Navy bobsledder caught up in qualifying nightmare

January 14, 1992|By Bill Glauber

When the U.S. Olympic bobsled team went looking for a few good men, Bob Weissenfels decided to enlist.

Playing football and competing in track and field at the Naval Academy provided Weissenfels with the perfect profile to become a bobsled pusher. He was strong, fast and accustomed to taking orders.

But his Olympic dream is becoming a legal nightmare.

Weissenfels, who earned one of eight Olympic berths during a July trial, must qualify for the bobsled team again this week in Altenberg, Germany.

The restaged trial, which begins today and concludes Saturday, was ordered by an arbitrator who ruled in favor of a complaint filed by Edwin Moses, Willie Gault and Greg Harrell. But Moses, a two-time Olympic hurdling gold medalist, announced yesterday that he will not participate in the new trial -- preferring to concentrate on training for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

"When they told me I had to qualify again, I couldn't believe it," Weissenfels said. "I never thought they would go through with it. Never."

But Weissenfels, 23, a Navy ensign who lives in Richland, Wash., has endured a crash course in the Byzantine world of bobsled politics.

And now, his life is on hold.

To concentrate on the Olympics, Weissenfels delayed from November to next April his flight training in Pensacola, Fla. Eleven members of his family also bought non-refundable airline tickets and made non-refundable lodging arrangements to attend the Winter Olympics next month in Albertville, France.

Weissenfels, Navy's top male athlete for 1991, will miss the Washington Touchdown Club's annual awards dinner Saturday night.

Still, he hopes to be the first Naval Academy graduate to appear in the Winter Olympics.

"People had always told me stories and things about the bobsled federation," he said. "The more that happens, the more I'm amazed."

A three-year letterman, two-year starter and co-captain on the Navy football team and a competitor in the heptathlon, javelin and long jump, Weissenfels graduated from the academy in the spring of 1990. He received his first push tryout that summer, passed a six-stage test of speed and strength, and then took his first slide in Calgary, Alberta.

"I didn't even know what was happening the first few times," he said. "But I knew I liked it."

Despite the new trial, Weissenfels is confident that he will make the team and appear at the Olympics in either a two- or four-man bobsled.

"I'm still going to go over there and give it all I've got," he said. "It has always been a dream of mine to be an Olympian, and it still is. I'll do whatever it takes to make the dream come true."

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