The Bugler

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U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program members SGT Matt Mortensen and SGT Preston Griffal.

The 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia

The Sochi Olympics begin on February 7, 2014 and although the most current news is more about possible terrorist plans to disrupt the Games, be sure and visit ?Defense.gov to see great pictures of the members of the United States Army World Class Athlete Program, who will be participating in the Winter Games. Four of the men are National Guardsmen from New York and more can be learned about them at Army.mil.

In addition to the four ANG soldiers, five others will also compete or coach, as part of the Army World Class Athlete program which was created in 1997 to help Soldier/athletes excel at their sports. The soldiers must all successfully complete required military training to participate. The program pays them to train full-time and, in return, they host clinics for soldiers and act as goodwill ambassadors for the Army and the United States and the United States Olympic team at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

SGT Nicholas Cunningham and SGT Justin Olsen will be part of the United States Olympic Bobsled Team while SGT Matthew Mortensen and SSG William Tavares are part of the United States Olympic Luge Team.

Army SGT Nick Cunningham is from Lake Placid, New York. He competed in the two- and four-men bobsled events at the 2010 Olympic Games and said, "I have all U.S. soldiers behind me as I slide down every track worldwide."

SGT Justin Olsen, a bobsled "pusher," won a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. SGT Mortensen, is a native of Huntington Station, New York and has been competing in luge events since he was 12. He will compete in the two-man luge with SGT Preston Griffall.

SSG William Tavares, 50, is an infantryman in Company B, 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry. He has served in the New York Army National Guard since 1982 and has been involved in the Army's World Class Athlete program since 1998. Tavares finished ninth at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games as a luge competitor. He coached the U.S. women's bobsled teams at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics. As a coach for U.S. National Teams since 1997, Tavares has helped lead athletes to five world championships and 70 medals in World Cup competitions.

Another Soldier/Athlete heading to the Olympics is SFC Tuffield Latour who is a member of the Vermont Army National Guard, and will serve as head coach on the U.S. Olympic Skeleton Team.

Army 1LT Michael Kohn, who will be the coach of the 2014 Bobsled Team, tells his history with the Olympics and what it means to him, "Winning a bronze medal in the four-man event at the 2002 Olympics is my most memorable moment. It was five months after Sept. 11, 2001, in Salt Lake City, with Team USA ending a 46-year medal drought in the sport of bobsled. It came at a time when our country needed it most, and it was the greatest honor I have ever experienced as an athlete. I am a very competitive person, so when I see the best Army for the best nation in the world competing at anything it fires me up and motivates me. I hope our fellow Soldiers feel a little more connected to the Olympics when they see one of their own competing at the Olympics."

Another veteran, to the sport and to Iraq, is CPT Chris Fogt. CPT Fogt competed in the two-man bobsled event in 2010. Fogt is expected to be aboard USA-1, driven by defending Olympic champion Steven Holcomb, who spent seven years in WCAP. He likely will compete in the two-man event, perhaps again with Holcomb. After competing in 2010 Winter Olympics, Fogt deployed to Iraq for one year in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

Visit the Defense.gov website to see more exciting pictures and learn about all the soldier athletes that will be representing the United States. Since the Army's World Class Athlete Program was created, 55 Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard athletes have won Gold, Silver or Bronze medals at either the Olympic summer or winter games.

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