Contact: Amanda Bird, USBSF Marketing & Communications Manager
(518) 354-2250, firstname.lastname@example.org
Remembering our heroes
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (Feb. 22, 2012)– There’s something different about these World Championships. It’s not just the home track advantage or the familiar surroundings, but it’s the family, friends, fans and American flags waving at the finish line that makes this race special. It’s the “USA” chants at the start and the red, white and blue scarves and hats dotting the track. It’s also the names scrolled across the women’s bobsled Fire Department of New York (FDNY) tribute sled that’s pushing our athletes to the podium.
On September 11, 2011, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation athletes made a commitment to compete in remembrance and honor of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks that took place 10 years ago. As a result, the federation partnered with the FDNY to design a sled in honor of their 343 fallen heroes.
“I get to wear red, white and blue on my uniform every day, and to think I represent all the people who fight for this country and all those who lost their lives in 9/11 gives me greater strength,” said 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers.
When teammate Jazmine Fenlator found out she would be piloting the tribute sled throughout the 2011-2012 season, she was overwhelmed with emotions. Fenlator hails from Wayne, N.J. and went to school with students whose family members served and perished during the 9/11 attacks, and her grandfather was a former soldier and volunteer fireman. The rookie driver posted personal best finishes all season in the FDNY sled, and most recently crossed the finish line for 10th position at the 2012 World Championships last Saturday.
“Not only has it been a huge honor to drive this sled, but I am extremely proud of the opportunity to represent my country as an athlete while paying tribute to those who have helped defend our rights,” Fenlator said. “Capping the season with a top ten result at World Championships on home ice was a huge accomplishment for me, and I hope I honored our firefighters and our military well.”
Fenlator said fans asked to take pictures of the sled when she was competing at different stops on tour, including in Austria, Germany and France. She said it was “pretty awesome” to see how many people around the world took a moment to bow their heads in respect, creating an instant bond with strangers who promised to never forget.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, 10 flags were flown over Afghanistan by the Red Lions of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in honor of the seven firefighters from FDNY Squad 18 who lost their lives in Tower 1. The flags were flown by Lieutenant Colonel Mark Revor, Captain Peter Stachowicz, Staff Sergeant William Stengele, Sergeant Philip Lopez and Corporal Sean Kimble over the battle space of Helmand Province, Afghanistan. One of those flags was given to the U.S. team in recognition of their partnership with the FDNY, and the names of these Marines were added to the sled for World Championships. According to Revor, the FDNY holds a special place in their hearts.
“We are known as the first responders in military engagements as Marines, and the fire department is the first responder for us back home every day,” Revor said. “FDNY was especially in our thoughts this year as we flew flags for them in the anniversary of the day they sacrificed so much for us. Now we can give back to them in a little way for them to know they are appreciated by those they protect.”
It’s tradition for the Red Lions to decorate the nose of their helicopter landing gear door with logos of firefighter units they support while deployed to show “mutual appreciation for each other and our common goal to keep America safe,” according to Revor. The day the flags were flown was also the day that the Red Lions took authority as the operational CH-53D Assault Support Squadron in Afghanistan.
“It was a stoic reminder to us as to why we were there,” Revor said. “We were there to defend all that our flag has stood for over 200 years, we were there for those we lost 10 years ago, and we were there to keep our families and our homeland safe.”
On January 19, 2012, six members of the Red Lions squadron made the ultimate sacrifice when their CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter went down in Afghanistan. It is with heavy hearts that the U.S. team mourns the loss of these brave men, and the athletes have vowed to keep these Marines in mind as they reach for the podium.
“Knowing that our Marines are going to be a part of the team is a great homage to them, and we look forward to supporting the team on their journey to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games,” Revor said.
National Guardsman Sergeant John Napier and Army World Class Athlete Program Captain Chris Fogt know what it means to serve and protect. Napier spent six months in Afghanistan with the 86th Mountain Brigade, while Fogt just returned last summer from one year of service in Iraq. Both soldier-athletes were silent upon learning of their fallen comrades.
“This sled gave us something to rally around as a team,” Fogt said. “You feel added pressure because you want to perform well for everyone we’re representing, but it gives extra motivation to succeed. It’s really important for us to show the family members of 9/11 victims and these fallen Marines that we will always remember. It’s on the forefront of our minds as we defend and also represent our nation as soldier-athletes.”
Napier and Fogt teamed together to finish sixth in the two-man bobsled event on Sunday. Fogt said he’s never felt so “fired up” at the start before as fans began to chant “USA” and waved the American flag. Napier talked about how the flag was a symbol that unified them overseas, and how they knew they had the support of the military as they fought for gold.
“Having this flag connects us to the people doing brave things for our freedom by making the ultimate sacrifice,” Napier said. “I keep them close to my heart, and there isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t thinking about them. We just hope we make them proud when we walk out to the starting line with USA on our backs. I give every ounce of my love and strength to give my best result possible in honor of them.”
The FDNY bobsled and the flag flown on the anniversary of 9/11 by the Red Lions will be on display during the final weekend of 2012 World Championships in Lake Placid. Fans are encouraged to pay their respects by taking photos and sitting inside the sled, and bobsled pilot Fenlator will be available from 8:30-9 am on Saturday morning to sign autographs. The U.S. team will continue to slide in honor of our fallen heroes as they vie for the championship title from Thursday through Sunday.
“Events like this are an amazing thing,” Revor said. “It’s a time when everyone forgets about their favorite local team and we all come together to support our country. Our national team, like us Marines, wears a United States uniform while representing the nation. We are very proud of our relationship with the team, and it was a distinct pleasure to fly a flag in their honor on the memorial of 9/11.”
For media inquiries, please contact Amanda Bird, USBSF Marketing & Communications Manager, at email@example.com, or at (518) 354-2250.
About the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation
The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. The USBSF would like to thank its sponsors, suppliers and contributors for their support: BMW of North America, Under Armour, United States National Guard, Kampgrounds of America, National Strength and Conditioning Association, Vivat!, Global Forwarding, KBC Helmets, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, EDAS/Ripxx, UberSense, Tesa Tape and Ferris Mfg. Corp. For more information, please visit the USBSF website at http://bobsled.teamusa.org.