Campbell's bobsled hopes improve
Caleb Campbell is still in the Olympic bobsled picture.
Campbell, the U.S. Army soldier and West Point graduate drafted by the Detroit Lions last year before being told his NFL career needed to wait, finished 10th Saturday at the U.S. Bobsled Federation's push championship qualifier in Lake Placid, N.Y.
He's no cinch for the Vancouver roster, but Saturday's times likely earned him a spot in the national team trials, starting in Lake Placid in mid-October. Campbell said two drivers have already asked him about joining their teams.
Jamie Greubel of Newtown, Pa., easily won the women's qualifier Saturday, with Charles Berkeley of Clayton, Calif., prevailing in the men's competition. In all, three women and six men qualified for the push finals next month in Calgary, Alberta.
"I'm a work in progress," Campbell said by phone Saturday. "I'm a competitor in anything I do. Tennis, whatever. I don't care who I'm going against. I want to win. It hurts when you work really, really hard at something and you don't achieve what you want. But it shines a light on things I need to work on even more. So I'm very much encouraged."
Competitors were measured two ways: How fast they could push a sled a short distance from the brakeman position (the back of the sled), and how fast they could do so from the side of the sled.
It's a game where hundredths of seconds make all the difference: Berkeley had the fastest times in both categories, 4.61 seconds from the brake and 4.69 seconds from the side.
Campbell's times weren't far off: 4.74 seconds from the brake, 4.85 seconds from the side.
"I was really nervous today because my timing has been off and you never know how anyone else will perform," Berkeley said. "It's nice coming away with a victory. It was a close competition, but a win is a win, so I'm happy."
Campbell was drafted in the seventh round by the Lions in 2008 and was about to sign a contract when the Army told him that he needed to serve two years on active duty before embarking on a pro sports career. U.S. bobsled coaches called shortly afterward, inviting him to try bobsledding for the first time.
He is still on active duty and even could face deployment, but plans to try resuming his football career in 2010.
"I've accomplished a little bit. Nothing I like I plan to," Campbell said. "I am making gains, making considerable strides. Now it just comes down to how hard I want to work. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to hit the gym, hit the push track and start learning and perfecting."
Besides Berkeley, other automatic qualifiers for the men's push finals included Army World Class Athlete team member Chris Fogt, former U.S. Marine Theron Johnson, Georgia Air National Guard Technical Sgt. Hoy Thurman, 2002 Olympic silver medalist Randy Jones and Hungarian-born bobsled rookie Laszlo Vandracsek, a former track standout at Baylor.
Greubel will be joined in Calgary for the women's push finals by Ingrid Marcum -- a two-time gold medalist in the 165-pound class at this year's U.S. National Weightlifting Championships -- and Tracy Call.
After that competition, American drivers will complete the process of drafting their teams for the coming season.
"We have one of the highest quality pool of athletes I've ever seen in my 24 years of involvement with this sport," U.S. men's bobsled coach Brian Shimer said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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