Sochi Winter Olympics: Four NY Army National Guardsmen to Participate
Four active duty Army National Guardsmen will be making his fellow Guardsmen and the whole country proud when they compete in Russia in the Sochi Winter Olympics. All four are part of a very select Army program: active Army and National Guard Soldiers serve while training as an athlete for a spot on a United States Olympic sports team. The Army pays them military salaries, while allowing them to hone their skills. Of the seven Army athletes who will participate in the games, four are New York National Guard members. This isn’t a wild coincidence, but rather, makes logistical sense — both the luge and bobsled teams train at the United States Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York.
Sgt. Matthew Mortensen (pictured right) is competing as part of the United States Olympic Luge Team. The 28-year old soldier-athlete enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in 2010 and is a member of the 1156th Engineer Company, based in Kingston, N.Y.
One of his coaches is Staff Sgt. William Tavares. He competed himself back in the 1992 Winter Olympics. Tavares, 50, is an infantryman in Company B, 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, headquartered in Morrisonville, New York. He has served in the New York Army National Guard since 1982.
Sgt. Nicholas Cunningham is part of the United States Olympic Bobsled Team. Cunningham, age 28, enlisted in the New York National Guard in March of 2011. He was trained as a carpentry and masonry specialist in the 1156th Engineer Company, based in Kingston, New York.
Sgt. Justin Olsen also is a member of the Bobsled team. He is a “pusher” who won a gold medal in the sport at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. Olsen, age 26, enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in January 2011, and serves as a personnel services specialist in the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the Joint Force Headquarters in Watervliet, N.Y.
Since the Army’s World Class Athlete Program was created, 55 Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard athletes have won Gold, Silver or Bronze medals at the Olympic Summer or Winter games.