Bobbing and weaving Bobsledder: Chip Minton, a member of the U.S. team, is a bit of a loudmouth, which is unusual for this sport, but not for his other -- professional wrestling.

February 04, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

It doesn't take much to get Chip Minton's mouth going. Or for Minton to draw a crowd.

Asked how the U.S. bobsled team will do in Nagano, Minton said: "To be honest, I think we're going to kick some European butt -- Japanese-style."

If it sounds as if Minton is more suited for the carnival-like 'N atmosphere of World Championship Wrestling than the 1998 Olympic Games, it's for good reason.

Minton is part of both worlds.

"I'm in the two most extreme sports on the planet, really," said Minton, 28. "Everybody plays football and basketball. Nobody does wrestling and bobsled. Not even Deion Sanders."

To the other members of the bobsled team trying to become the first Americans in more than 50 years to win an Olympic medal in the event, Minton is known as "Hurricane," the No. 2 pusher on Brian Shimer's top-ranked four-man crew.

"It's not very often that you find someone who's so big and strong like Chip with the kind of speed who is agile enough to get into a bobsled," Shimer said of Minton, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound former bodybuilder who claims to have run a 10.5-second 100 and have a 40-inch vertical leap.

To his fellow wrestlers in WCW, Minton is introduced as "Mr. World Class -- The Greatest Athlete In The World," but in truth he's just another buffed and big-mouthed guy trying to work his way up the ladder to where some of his superstar friends, like Ric Flair, reside.

For now, he's the one who usually faces wrestlers with names like "Dr. Demento," and who have masks and some illegal object hidden in their trunks. He has yet to win a WCW match, a status that could change should he bring home a medal from the competition in Nagano.

"It's just like bobsledding; you stay black and blue," Minton said of wrestling. "Most guys quit in the first 15 minutes. I broke my thumb and had a concussion after the first day."

Minton has been persistent, if nothing else. A state prison guard near his home in Macon, Ga., since graduating from high school, Minton spent two years learning how to wrestle at a school called the Power Plant. His first two months on tour were spent driving up to 2,000 miles a week.

His introduction to bobsledding wasn't much better. Drawn to the sport after seeing fellow Georgian Herschel Walker compete in the 1992 Olympics, Minton was invited to his first training camp in 1993. Minton went to Calgary with a sweat shirt, a pair of shorts and the crazy notion that things were going to come easily.

"When I left Macon, it was in the 40s, and when I got off the plane, it was like 20-below," Minton recalled.

And how did he do once he got into the bobsled?

"I crashed twice," he said. "But at least I didn't get a concussion."

All through it, Minton kept his day job, which included being a member of the prison's riot (or as he called it, "goon") squad. Minton eventually quit the prison job after coming back from the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. His still-fledging career as a wrestler has helped pay the bills to support his wife, Dannah, and their daughter, Taylor-Brooke, back home in Macon, and kept him in shape for bobsledding. The biggest thing for Minton is to avoid injury.

"Three days after coming home from the Olympics, I went straight back to the bottom in wrestling," said Minton. "The first week back, I cracked a rib and got a concussion."

But Minton's two worlds sometimes collide, often in the vicinity of his mouth. He has been known to trash-talk European bobsledders before, during and after competitions.

"I've always been a little cocky, but I've never been not able to do something I couldn't back up," said Minton, who, along with Shimer, helped the United States win a couple of medals at World Cup competitions last year.

His teammates sometimes cringe at Minton's yapping, but U.S. bobsled coach Steve Maiorca said that it is all in fun.

"People might think he's an arrogant guy when he's wrestling, but that's part of the show," said Maiorca. "He's a team player who gets along with everybody. I go to him when I need to get something done. He gets the other guys fired up."

His fellow wrestlers are aware of his bobsled career. In Lillehammer, Minton received a telegram from Flair that read, "Let it all hang out. In the ring, I'm the man, but in Lillehammer, you're the man."

Despite less-than-overwhelming results on this season's World Cup tour, Minton said he feels that way going into Nagano. He hopes that his exploits there this month will result in the same kind of attention given the Jamaican bobsled team.

"They're better known in our own country than we are," said Minton. "I know in bobsledding I'm the best. Nobody is going to touch us, and I let them know it. I want a movie made about us."

E9 Working title? How about "Cool Running at the Mouth"?

Pub Date: 2/04/98

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