KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Before pushing off for the final race of the Olympics, in the final U.S. event of these Sochi Games, Chris Fogt's bobsled teammates banded together. If they medaled in this race, it was going to be for Fogt – the Army captain with the pregnant wife at home, the Army captain who will report back to active duty in a little more than two months.
"Today," teammate Steven Langton said, "was more for Chris than anybody else."
When it was over, the four men came together and cradled their bronze medals, and Fogt promised he'd never take his off. No matter where he ended up in a few months – at a stateside base or abroad, in Afghanistan or Iraq or Germany, he just couldn't imagine removing it.
"Knowing what they've done and who else is out there, I've won this for them," Fogt said, cupping his palm around his bronze. "…I've gotten so many emails from Afghanistan, Korea, Fort Hood, Fort Campbell, all over the place. I have a brother now who is a second lieutenant at Fort Hood. His whole unit was cheering for me."
Perhaps there isn't a perfect Olympic ideal when it comes to an athlete, but Fogt comes close. From a town of less than 10,000 in Utah – appropriately named Alpine – Fogt ran track at Utah Valley University before reaching out to the U.S. bobsled program in 2007. He joined the U.S. Army one year later, was deployed to Iraq and enrolled in the military's World Class Athlete Program in hopes of one day competing in the Olympics.
Fogt took a break from active duty in 2010 and his dream became a reality when he served as a pusher for the United States in the four-man bobsled at the Vancouver Games. But that's also the part of his journey that makes him wince when he tells it now. Fogt and the USA-2 sled failed to make the cut at the midway point of the event. He had washed out in his event, and watched his best friend and roommate, Langton, go on to be part of the four-man team that would smash the United States' 62-year drought without a bobsled gold.
"I watched these guys win in 2010 and you're kind of envious of it," Fogt said. "You watch and you think, 'Man, it would be so cool to have one of those.' The past four years, you meet people and they say 'Oh, you went to the Games. How did you do?' I'd say, 'I finished last.'
"It's been tough to say that."
Perhaps even tougher, Fogt left Vancouver and went back to Iraq, before eventually returning to the United States in July 2011. That's when he turned his eye toward Sochi, with an irregular training program that allowed him to make a run as a pusher for the USA-1 sled, along with Langton, Curtis Tomasevicz and driver Steve Holcomb.
All the while, his wife Rachel hung tough, with the support of Fogt's parents and in-laws. That entire crew watched him from the dead of night on Sunday, including his brother and friends, who squeezed into his old speed suits. And there's no telling what other eyes were upon him from various outposts around the world, as Fogt's military brethren cheered him on from all corners.
What they saw was a performance that would wipe away Fogt's four-year lament of finishing the 2010 Olympics in "last place." Thanks to Holcomb's driving and the best push starts in the Games – including a Sochi course record of 4.75 seconds – Fogt and the USA-1 sled tracked down Germany's top crew, which was holding bronze by a .01 margin going into Sunday.
It wasn't the golden finish that Holcomb and the crew was hoping to replicate. But it was Fogt's first medal. Sometimes, that's all that matters.
"I'll tell you the honest truth, my first [medal], I've got something," Fogt said. "I'm very happy about that.
"We crossed the line and I was overwhelmed with emotion. It just felt great. Going to Iraq and coming home and having two and a half years of training for this. It means a lot for me and my family. My wife's at home pregnant, and for the military – just everyone, I'm very excited I could win something for them."
Fogt will now go home and find out whether he and his wife are having a boy or a girl. Then he'll put his Olympic career back on the rear burner and report to Fort Huachuca for active duty, hoping to stay in good enough shape to come back to the program in a few years.
"Whatever the Army tells me to do, I'll fall in line like a regular Joe and do my job," Fogt said.
First, he'll wear that bronze for a while, and maybe figure out when exactly it's appropriate to take it off. And he'll share it with everyone who has pushed and supported him over a grueling four years.
"Now I have something to show for it," Fogt said. "I'm very proud of how we did. I'm proud to race with these guys."