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After serving in U.S. Army, bobsledder back on the track

SHARE After serving in U.S. Army, bobsledder back on the track
USA 2 driver John Napier, right, hops into his sled as brakeman Laszlo Vandracsek, continues to push at the start of their first run in the men's 2 man bobsled at the FIBT World Cup Friday, Dec. 10, 2010 in Park City, Utah. USA 2 finished 6th with a combi

USA 2 driver John Napier, right, hops into his sled as brakeman Laszlo Vandracsek, continues to push at the start of their first run in the men’s 2 man bobsled at the FIBT World Cup Friday, Dec. 10, 2010 in Park City, Utah. USA 2 finished 6th with a combined time of 1:37.89.

Associated Press

PARK CITY — Cheeseburgers and chocolate milkshakes might not seem like the ideal diet for an athlete, but when you're trying to make up for five months of eating one hot meal a day, just about anything of substance qualifies as nutritious.

U.S. bobsledder John Napier went from 225 pounds in June to 191 pounds when he returned from serving as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army.

"Just good old American food," said Napier, who was the highest U.S. finisher in the two-man bobsled World Cup at the Utah Olympic Park on Friday with a sixth-place finish. "It makes a big difference when you eat three hot meals a day."

He's only been back a month, but he's already up to 205.

He was all smiles Friday night at the Utah Olympic Park after he and brakeman Laszlo Vandracsek completed two competitive runs and earned a combined time of 1:37.89.

"I feel like every week we take an inch back into it," he said. "Two Fridays ago I took my first trip down a track in Lake Placid. I took five trips before (competing) in Calgary."

Before those five trips, the last time Napier was in a bobsled, he crashed. He and his teammates crashed on their third run in the Vancouver games and an injury to his neck kept them from finishing the competition. He said getting back in the sled was a wonderful experience.

"It felt like a glove," he said smiling. "I'm glad to be going back to Lake Placid, my home track, next week."

Fellow American Steve Holcomb and his brakeman Curt Tomasevicz finished seventh with a time of 1:37.91. Holcomb was reportedly nursing an injured hamstring, but he did not speak to the media after the race.

Holcomb and Tomasevicz were in third place after the first run but a slow start dropped them in the standings.

"We had a decent first run," said Tomasevicz. "I need to be better than 5.09. It just wasn't my best day."

He complimented Napier for getting back into World Cup compeition so quickly.

"It takes a lot of guts and heart to get into it right away," Tomasevicz said. "He's working on getting into bobsled shape instead of Army shape."

Russian Alexsandr Zubkov and Dimitry Trunenkov won the World Cup event with a combined time of 1:37.33

"My vision was not very clear, especially on the second run," said Zubkov through an interpreter. "We had to do the best we could."

Zubkov retired after winning a bronze medal in the Vancouver Winter Olympics in two-man bobsled. He came out of retirement at the request of the sport's new president who hoped he'd mentor the country's younger athletes.

"Every win is very important," he said. "It will be very hard (to contend for a World Championship) because the Germans are very strong, but we will do our best."

Italians Simone Bertazzo and Sergio Riva finished second (1:37.47), while Manuel Machata and Andreas Bredau, Germany 1, finished third (1:37.67), after their teammates in Germany 2 were disqualified for using an unregistered brakeman.

The men's race was complicated when it began to snow before the second run about 8:30 p.m. Snow on the track slows the sleds and makes driving more difficult as it changes the track and reduces visibility.

And while the snow and wind made the men's race unpredictable, it cancelled the women's race, which was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The jury for the event decided that rather than run the race later this weekend, the women will compete in two World Cup races in Lake Placid.