Jimmy Reed felt fine during warmups in preparation for the 2017 USA Bobsled National Push Championships.
After days of rigorous training, he would have just two more days of strenuous pushing before dialing back the training to rest his body.
But Olympic goals can be quickly stripped away, regardless of the amount of training an athlete puts in.
In an instant, Reed saw his Olympic dreams fade.
“About three or four steps before I was going to load into the sled, as my foot was coming back down onto the ice, I just felt this huge pop of pain in the middle of my hamstring and I just knew instantly that it was really bad.”
Reed tore his hamstring and, at the height of an Olympic year, making the U.S. team would be an immense challenge.
“I knew after I hurt myself that [being named] the alternate was going to be a likely possibility, but at the same time, I didn’t train for three, four years to go to the games as the alternate,” he said. “I had a really good team of medical providers and coaches behind me and they got me back healthy, and I actually came back just as strong and I was faster than I was before my injury. I kept on pushing myself every single week and tried to get numbers to the coaches that I was ready to go. It just never happened.”
Reed is headed to South Korea as one of two alternate bobsledders for the U.S. In that role, he can substitute for athletes in training runs and, if an athlete suffers an injury or an illness, Reed can fill in his spot for the games.
Though Reed set three track and field records as a hurdler and sprinter at the University of Maine, he realized his college success wouldn’t translate into a professional career.
His track coach was a bobsledder and promoted the sport, which led to Reed taking up the sport upon his college graduation.
Reed made the national team his first year and went off on his new line of work.
Last summer, Reed and four other bobsledders decided to move to Colorado to train.
“We sprint three times a week. We lift three times a week. We have recovery sessions every single day. We have treatments every single day,” Reed said of his training routine. “We take Sundays off, so, really, it’s grinding six days a week from April to the beginning of the season in
From the last day of sliding last year to when he started offseason training, Reed said he took only seven days off from training because of the pressure of the Olympic year with hopes to qualify for the U.S. bobsled team.
But Reed, who had devoted his career to bobsledding and raced in every World Cup event and world championship for the three years prior to his injury, saw his hard work and dedication get wiped away.
“One of the things that I thought about as I was going through this whole process was that when I first joined this sport four years ago, if at that moment I would have thought to myself that I even had the potential to be an Olympian, I would have never thought that I would even get remotely this close,” he said. “But I think the fact that I did get so close and then as each year in the sport progresses, that’s kind of why it was so crushing.”
Reed spent the first half of this season rehabbing his hamstring and worked on getting stronger, hoping to suit up when he got completely healthy. That chance never came.
Even though his injury came right before the Olympic selection process, because of his success the previous season, he was still named to the national team.
“It just kind of seemed, for me, anything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and I just never ended up getting an opportunity,” he said.
“If, maybe, we were in a position where we had three sleds that were 100 percent locked to go to the games then, maybe, I could have had more opportunities, but at a certain point, the coach has to decide is he going to focus on the big picture, or is he going to try to take a risk on me? So that’s kind of why I didn’t get an opportunity this year.”
After a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., the national team flew to Calgary for more training. Reed chose to go to Los Angeles instead.
“I decided that it would be in my best interests just to kind of step back and collect my thoughts and recharge because this has been a pretty difficult past three or four months for me,” he said. “I didn’t want to go there and have any ill feelings or resentment, so I thought that if I stepped
away for a little while, when I met back up with the team [last] Thursday, I would be ready to go and help out and do everything they need me to do for the ultimate goal of the Olympics.”
In a heart-wrenching Instagram post on Jan. 16, Reed said he was going to step away from bobsledding after the Olympics.
“I’m not sure what my future holds, but after the Olympics, I am going (to) step away from bobsledding for a while to figure some things out,” Reed said in the post. “Thanks, everyone, for your support on this journey!”
Reed said he still has yet to think of his future but will do so after the games.
“I think even before this season and everything that’s happened, me doing another four years was never a given,” he said. “I was always going to re-evaluate after the Olympics and decide how I felt … I’m going to go to the Olympics as an alternate and then afterwards, I’ll probably take some time — go back to Maine and just figure life out.”
Reed hasn’t completely ruled out coming back in the future.
“I’m not against coming back to the sport,” he said. “I think that’s definitely a possibility, maybe, down the road. At least for next year, I probably won’t be bobsledding. I think it would be good to just step away after this year.”
Colton Wood, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a freelance journalist and a student at Michigan State University. He has covered several NFL, NBA and NHL games, along with numerous NASCAR weekends and various collegiate sports for multiple publications, including ESPN, USA Hockey, The Washington Times and Florida Today.