an interview.

The Spectrum:
What made you decide to leave the warm weather as a track and field athlete at the University of Florida and come back to the cold climate to compete as a bobsledder?
Steve Mesler: That's a good question. I wasn't ready to be done yet. My track career hadn't gone where I wanted it to go — I had injury after injury after injury. I finished up with Tommy John surgery as a senior [in college], and I wasn't ready to accept that I had peaked when I was 17 years old at high school nationals, so I was just looking for something else.

S: Your bobsled team went into Vancouver as the defending world champions from the 2009 competitions. Would anything less than a gold medal have been a disappointment?
SM: I would have liked to have said "no," that simply medaling would have been fine, but the only 100 percent satisfaction would have been what's sitting right here [points to his Olympic gold medal].

S: You competed at one of the last events in the Olympics. Did that leave you with any time to absorb the entire Olympic experience?
No, you absorb it a little bit at the beginning, but then for the rest of the time you just go back to work. If you're sitting there and absorbing it, then you're thinking about it all the time and you're feeling too much, so you go to work. You absorb things when you can, but it's two weeks of work for us.

S: Was the training from your track and field career similar to your training now as a bobsledder, or is it totally different?
It was very similar. It crossed over really easily for me. It's a lot of sprinting — all short sprinting, under 90 meters (30, 60, 90 meters). It's a lot of lifting, a lot of [plyometrics], a lot of bounding, hurdle hops, cleans, RDLs [Romanian dead lifts], stuff like that.

S: After the initial push and hop into the sled, what was your job while the driver guided the speeding bobsled down the track?
Our job in the sled is: we have different aerodynamic positions that we put ourselves in on the way down. You have to flow with the sled as you go around turns — the best analogy is being in a car and you're in the passenger seat. If someone takes a hard left-hand turn, you get pushed into the right side door. Well, if that happens in a sled and the driver takes a left-hand turn and you all crash into the right side of the sled, you're going to skid because you're on the ice and lose time from the skidding. So we actually have to flow with the sled as it goes around the turns.

S: Were you worried at all after seeing the unfortunate death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a crash?
No, it was just sad to see. We weren't worried about that. From our standpoint, you can't think about it. You mourn it for a day and then you have to put it out of your head.

S: Now that you're back, what's it been like? You dropped the puck at the Sabres game on March 10.
It has been fun. The Sabres game thing is something I've always wanted to do since I was a kid, so it was very cool. Hopefully I got some good pictures. We went down in the locker room afterward and met the players — they had a day off the next day … it was a good time.

S: I'll get you out of here with this question: What's next? Thinking about a repeat in 2014?
For the first time in my life, I actually don't have to look four years down the road. I don't have to look ahead; I can just enjoy what I've done and not really worry about down the road yet.




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