Peru, Nebraska – On Tuesday evening, April 10, Curt Tomasevicz visited the Peru State College campus as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. His presentation, “Have No Fear,” explored his personal growth as an athlete, first joining the Husker football team and then training for three Olympic appearances.
While attending the University of Nebraska, Curt played running back and linebacker for the Huskers, earning most of his playing time on special teams. After an impressive story about joining the Huskers through hard training and the student tryouts, Tomasevicz explained that bobsledding was not the sport of his childhood.
Tomasevicz said, “I was 23 years old and I knew nothing about bobsledding. I had seen Cool Runnings, but that was about it.”
The World-Herald’s top 100 Nebraska Athletes adds some perspective: “Shelby, Nebraska, [Tomasevicz’s hometown] is one of the flattest towns in one of the flattest states in America.”
“The elevation difference between the highest and lowest points is 7 feet. It is literally a town without a hill, one of the last places you’d expect to produce an Olympic gold medalist in bobsled.”
However, during his first season of bobsledding, Tomasevicz landed on the World Cup circuit, consistently pushing on the left side of the USA II sled. He made his Olympic debut in Torino, Italy, in 2006, where his team took sixth place in the four-man competition.
Tomasevicz told Peru State students that his Olympic debut was made possible by the generosity of his Shelby, Nebraska, home. The town raised $25,000 to help Tomasevicz continue training and competing during his journey toward the 2006 Olympics.
His biggest achievement came in February 2010 at the Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, when he, Steve Holcomb, Justin Olsen, and Steve Mesler raced the “Night Train” to the first American four-man Olympic title in 62 years.
Tomasevicz was the rear man for this team and his Peru State talk discussed the difficulties of bobsledding in general with a special focus on his work pushing the bobsled and being the brakeman.
As Tomasevicz walked to the medal stand, NBC’s Bob Costas told TV viewers that Shelby has 690 people, “I’m almost certain he’s the most famous person in Shelby, Nebraska – at least today.”
Tomasevicz went on to also compete in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. There his team won the bronze medal despite a hostile crowd.
Tomasevicz described how loudly the Russian crowd cheered their own teams, including the Russia II team directly competing for the bronze medal, before an announcement that his team was about to compete silenced the crowd. That silence continued throughout the final heat and after their finish.
He told the Peru State students that the continuing silence told him, before he saw a clock or official results, that the American team would win the bronze medal. Tomasevicz said it was the “best noise I never heard.”
According to a February Omaha World-Herald story, Tomasevicz’s bronze medal in the Sochi Olympics may be advanced to silver due to the Russian doping scandal. The Russian gold medal bobsled team is among those alleged to have benefited from the elaborate urine replacement scheme.
A part of Tomasevicz’s story included explaining how his training evolved as he aged. The all-out training that had gained him a spot on the Husker football team was no longer the path to success. Instead he worked with a trainer to find a path to being in peak condition when he most need to be there.
There was also an emphasis on the fear of accidents, leading to a description of what happens when the bobsled overturns. According to Tomasevicz, the initial impact bruises shoulders and bangs helmets into the ice.
Then the 400-pound bobsled falls on the team. While this is happening, gravity pushes the accident downhill, often still at speeds approaching 90 miles an hour.
There was no indication from Tomasevicz that the 20-25 accidents of his career ever caused him to reevaluate his commitment to bobsledding.
Instead Tomasevicz explains, “My first bobsled trip was just like my last bobsled trip and every trip in between.”
He was scared the whole time, but that drove his sense of accomplishment.
“Overcoming that fear is something special.”
Tomasevicz is now an engineering professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a researcher in the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab. He recently completed his PhD in engineering.
Peru State established the Distinguished Speaker Series in fall 2010 as part of its commitment to student engagement and success. The intent of the Series is to bring diverse, nationally and internationally recognized speakers to southeast Nebraska to enrich the educational experience of students while also providing the surrounding communities with opportunities to engage in interesting and relevant topics.
Speakers are encouraged to connect with the community in a variety of ways during their visits through classroom discussions, guest lectures, meet-and-greet receptions and a keynote address.
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