Staffer’s Son Headed to Pyeongchang
Sandra Kinney (left), her son Chris, and her sister at the North America’s Cup in Lake Placid, New York, on Jan. 14. The event was the final qualifier for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Chris earned a gold and silver medal and the event.
Sandra Kinney spent years watching her son Chris compete in track and field events. Now, being a supportive mom requires a slightly longer trip — to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in much colder temperatures.
It was just a few weeks ago that Chris found out he’d be representing the U.S. as part of the men’s national bobsled team at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games — yes, bobsled. The 29-year-old’s Olympic aspirations began when he attended the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and he has been a competitive athlete for years, but it wasn’t until his mid-20s that he got in a bobsled.
“He was working in Japan and called to tell me he was going to quit his job and try to be an Olympic bobsledder,” Kinney said. “I thought it was crazy.”
Over the past three years, though, Chris has made it work. He was made the first scholarship bobsled athlete at East Tennessee State University, which is home to an Olympic training site for USA Bobsled & Skeleton. He’s pursuing an MBA in international business.
Along the way, they both have made friends around the world. Kinney will travel to Pyeongchang with her sister and a German friend she met at a World Nationals event. The friend has been like a second mom to Chris during long stints training in Europe.
“It’s a neat community,” said Kinney, senior director in Institutional Research and Planning, “Even other countries are all so supportive of one another.”
Chris has found support among the broader athletic community as well. He’s even trained on campus with Tech student-athletes when he’s in town. Kinney also finds that when Chris is in town, she often hosts other bobsledders from around the world. The group can be challenging to feed, as they consume somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 calories a day to maintain their weight while training.
South Korea will be the sixth country where Kinney has seen her son compete in bobsledding. The Olympic committee provides families of athletes with a guidebook to help them know what they’ll experience at the games. Kinney doesn’t expect to see much of Chris during the 10-day trip, but is excited for the moment when he competes.
“So many athletes give so much
to get there and don’t make it,” she said. In addition to bobsled, she’ll also see speedskating and figure skating events.
Chris is on one of three four-man sleds that will race for the U.S. team on Saturday, Feb. 24 — the last event before the closing ceremony. He’s also an alternate for the two-man bobsled on Monday, Feb. 19.
For those who want to spot Chris during the Pyeongchang games, his mom advises to look for his legs.
“He always wears tall socks — one with stars, and one with stripes.”