Dallas TV crew covers USA Bobsled & Skeleton hopefuls with Texas ties

Photojournalist Nefty Gonzalez, left, and Anchor/Reporter Brian Curtis of KXAS-TV NBC5 News, Dallas-Forth Worth, pose at the Olympic Center Oct. 18 after conducting an interview that will air leading up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The Lone Star athletes won’t be alone on the World Cup tour and the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as the Texas contingent on the USA Bobsled & Skeleton team will be well represented.

That’s why Anchor/Reporter Brian Curtis and Photojournalist Nefty Gonzalez of KXAS-TV NBC5 News, Dallas-Forth Worth, traveled thousands of miles to Lake Placid recently to interview athletes trying to make the bobsled and skeleton teams for this year’s World Cup season, including the Olympics in February.

“We’re here to cover our Texas athletes,” Curtis said Wednesday, Oct. 18 at the Olympic Center’s 1980 Rink in the Herb Brooks Arena. “Surprisingly, there are a lot of aspiring Winter Olympians from Texas. This cycle, we actually have a lot of bobsled athletes and a lot of skeleton athletes, so we’ve been up here following their stories.”

NBC will be covering the Winter Olympics from Feb. 9 to 25, and Curtis and Gonzalez will be there. This is Gonzalez’s second Olympics, as he’s covered the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. And it will be Curtis’s sixth Olympic, as he’s covered the games in Athens in 2004, Torino in 2006, Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.

“So I’m kind of our Olympics guy,” Curtis said.

Brian Curtis recently rode a luge sled for the first time in about 27 years at the Mount Van Hoevenberg sliding track. (Photo provided — NBC5)

Curtis and Gonzalez arrived in Lake Placid on Sunday, Oct. 15, in time to interview aspiring Olympians from Texas during the USA Bobsled & Skeleton national team trials at the combined track at Mount Van Hoevenberg. It was the day after the USA Women’s Bobsled National Team was announced.

Their first stop was the U.S. Olympic Training Center to interview Justin Olsen, of San Antonio, who was selected to the USA Men’s Bobsled National Team on Oct. 20 as the third pilot. Olsen has competed at two Winter Olympics, winning a gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 as part of pilot Steven Holcomb’s four-man sled and placing 12th in Sochi in 2014 as part of Nick Cunningham’s four-man sled.

When the News caught up with Curtis and Gonzalez on Oct. 18, they were wrapping up interviews at the Olympic Center before leaving the next day.

“So what we’ve been doing here over the past four days is gathering content,” Curtis said. “We’ll take all of our content back to Dallas-Fort Worth, and we’ll put together a group of really nice stories leading up to the games.”

Curtis interviewed two female bobsledders with Texas connections, Kehri Jones of Killeen and Nicole Vogt of Dallas. Jones is a multi World Cup medalist and the reigning World Champion, having earned a gold medal at the World Championships in February with pilot Elana Meyers Taylor. Vogt is the pilot of the USA-4 sled and will be competing on the North American circuit this year; she placed third in the North American Cup races in Lake Placid on Jan. 20 and first on Jan. 23 with Bonnie Kilis.

Curtis met with two male bobsledders, Sam McGuffie of Cypress (inside the city of Houston) and Lou Moreira, a native of Somerville, Massachusetts, who attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The interview with McGuffie, who was named to this year’s USA Men’s Bobsled National Team, was especially timely since his hometown was devastated by flooding during Hurricane Harvey in late August and early September. The city of Houston is still in recovery mode.

“One thing that was really interesting was that Sam has been really involved in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort, so it was really interesting to talk to him about that because that has been such a big story for us back home,” Curtis said.

As for Moreira, who was on last year’s USA Men’s Bobsled National Team but did not make the cut this year, Curtis was impressed by his story.

“He’s got an amazing story,” Curtis said. “He’s a combat veteran. He’s a former bodybuilder. He still looks like a bodybuilder to me, that’s for sure. He was 2014 Mr. Texas.”

Moreira earned the title of Mr. Texas in the Texas State Bodybuilding Championships in 2014. Before earning a bachelor’s degree in applied physiology and sport management at SMU and a master’s degree at the University of Southern California, he served six years in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Infantry Division with 27 months of combat in Afghanistan. Longtime friend, two-time Olympic bronze medalist and bobsled World Champion Steve Langton suggested trying out for the U.S. bobsled team, and Moreira began training in March 2015.

On the skeleton side, Curtis spoke with two female athletes and one male: Kellie Delka of Collinsville; three-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender, who grew up in McGregor and now lives in Breckenridge, Colorado; and Austin McCrary of Colleyville. Uhlaender won two of the four selection races in Lake Placid and was named to this year’s Women’s Skeleton National Team while Delka and McCrary will both represent Team USA on the North American Cup team.

“There are so many other stories in Lake Placid as well,” Curtis said. “In addition to doing stories on our Texas athletes, we are doing stories on Lake Placid and things like the Miracle on Ice.”

In addition to taking the elevator to the top of the K120-meter ski jump at the Olympic Jumping Complex, Curtis and Gonzalez spent some special time at the Mount Van Hoevenberg sliding track and USA Luge headquarters on Church Street.

Why luge? This was a homecoming of sorts for Curtis, a graduate of Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, Emory University in Atlanta (bachelor’s degree in political science) and the University of Missouri School of Journalism (master’s degree) who spent time from 1988 to 1990 training as a luge athlete in Lake Placid.

“It was the 1980 luge track, and it was a beast,” Curtis said.

That was before the state Olympic Regional Development Authority tore the old track down and built the combined sliding facility in time for the 2000 Winter Goodwill Games.

“For the first time in more than 27 years, I got back on a sled out at the luge track,” Curtis said, showing a video on his phone of his ride that was captured by a GoPro camera attached to his helmet. “The new track is absolutely amazing, and I might have gotten hooked again. You may see me back here. I’ve been invited to the masters (competition), so I was flattered to just receive the invitation.”

As for Gonzalez, it was his first time visiting Lake Placid.

“It’s been great,” Gonzalez said. “The city’s so awesome. Just to walk around and the feel that I get that the Olympics is still here.”

As for Gonzalez’s ride down the sliding track on a luge sled, it never happened.

“I should have,” Gonzalez said.

“He could have,” Curtis added. “He had the offer.”

“I could have,” Gonzalez said. “Next time.”

Asked about favorite moments from his trip to Lake Placid, Gonzalez said he enjoyed the beauty of the lakes and the mountains. Curtis said he enjoyed catching up with old friends and relaxing in New York state’s Olympic Village.

“One thing I hope,” Curtis said, “I hope people who live here understand how special this place is because it really is a unique and extraordinary place. They probably do, which is why they live here, right? It is such a special place.”


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