SE: Vogt Works Towards Olympic Dream
Nicole Vogt competes with the U.S. National Bobsled team, photo by Ron LeBlanc. Photo below: courtesy of Nicole Vogt.
Had she never competed with the K-State rowing team, Nicole Vogt, a pilot on the U.S. National Bobsled Team, may have never had the confidence to follow her dream of becoming an Olympian.
The Wichita, Kansas, native showed up at K-State in 2005, and, like many of the team’s rowers, she had no previous experience in the sport.
What she did have was the will to learn, grow and work hard, and with that mindset she transformed herself from a brand new rower to a successful collegiate athlete.
“I wanted to attend K-State for my education, and jumped at the opportunity to compete as a member of the women’s rowing team,” said Vogt. “Growing up in the Midwest, I was beyond excited to be a part of Big 12 sports. In high school, I dreamed of becoming a Division I athlete, so just being on the team was a dream come true. Learning an entirely new sport at the collegiate level was intimidating, but it was such a privilege. If I hadn't been afforded that opportunity, I would have never had the confidence to pursue bobsled and learn another entirely new sport at an Olympic level.”
During her collegiate career Vogt raced in the 1st Varsity 8+ boat for three seasons and helped her boat to a Big 12 Championship during the 2008-09 season.
“Winning the Big 12 Championship that year will forever be my favorite race of my career,” said Vogt as she reminisced back to her days at K-State. “We blasted off the line and had a big lead on Texas in the first 500 meters, but the race officials stopped the race and made us go back for a re-start. We were understandably upset; Coach (Pat) Sweeney was livid. Our coxswain got us back to the line and we mentally focused on putting that behind us. We were inching out into the lead the entire race. I remember crossing the finish line, collapsing in the boat and hearing our parents, coaches and teammates cheering. The atmosphere was amazing.”
Vogt was named a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) National Scholar-Athlete all four years she competed and was named to the Conference USA All-Academic Team her senior year.
But when her rowing career came to an end in 2010, she wasn’t ready to stop competing.
That’s when she began looking into bobsled. She remembered watching the sport in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and hearing a commentator talk about silver medalist, Elana Meyers. Meyers played collegiate softball at George Washington University, a sport very different from bobsled, yet there she was standing on that pedestal as an Olympian.
If Meyers could do it, so could Vogt.
“I was looking for another competitive outlet after college and saw most of the Olympians competing in bobsled were cross-over athletes from other collegiate sports,” Vogt explained. “I researched the sport and sent in a resume on the USA Bobsled website. Bobsled is a rare sport because you can join so late in life and still have a shot at going to the Olympics. I really just wanted to keep competing.”
After receiving her resume, Vogt was invited to attend the U.S. Bobsled Combine during the summer of 2010.
“I did terrible in that first combine, so I decided to train for a year and try again,” Vogt said. “I found a gym in Dallas that helped me learn how to sprint and improved my scores enough to be invited to the 2011 National Push Championships in Lake Placid. I competed my first season as a brakeman on the North American Cup racing circuit. From there, I attended a driving school in Lake Placid and made the switch the pilot seat for my second season.”
She’s been competing as a pilot for four seasons now and just recently hit the pinnacle of her bobsled career. Earlier this fall, on October 26, Vogt was named to the U.S. Bobsled team roster – one step closer to achieving her Olympic dream.
“This was the first season that making the National Team as a pilot was actually a possibility for me,” said Vogt, “and I thought about it every single workout over the summer. For four years I was dreaming of the day I would become a national team pilot, and that dream finally became a reality.”
Vogt said she learned of the news at a team meeting at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. She was surrounded by teammates. Some were just as excited to have made the team. Some were crushed they did not.
“On the outside I remained pretty calm with a big smile on my face, but on the inside I was ecstatic, elated, overjoyed,” she said. “I was acting cool until I made it back to my room. I danced around like a crazy woman and couldn’t stop smiling. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror, my eyes would get wide and my smile would grow and I would think, ‘What just happened? How did I become the third-ranked women's bobsled pilot in the United States?’"
Vogt sits just behind Olympians Meyers and Jamie Greubel Poser as the U.S. National team’s No. 3 driver, but has hopes of earning the No. 1 or 2 spot as she continues to train and keep her eyes on the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“One of the main challenges of being a developmental pilot is funding,” said Vogt. “Bobsled is the third most expensive Olympic sport behind sailing and equestrian, and until you are named USA-1 or USA-2, you receive no financial support from the federation.”
Vogt works full time as an engineer for AOS Engineering in Dallas, Texas, when she’s not on the road with the U.S. National team. She said seeing the other side of being an athlete – the expensive side – really makes her appreciate her time at K-State.
“A full season will typically cost me around $40,000,” she explained. “While I consider representing my country as a member of Team USA the highest honor, every day I am faced with the reality that achieving my dream requires financial support. Now I really appreciate the first-class facilities, sports med treatment, and financial support I received during my time as a student-athlete at K-State.”
Though she is walking a new path and competing in a new sport, Vogt thinks back to her time rowing with the Wildcats often. Her days at K-State prepared her for this next step and taught her that anything is possible.
“Rowing was, by far, the most mentally challenging sport I’d competed in,” Vogt explained. “It taught me mental toughness that has definitely helped me in my bobsled career. A 2,000-meter rowing race is roughly seven minutes long, and your mind is telling your body to stop about a minute into the race. At that point you have to shut your mind off, focus on each stroke and just keep going.
“Being a bobsled pilot requires that same mental toughness,” she continued. “Flying down the track at speeds of 80 to 90 miles per hour, you have to take each curve as they come and focus on what’s next, never dwelling on a mistake in the previous curve. Learning to drive can be a frustrating process when you crash or keep hitting walls, so you learn to weed out the negative thoughts and focus on the positives. Rowing taught me that when you put in the hard work and stay positive, you can compete with the confidence you need to succeed.”
To learn more about Vogt, you can check out her website by clicking here.