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Sled builder living Olympic dream

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Some of the best skeleton sleds around come from a humble origin. A backyard workshop in West Jordan.

Olympic dreams aren't just for athletes. One West Jordan man's dream started with an itch to ride a skeleton sled. Now, he's building sleds for several athletes to use next month.

Skeleton athlete Jim Shea has a lot riding on his sled when he competes. At 80 miles per hour or more, he wants the best. In his case, the best sled is coming from a humble origin. This backyard workshop in West Jordan, where Randy Parker works.

His machine mill isn't the only thing whirring around here. Parker has worked for more than five years to not just make skeleton sleds - but to make them fast.

"I made the sled so the weight will go down without affecting the way the sled dynamics are," Parker said.

The sled bodies are fiberglass. The runners are half iron - half austenitic stainless steel.

Athletes like Tristan Gale treat those runners with tender loving care. Possibly the most important part of the sled, they're what Parker has spent the most time on. Parker is constantly tinkering with materials, subtle design features - even making up his own ways to accomplish what needs to be done. He tinkers with anything that could make the sled faster.

"Material is important," Parker said. "I don't think material is the most important. I think the cut and the hardening process you use are much more important."

Parker says Tristan Gale and Jim Shea plan to use his sleds on the USA team next month. His personal commitment to their sled paid off for the athletes.

Ryan Geersten is a skeleton Olympic hopeful - also Parker's brother in law.

"He's had a goal ultimately to be in the Olympics and win, and he's definitely worked the hardest to do that and he's definitely got a shot at it," Geersten said.

It's obvious that Parker is a 'tinkerer'. What started as a drive to win Pinewood derbies progressed to this - another gravity sport he became obsessed with winning.

Parker said, "For me this is a big pinewood derby race. They're just pinewood derbies that go on ice."

Most people attribute the Olympics spirit - the quest for the gold to the athletes. But in this backyard workshop in West Jordan that Olympic spirit is alive and well - for this Olympics and beyond.

Parker has a degree in accounting, but has been taking time off to refine his skeleton sleds.