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Posted 09 Jan 2002   For week ended January 04, 2002
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 03Jan02
By Kent Larsen
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One Mormon Woman In, Another Out in Bobsled Shuffle

PARK CITY, UTAH -- A shuffle during the week before the U.S. Olympic women's bobsled team trials put former BYU soccer star Shauna Rohbock out of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, but put Arizona native Gea Johnson on the team expected to win the gold. The shuffle started when US bobsled driver Jean Racine suddenly dropped her long-time partner, Ogden, Utah native Jen Davidson, for the faster Johnson. Competing driver Jill Bakken, of Salt Lake City, Utah, then dropped Rohbock for Vonnetta Flowers, who is faster and isn't suffering from injuries.

The new team of Racine and Johnson won the trials on Saturday, December 22nd, and shaved a tenth of a second off the Utah Olympic Park record set last year. The win also put them in the Olympic games with a good shot at winning the gold, "Getting that track record, I really, really needed that going into the Olympics," Racine said. "I'm really, really confident."

The turn of events marks a decade-long effort by Johnson to make the Olympics. A high school track star at the Phoenix area's Washington High School, Johnson went on to become a track All-American while at Arizona State and the 1990 NCAA heptathlon champion.

But injuries and other hurdles plagued her attempts to make the Olympics. She suffered a severe knee injury in the 1992 U.S. Olympic Track Trials and then in 1994 she was accused of using anabolic steroids and suspended from competition. But Johnson maintained that authorities mishandled samples, leading to positive test results and filed a $12 million lawsuit against the international and U.S. track federations. The lawsuit allowed her to compete in the 1996 Olympic Trials, but a leg injury and the Epstein-Barr virus again kept her from finishing.

Johnson eventually dropped the lawsuit, and moved on to weightlifting, which was making its women's debut at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. By 1999 she was first in her weight class and poised to make the U.S. Olympic team, but again injuries kept her from competing.

Then a Canadian bobsledder suggested that Johnson try the sport. Even though she laughed at the idea at first, something made her try it anyway, "Sometimes something happens inside," Johnson said. "I couldn't quit thinking about it for 48 hours. I'll never forget it." She started training in September, made her first full bobsled run in October, and was ready when Bonny Warner split with her then brakeman, Vonetta Flowers. When she won a raceoff against Bethany Hart for the spot behind Warner, Johnson was suddenly in a three-way race for the two U.S. Olympic berths.

Meanwhile, Bakken and Rohbock have been a team for two years and even took advantage of the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program together, joining the Army and taking basic training together to get funding to compete. However both Bakken and Rohbock have since left the program because of injuries.

Unlike the very public split between Racine and Davidson, Rohbock and Bakken have remained friends, mostly because Rohbock recognizes that Flowers is faster and she is injured.


Racine sets track record without ex-partner
CBS Sportsline (AP) 23Dec01 S2

Weightlifter turns focus to bobsled
Phoenix AZ Republic 16Nov01 S2
By Jeff Metcalfe: The Arizona Republic
Local athlete in Olympic hunt

See also:

Shauna Rohbock: Her Need for Speed may the Olympics
Mormon News 11Dec01 S2
By Paul Carter


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