The Winter Olympics wrap up in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, but not before some athletes get their last chance to capture a gold medal for another four years. Some of the most popular Olympians left competing are members of the four-man bobsled teams.
And if you tune in to watch the bobsledding event on Saturday and Sunday, you will see just how much red and white compliment the blue of the American bobsled and skeleton teams. Hans DeBot graduated from NC State in 1993 with a mechanical engineering degree, DeBotech, his carbon fiber and composite parts company in Mooresville, N.C., built the Night Train 2, the bobsled that is trying to defend the gold medal the four-man team won in Vancouver four years ago.
DeBot says this may be his most rewarding project in a career that has included work in aerospace and military technology, NASCAR and the Aviation Racing Series. “It’s hard not to pay notice to the Olympics,” he says. “We’re especially making a difference. But was it a challenge. Sure, it was very risky.”
The risk DeBot refers to came in 2002 when he says an Olympic bobsledding hopeful named Bruce Rosselli came to him wanting DeBot to build a bobsled. “I didn’t know anything about the sport,” DeBot says, adding that he likes to solve any problem given to him. ” I didn’t know if he was a good driver. He didn’t have any money to do it. But I built that bobsled.”
DeBot’s sled showed up at the 2002 Olympics as a lighter ride made with carbon fiber instead of the usual heavier laminated glass and Kevlar. The U.S. team took home the silver and bronze medals that year in Salt Lake City.
His Olympic involvement has led DeBot to partner on projects with former NASCAR driver-turned-bobsled-maker Geoff Bodine and BMW. DeBotech was brought in recently to help build the sleds used for the skeleton events, where athletes ride headfirst at speeds of 80 miles per hour on a sled that loosely resembles one the average Joe might go down on in the snow, and to help build the two-man bobsled.
DeBot’s work has made it to the podium in Sochi. The women’s skeleton team captured a silver, with the men’s team getting a bronze. The two-man men’s bobsled team won a bronze, the first medal won by Americans in the event in 62 years, and the two-man bobsled women’s team took home a silver and a bronze.
This weekend the four-man bobsled team will try to once again capture gold.
While many viewers choose to watch the tape-delayed results on NBC in prime time, DeBot says he and the 20 employees in his shop can’t wait for that and instead watch the events live in their shop.
“I pull it up on the T.V. in the shop so the employees can enjoy,” he says. “They get to sit back and say, ‘We’re sitting and watching our stuff come to life on television.'”