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2010 Winter Olympics: No medal, but satisfaction for Ogden sledder

WHISTLER, British Columbia — For Ogden's Billy Schuffenhauer a 13th place finish with USA 3 on Saturday afternoon in Whistler was more satisfying than winning a silver medal in 2002.

"This group has been fantastic," said Schuffenhauer, whose team finished with a time of 3:27.32. "It's been the best experience of my Olympic career. As we all know, I've won a medal in 2002, but as hard as all these guys fought, stuck together USA 1, 2 and 3, the whole staff, we really fought for each other throughout the season."

Shuffenhauer stood on the platform of the finish area and waved to his young son. His brother, Rob Smith, who watched Friday's competition without a shirt and painted red, white and blue, held little Corben up so he could wave at his dad.

"He was over there screaming at me," Schuffenhauer said with a smile. "I love him. He drove 1,000 miles from Salt Lake to be here, and I love him to death.

The Weber State alum paused to control his emotions and then continued.

"It's great to have my son here, my family, and I'm just thankful that they're here and still be a part of everything."

Shuffenhauer said it had been a "tough week" referring to a two or three hour conversation with Whistler police after an argument with his fiancee, Ruthann Savage, on Thursday. USOC and U.S. bobsled officials said they obtained enough information from police to conclude a crime hadn't been committed and Schuffenhauer could compete.

"They brought him in and asked him some questions," said Darrin Steele, chief executive of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. "I guess they felt like they had the answers that they needed and they let him go. I don't think there's a whole lot there."

It is not the first problem Savage and Schuffenhauer, who were engaged in November, have had. In 2005, she filed for a protective order and then withdrew the petition two weeks later.

The incident marred for Schuffenhauer what had been a triumph. He spent most of the year as an alternate and didn't earn a spot on the Olympic team until the last World Cup race in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

When asked about it, he choked back emotion.

"It's been a tough week," and then he shifted the conversation to his teammates and what an honor it was to compete with them.

"Getting to a level like this doesn't come without sacrifices," he said. "Unfortunately some are greater than others. Once you get here and you have an opportunity represent your country, your family, your friends, the great staff we have behind us, it makes it all worth it. It doesn't matter if you're gold medalist or 15th place. The Olympic motto is it's all about taking part in the Games, and that's exactly what it's all been about."

Driver of the bobsled that Schuffenhauer helped push, Mike Kohn, said Saturday's runs were also for the men of USA 2, who couldn't compete after suffering injuries in Friday's crash, and former Olympian Todd Hays, who had to retire after a head injury in a crash mid-way through the season.

"We tried to do the best we could to represent them and the country," said Kohn. "I think we did a pretty good job, and we're happy.

John Napier's brakeman was Alpine resident Christopher Fogt. He was visibly shaken after the crash, which sent USA 2 upside down, but wanted to try and take the final two runs.

He and the other members of USA 2 were at the track Saturday to cheer USA 1 driver Steve Holcomb to the country's first gold medal in 62 years.

"We just supported those guys," he said. "They had a hard crash. As a group we're going to support what they do and they were here today to support us and we're thankful for that."

Both Kohn and Schuffenhauer said they're retiring after these Games, but Holcomb said he — and the Night Train — would be back next season.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com