The 2014 Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi, Russia, and UVU is well represented with two alumni competing and another as an alternate.
Noelle Pikus-Pace, 31, first started on skeleton in 2001 and was preparing for the 2006 Olympics when a bobsled went off the track and crashed into her, resulting in a compound fracture to her lower right leg. The injury caused her to miss the first half of the 2005-2006 season and she did not qualify for the Olympics.
Pikus-Pace returned to competitions seven weeks after having a titanium rod inserted to support the broken tibia and fibula. She took first at World Championships in Switzerland and second overall in the 2006-2007 World Cup.
“It was overwhelming to come back full force from something that devastating. I felt unstoppable. It’s one of the peaks of my career because I never knew how strong I could be physically and mentally until I had hit rock bottom. Coming back from that injury forced me to dig deep and think about what I wanted and how I was going to get it,” Pikus-Pace said.
After taking a break from competing for the birth of her first child, Lacee, Pikus-Pace qualified for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. There, she placed fourth, just one-tenth of a second behind the bronze medalist. She announced her retirement from skeleton to focus on her family.
In 2012, Pikus-Pace had a miscarriage with her third child. Her husband, Janson, suggested she return to skeleton and try to make it to the Olympics again. She decided to go for it, but only if they could do it all together since she did not want to leave her husband and two small children behind to train.
The family raised the necessary funds and she achieved her best results of her career, qualifying to compete in the 2014 Olympics.
Pikus-Pace placed second in the final run of the women’s skeleton, giving her a silver medal. Her excitement was evident when she ran to her family, climbing up the stands to get to them.
Pikus-Pace graduated from UVU in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in community health and physical education, competing on the track and field team during her school career. She broke the high jump record and was the NJCAA National Discus Champion.
Christopher Fogt, 30, competes in both the two-man bobsled and the four-man bobsled races, as the pushman. Pilot Cory Butner, California native, and Fogt placed 12th in the 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 17. The four-man race is scheduled on Feb. 22 and 23.
Fogt competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics, where his team, USA-2, lost control of the bobsled and crashed in the final bid for a medal, putting the team in last place.
He graduated from UVU in 2008 with a bachelor’s in business management. While at UVU, he was captain of the track and field team and set multiple records, which he still holds in the 300 and 400-meter dash races for the indoor season.
Fogt also completed Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while at UVU and was commissioned into the U.S. Army in 2008 as a second lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Branch.
Immediately following the 2010 games, Fogt was deployed to Iraq for a year. Upon his return home, Fogt returned to Olympic training and Push Champs, an event for those who want to join the bobsled team, was held a month after he got back.
“I basically had to start at square one,” Fogt said.
Fogt’s four-man bobsled team, USA-1, also known as “The Night Train,” is expected to perform well in it’s race since the team includes some of the highest-ranking members.
Akwasi Frimpong, 28, was born in Ghana and raised in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He is an alternate in the Netherlands’ four-man bobsled team.
Frimpong graduated from UVU in 2013 with a bachelor’s in marketing and a minor in business management. He was a sprinter on the track and field team, where he, along with his teammates, broke records in relay events.
After not qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics in the Dutch track and field, he was approached about training with the bobsled team. He competed for a spot on the Olympic team after eight months of participating in the sport. Frimpong plans to train for the 2018 Olympics.
In addition to Pikus-Pace, Fogt and Frimpong, 52 other 2014 Olympians have connections to Utah. Park City Magazine indicated that eight athletes have Utah cities listed as their hometown, 13 studied at a university or high school in Utah and 34 currently live in the state.