KIRKLAND, Wash. — Fractions of a second are all that stands between Olympic gold and missing the medals altogether, just ask Pierre Lueders and the Canadian team.
When the U.S. bobsleigh team won Olympic medals in the event for the first time in 46 years, it was thanks in large part to the generosity of Rod French, a long-time Kenworth dealer with locations in Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois.
French donated the money required to purchase precision steel runners for the team’s two- and four-man bobsleds. According to team members, the fast runners made much of the difference in getting the U.S. team onto the podium at the Salt Lake Games.
As a thank you, members of the U.S. Olympic bobsleigh team recently visited all four of French’s Kenworth dealerships — Kenworth Mid-Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa; Kenworth of Cedar Rapids in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Kenworth of Omaha in Omaha, Neb.; and Quad Cities Kenworth in Rock Island, Ill.
On hand to greet elementary school kids and adults alike were 2002 bronze medalists Brian Shimer and Dan Steele, Dan’s brother Darrin Steele, and Travis Bell. While at the dealership events, team members demonstrated how to drive a bobsled, signed autographs and shook more than a few dozen hands.
“It’s not widely known, but Olympic teams rely heavily on private funding – bobsleigh shells alone can cost upwards of $150,000,” says Bell, who has a CDL and used to drive trucks to support his way through college. “There’s the cost for the designing and manufacturing plus wind tunnel testing … And, the runners we needed to give us a winning edge were created specifically for the temperature of the ice at the Olympics.”
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