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Former UCSB sprinter and current Olympian bobsledder Nick Cunningham completed his participation in the World Championships this past weekend, driving his rookie team to finish ahead of a slew of experienced veterans in both the two-and four-man bobsled races. Serving as pilot in the World Championships for the first time in his career, Cunningham proved to be an enormous asset to his country and was able to contribute to the United States’ eventual domination in the World Championships (overall the USA took home five medals; four of those were gold).
In the two-man bobsled event, Cunningham was able to pilot his sled with rookie teammate Dallas Robinson to post an overall time of 3:44.35, good for 9th place out of 26 teams.
“Just for us to come out there and push as well as we did was kind of a shock to everyone,” said Cunningham. “Nobody thought we were gonna go out there and do that, so now we gotta build off that and … move forward.”
In the 4-man event, paired with fellow rookies Jesse Beckom, Johnny Quinn and Robinson, Cunningham was able to guide his USA-3 team to times of 5.07 and 5.04 seconds, for overall runs of 54.53 and 54.59 seconds in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Saturday. The team’s total time of 3:39.68 marks Cunningham’s best as a pilot and represents a small sliver of the progressive personal growth that he has undergone since the start of his bobsled career in 2008.
“It’s kind of a stepping stone to what I really want to accomplish overall in the sport … not only … to make a statement for myself and my team, but also to see where I stack up,” Cunningham said.
On top of his experience gained from this past World Championship, Cunningham also had the joy of being able to witness fellow U.S. bobsledding pilot Steve Holcomb and his other USA-1 representatives capture the Olympic gold medal in both the two-and four-man bobsled races. In doing so, Holcomb became the first person in the history of the sport to finish first in every event he participated in.
“I was actually their alternate when they won the gold medal back in 2009, so to … watch them ultimately come here and make history by winning the two- and four-man, which has never been done before, is just a really cool thing to watch,” Cunningham said. “It’s motivating to me because even though we’re all on different teams we’re all pretty close.”
Although Cunningham didn’t place as high as he’d originally hoped, there’s no doubt in his mind that he’ll be back again next year, once again competing for another gold medal to add to his already extensive list of accolades.
“I’m definitely hungry now. I really wanted a top-10 finish … but that’s racing,” Cunningham said. “It won’t always work out there on race days, so I gotta get out there and get ready for the season and always try to get a little bit faster.”