Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Charlie Volker, Olympian

There are so many things TigerBlog wants to talk about, and he'll get to all of them this week.

For today, though, he has had to shift on the fly, after the news came out yesterday that Charlie Volker had made the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

Volker had an amazing athletic career at Princeton before graduating in 2019. His time as a Tiger saw him win seven team championships between football and track and field; individually, he was an Ivy League champion in both indoor and outdoor track and a first-team All-Ivy League football player. 

It wasn't until after he graduated that he was introduced to the sport of bobsledding. And now he's heading to the Olympic Games in Beijing as one of six push athletes for the U.S. sleds.

It's an incredible story. It speaks so much about Volker and the dedication he's shown, his work ethic and his spirit of adventure. 

TigerBlog first caught up with Volker a little more than a year ago, after he'd been immersed in the sport for a few months. This is what Volker said then: 

“I’m not someone who can sit behind a desk. I want to live an adventurous life.”

He also said this:

“Bobsled is track for the first 50 meters and football for the rest. The key is to push the lights out of the sled and then load cleanly. How you jump in the sled has to be practiced over and over. How low you get and how locked in you can be, and how little you can get thrown around.”

It's proven to be a perfect match.

Volker learned the basics of the sport in Lake Placid and has spent two winters competing, mostly in Europe. His goal all along has been to reach the Olympic Games, and now he has.

Princeton has a long history of competing in the Olympic Games, dating back to the first modern Games in 1896, where four Princeton track and field athletes combined to win seven medals. Since then, the overwhelming amount of the Tigers' success on that stage has come in the Summer edition.

To date, Princeton has had five of its athletes win Olympic medals in the winter, and all of those have come in ice hockey (this does not include the three speed skating medals that Joey Cheek won and the snowboarding gold that Chloe Kim won).

Volker is the third Princeton varsity athlete who is heading to these Winter Games, after Claire Thompson and Sarah Fillier were named to the Canadian women's hockey team. Volker is Princeton's first Olympic bobsledder ever.

Why has Volker been able to go from novice to world-class athlete in such a short time? It's because he has the perfect physical and mental makeup for the sport.

Maybe the key lies in what Volker told TB yesterday, after the team was announced:

"I like the Drew Brees quote “You can accomplish anything in life if you’re willing to work for it.”

And there you have it. Ask either of his Princeton coaches - track and field coach Fred Samara or football coach Bob Surace - and they'll tell you all about how hard he works. 

The results speak for themselves. Volker has gone from having 28 rushing touchdowns in his last two years at Princeton while also winning the Ivy 60-meter dash indoors and setting the Ivy record in the 4x100 outdoors to the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

Volker finished his Princeton career with 1,994 rushing yards, which leaves him in eighth place all time. He also rushed for 32 touchdowns, fourth-best at Princeton, including 14 each as a junior and senior. He earned first-team All-Ivy honors as a senior in 2018, the year Princeton went 10-0.

The Volker family, by the way, has 34 rushing touchdowns at Princeton, as his younger brother John had two (and two more receiving, including a huge one against Yale) this past season as a freshman, when he also helped the Tigers to an Ivy championship.

As for Charlie, how did he react at the news of being an Olympian?

"It was nothing crazy," he says. "I guess it hasn't hit me yet."

Oh, and there's one other thing that he said that goes a pretty long way to defining who he is:

"My goal was never just to get there," he said. "I'm looking forward to doing well there."

And with that, TigerBlog wished him "Cool Runnings."

What else would you say to an Olympic bobsledder?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nathan Crumpton '08 also has qualified for the Olympics -- he'll represent American Samoa in skeleton. And Kimberly Newell '16 will play ice hockey for Team China.