The story told how the Westporter — a former national luge team member-turned-bobsledder, whose Olympic dreams were shattered several times by injuries — had joined a small non-profit determined to end years of failure by US bobsled teams.
Vester and his group’s goal was to make the best sled possible. In 2010 — when the story ran — the Americans had just won gold in the 4-man bobsled, at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It was our 1st since 1948.
Another 4 years, another Olympics.
Vester is still involved. His project — called Bo-Dyn — is sliding rapidly downhill. In bobsled terms, that’s great.
Last weekend, at World Cup races in Lake Placid, the various men’s teams went a perfect 7-f0r-7. The women’s teams had plenty of success too.
John Vester at Lake Placid yesterday. The US sled is visible below his arm.
Vester — whose day job is as a principal with KPMG’s Advisory Services — is thrilled with the US successes. He’s part of a team that has worked long and hard to get this country where it is, in a sport long dominated by Germany and Switzerland.
The Olympics in February are one more — well, mountain to climb. Vester is cautiously optimistic.
But he won’t be in Sochi to see it.
He’s headed to Lake Placid, where he and the rest of his Bo-Dyn team will watch on TV, in a special facility.
Right next to the US Olympic Committee’s bobsled run.
If you’re like me, you were probably surprised there were no local connections to the recent Olympics — beyond, of course, the few dozen Westporters who traveled to Vancouver, and the thousands who watched on TV.
Now I’ve found one.
The story starts years ago, when John Vester was a boy in Ohio. He loved watching “Wide World of Sports” — which, spanning the globe, every February found sledding events. One day Jim McKay — a Westporter, though that has nothing to do with this story — turned to the camera after another dismal US performance and said: “Kids! America needs you!”
John’s father — an Army colonel and college professor — could not buy him a $5,000 bobsled. But a luge cost 1/10 that amount, and John was hooked.
He made the national luge team, and for 5 years trained for the Olympics. He traveled to Lake Placid, Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe. Just before Calgary in 1988 he tore his rotator cuff — a bad injury, because shoulders are a key component of luge — and at 25 realized he had to move on with his life.
He entered grad school at Yale, and got a real job. Today he’s a partner/prinicipal at Ernst & Young. For the last 10 years he’s been a Westporter.
But John never lost his love for winter sports.
Several years ago he did what many former lugers do: He took up bobsled. He performed well prior to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, but then he separated both shoulders — and, soon after, broke a rib and suffered a concussion.
His wife put her foot down — “nicely,” he says — and his athletic dream died.
In the fall of 2002 he joined the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation’s new board — as usual, our Olympic performance sucked, and changes were needed — and tried to put together the best pushers, drivers, coaches and sleds for the 2006 Torino games.
Despite much hard work, a variety of factors caused the board to resign — en masse — just before the Olympics. Once again, the US team failed to medal.
In the aftermath of that sporting disaster, a small non-profit was formed. John was asked to join the 4-person board. That tiny group — with just 1 paid executive director, and 1 designer-manufacturer — got right to work.
“We had a single-minded focus,” John says. “We wanted to make the best sled possible. The Germans have a massive government machine behind them, but we thought we could do it.”
Slowly, they did. Last year, Americans won World Cups and world championships.
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