Baltimore's Arcilesi knuckles down, gets pushy Bobsled hopeful: Formerly of Fallston High and Towson State, Jim Arcilesi is on the No. 2 U.S. bobsled team and dreams of competing in the Olympics.

October 22, 1995|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

This isn't the sequel to "Cool Runnings," but the story behind Jim Arcilesi's newfound career might turn out to be the stuff of Olympic dreams.

It all began when Arcilesi, then a student at Towson State, took a nine-month sports science internship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., during the summer of 1993.

"I was looking at it as a way to further my education," Arcilesi said recently.

But others, most notably Steve Maiorca, began looking at Arcilesi as a potential Olympic-caliber bobsledder. It was Maiorca, the strength coach for the U.S. team, who encouraged him to try out.

Arcilesi, who had run track at Fallston High School and briefly at ++ Essex Community College, scored well on a six-item test that included a variety of sprints, a five-step hop for distance and weights.

Then came a "Burlyman" competition in April in Centreville, Va. -- in the parking lot of a health club. After finishing second there, Arcilesi was invited back to Lake Placid for the push-track championships.

"It was pretty weird," recalled Arcilesi. "[The bobsled] was set up on wheels. There was a simulated start ramp of about 50 meters. The first 15 meters were flat, then the rest was downhill."

Arcilesi, who received degrees in both physical education and teacher education this summer, wound up qualifying for the U.S. national team. His first taste of international competition will come in November at the World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, site of the 1994 Olympic Games.

"When I first told people what I was doing, some people were ecstatic and other people looked at me kind of funny," said Arcilesi, 23. "They'd say, 'Where do you do bobsled in Baltimore?' "

Arcilesi has been concentrating on strength, conditioning, flexibility and fund raising since returning home. Fund raising?

"Ever since I came back and told everyone that I made the team, the support has been tremendous," said Arcilesi. "Without my friends and family, it would have been disastrous. . . But I am looking for some sort of sponsorship."

He estimates it will cost him around $1,000 for the proper equipment, as well as about $35 a month for his membership at a local health club. Though some would tell him to get a job, Arcilesi is like a lot of would-be Olympians.

The sport, bobsledding in this case, has taken over his life.

That's why he spent the summer running the hills around Fallston High. That's why he invested in a masseuse named Hazel when he suffered a badly pulled hamstring three weeks before the push-track championships.

That's why when push-track comes to shove, Arcilesi plans to be in Nagano, Japan, for the '98 Olympics. He hopes to help the United States win its first medal in bobsledding in 50 years.

"I'm going to work for '98," said Arcilesi, who, at the moment, is on the No. 2 four-man U.S. team. "I'll do the best I can."

According to coaches and teammates, Arcilesi has made steady progress in a short period of time. He has been encouraged by U.S. coach Janis Kibur, a former two-time Olympian and gold medalist for Latvia.

"I think I have a pretty good shot," said Arcilesi, who at 6 feet 1, 205 pounds matches well Kibur's image of a bobsledder's physique. "Basically, he likes my frame and my age. He said my strength and explosion are good and that my speed needs work."

With the help of bungee cords and heavy metal plates, Arcilesi is currently involved in over-speed training, trying to make the body go faster than it would like to. It takes a lot to get a 1,300-pound four-man bobsled moving at an appropriate speed.

Jim Herberick, a two-time Olympian who is the most experienced member of Arcilesi's team, said he has been impressed by what he's seen of Arcilesi.

"The thing he's got going is that he's young," said Herberick, 32. "He's very new to the sport, which is against him. A lot depends on how he enjoys the World Cup and what goes into it.

"It means living out of a suitcase in Europe for six months a year and a lot of 14-hour days for two minutes of sledding."

But it means a chance for Arcilesi to do something that few have done, especially someone from Baltimore.

Next stop, Lillehammer.

Final destination, Nagano.

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