Olympics

Kreitzburg seeking a huge bobsled comeback

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PARK CITY, Utah (AP)

Brock Kreitzburg was once in minicamp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He pushed a bobsled in the 2006 Turin Olympics. There's a long list of World Cup medals on his resume. And somehow, an eighth-place finish in what otherwise seemed like an ordinary bobsled race now tops them all. "My biggest athletic accomplishment," Kreitzburg said. "After everything I've gone through this past year ... it's really satisfying." There was no medal ceremony for Kreitzburg on Saturday night, nobody asking him to pose for pictures or handing him flowers after the first four-man World Cup bobsled race of the season. He didn't mind - not after being told a year ago that his career was over because of an injured left hip, that he might have to rely on a wheelchair within 10 years and seeing his primary funding source dry up in a bad economy. Sure enough, being part of an eighth-place finish in John Napier's four-man sled felt like victory to Kreitzburg. "It's miraculous that he was able to come back from the various surgeries that he's had," said Darrin Steele, the CEO of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. "That's a testament to his believing in his own ability and hard work and staying after it." Kreitzburg's downward spiral really started 14 months ago. After more than a year of chronic hip pain that no one could explain, he was referred to a specialist in Colorado, who finally identified the extent of the damage. Kreitzburg had a torn and calcified labrum, bone chips and a bone spur. It all could be fixed arthroscopically, Kreitzburg was told, and surgery did seem to go well. A few months later, the pain was back, worse than ever - his hip was coming out of its socket, and a second and much more complicated surgery was needed to fix it. Doctors made it clear, his bobsledding career was over. On top of all that, Home Depot - a longtime sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee - ended its program that gave many Olympic hopefuls jobs, Kreitzburg included. "Faith is very important to me," Kreitzburg said. "I was literally crying out to God, 'What are you doing to me?"' Three months after the second procedure, Kreitzburg was cleared to train again toward what even his closest supporters will acknowledge was an unlikely goal. Could an Olympic athlete miss the entire season before the Vancouver Games, plus battle a potentially career-ending injury, and make the team? Maybe so. Other than some minor aches, standard in the sport, Kreitzburg says his hip is fine. "He's already beating the odds," Steele said. "For him to be where he is, it's just remarkable." Napier, Jamie Moriarty, T.J. Burns and Kreitzburg were the team that finished eighth Saturday night out of 26 sleds. As of now, Kreitzburg tentatively scheduled to ride with Napier again when the series shifts to Lake Placid, N.Y. this coming weekend. Napier's quickly becoming one of his biggest fans. "It's really nice," Napier said. "Brock and I are both Christians, and that's definitely a strong point for both of us. We get together and we're a really strong force." Only a few weeks ago, Kreitzburg even being mentioned in the Olympic selection circle looked like a comical notion. There were 16 Americans at the team push championships in Calgary two months ago. Kreitzburg finished dead last. Undeterred, Kreitzburg kept working. Coaches began seeing improvement. Slowly, he worked his way into the World Cup mix again, and he looked much better in the team selection races. "If you look at the surgery that he's gone through and the procedures, it's absolutely phenomenal that the guy has made the team," Steele said. "He wasn't just given the spot. He earned it." It's still a long road to Vancouver for Kreitzburg. But in just a few weeks, he's gone from being an alternate on the USA-4 sled to part of the team racing in USA-3. Before the hip surgeries, he was part of USA-1, racing with driver Steven Holcomb. Kreitzburg insists that he's well on his way to being that good again - if not better. "I've been on a downhill slide," he said. "I'm on the upswing now. I'm going to get healthier and stronger and faster."

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