Former Belmont track and field athlete Austin Landis is one step closer to participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics after being named to the 2015-2016 USA Bobsled National Team Monday.
Landis, a 2015 graduate from Belmont, was one of 23 athletes named to the team in a press release by USA Bobsled and Skeleton, the national governing body of bobsled in the U.S. The final roster was determined in the National Team Trials at Lake Placid, New York over the weekend.
“The coaches had a decent amount of time to look at us, but that’s where you really wanted to stand out,” said Landis. “I pushed with Elana Meyers Taylor, who is a multiple-time Olympic medalist. My teammates and I pushed her to a really good time.”
With previous experience in football, basketball and track and field, Landis has a wide variety of athletic experiences, but bobsled is his newest challenge. Landis was convinced to take up bobsledding while in his senior year at Belmont.
“My friend Vinny Maniscalco, his dad was at one of our track meets, and he suggested the idea. One of their friends was an Olympic medalist in bobsled; so, they were familiar with the sport,” said Landis. “I didn’t start bobsledding until I tried out this past August.”
The selection process for the national team involves a series of combines and events from August to October. Pilots serve as the captains of the team and select their team members for competition in team trials.
The transition to bobsledding has not been completely smooth. Landis competed in ball throw, hammer throw and javelin throw events for the track and field team and said that the transition to a more mobile sport was difficult.
“What we’re doing is pushing a sled as fast as we can, which is similar to sprinting,” said Landis. “When you’re a thrower, you really don’t run that much, so I had to learn how to work on my technique and clean up my running form.”
However, being a thrower also taught Landis valuable skills that have helped him as a bobsledder.
“The sleds weigh over 500 pounds, so you’ve got to have a certain level of strength to get them moving from a dead stop,” said Landis. “In throwing, you carry around your own implements and do a lot of things yourself. Bobsled’s the same way.”
For Landis, the best part of bobsledding is the rush he gets whenever he steps onto the ice with his team.
“There’s so much adrenaline. Your heart’s beating out of your chest,” said Landis. “You’re running as hard as you can and then you hop in the sled. You honestly don’t even remember what happened; it happened so fast.”
With the selection process finished for the national team, Landis and the rest of the team will begin competing in the 2015-2016 Bobsleigh World Cup Nov. 30. His performance in the World Cup could determine if Landis is selected for the Olympic team in 2018.
“At this point, as a rookie, you just try to keep learning everything and stay hungry,” said Landis. “As long as I keep staying healthy and get more time on the ice, I feel very confident about my contributions to Team USA.”