UTAH OLYMPIC PARK — Troy Billington isn't from around here. He grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where snow is a myth and cold is a rumor. As a boy, the closest he came to a blizzard was when someone forgot to turn down the air conditioning.
But notwithstanding his hot and humid roots, he has an idea that could turn the Olympic sliding track here into Indianapolis on ice.
Troy has designed a one-man bobsled.
He has one foot on it as we speak: a sleek, black machine about 4 feet long and 2 feet high with the name Dragonsleigh stenciled on the side.
"The track here needs more activity, and this is the way," he says, gently kicking the sled's fiberglass shell. "I am telling you, there is nothing like driving a bob."
Troy knows what he's talking about when it comes to ice-sliding sports. A sailor, kayaker and mountain-bike racer in the islands, he was introduced to the frozen sports when he was recruited onto his country's four-man bobsled team that participated in the 2000 World Championships in Calgary. After that he branched out into both luge and skeleton. Anything that goes downhill at 70 mph and above, he's tried it. At the moment, he's training to make the 2006 Torino Olympics in skeleton, the face-first sledding event that became a permanent part of the winter Olympics at the 2002 Salt Lake Games.
But if skeleton is for him, he doesn't see it for the masses.
He sees the masses driving a one-man bob.
"This is a way to have fun," he says, caressing the Dragonsleigh like someone polishing a '66 Mustang. "That's all it's about, having fun."
Troy wants to build a dozen one-man bobsleds and keep them permanently at the UOP track. People could qualify to race the sleds by first going to bobsled school and getting a driving/racing license.
"Instead of NASCAR, it will be NASBOB," he says.
The beauty of his plan, he stresses, is twofold. One, it gives bobsledders an outlet other than the Olympics. Two, everybody gets to drive.
"In a one-man bob, you're not risking the life of a brakeman," says Troy (although he might want to put that a bit more delicately in his promotional brochures).
And because the Dragonsleigh has a roll-bar, flip it and you won't ride down the course on your head like they did in "Cool Runnings."
A third benefit is that it levels the playing field, so to speak, because one-man bob does not — for obvious reasons — have a running start. "It's all drop-gate," says Troy. "Everyone starts the same. Boys, girls, men, women, the disabled. Everyone."
"We think Troy's idea is pretty interesting and exciting," says John Bennion, president of the Utah Olympic Park. "There could be a whole new sport developed here. There have been other attempts at one-man bobsled in the past, but they have run into weight problems. Troy is convinced he's overcome those challenges. We're very interested in seeing how (his sleds) work."
Not any more interested than Troy.
Ideally, he would like to see his Dragonsleighs at each of the world's 19 bobsled tracks. He has visited all of them and sees no reason why the one-man craze shouldn't go worldwide.
In time, he sees one-man bob being incorporated into the Olympics, at which point it will, of course, become incredibly serious and tightly regulated.
"But right now it's an unofficial sport," says Troy. "In eight or 10 years the Olympics can have it. For now, we can just have fun."
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to email@example.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.