Getting to know men's bobsledder Hunter Church
Hunter Church is a third-generation bobsledder. His great-uncle competed in the 1948 U.S. Olympic trials, and his dad, Thomas, slid recreationally in the 1970s and 1980s. The family was living in Anchorage, Alaska before moving to Cadyville, N.Y., which is about an hour north of Lake Placid, N.Y. Hunter took his first trip in a bobsled when he was just 7 years old, and he was signed up for the junior bobsled program by the time he was 12. Hunter says going down the track is "a minute of zen."
Hunter won his first World Cup bobsled medal, a bronze, in a four-man race in Igls, Austria last season with Jimmy Reed, Josh Williamson, and Kris Horn. It was the first medal for the U.S. men in a bobsled race on foreign soil since Steve Holcomb captured bronze on the same track in 2017. He's quickly emerged as one of Team USA's medal hopes.
Q: How were you exposed to bobsledding?
A: Outside of being a third generation bobsledder, I took a practice run at 7 with my dad at Lake Placid and was immediately hooked. Although bobsled was not extremely popular in the Lake Placid area, I always had a passion for it and got into the Lake Placid junior program for 10-16 year olds.
Q: You had a breakout season in 2019-2020. How do you feel about your performance over the last year?
A: Last year being my breakout year has been something I've been dreaming about since a little kid. Guys I use to watch growing up, I am now competing alongside and beating. Now, I just try to be the most consistent driver I can be. Repetition is so important. Taking the hour drive to Lake Placid to ride down the track four times is so important. Through all of this, you need to have a strong team, which has become a part of my family. Lastly, leaning on our USA Bobsled resources for help so they can help us be the best we can be.
Q: How have you managed to stay driven and focused with COVID-19 affecting your everyday life?
A: In terms of keeping in contact with my team, it is very important to have an open line of communication. We constantly check in with one another as we are monitoring and preparing for the upcoming season that starts in September. In terms of myself, the goal has always been the same. A lot of things can happen and change last minute, so I continue to control what I can control. Doing all the basics to stay prepared and have a positive mindset. I've even gotten the equipment to stay in the proper physical condition.
Q: Do you have a warm up routine? Is there any music you like to listen to before a race?
A: Personally, I like chill music, nothing too overhyped because I am prepared to thread a needle through a pin hole. However, in training we are told that the music shouldn't matter, as the environment and location constantly changes, so when I trained at ETSU they had us listen to Radio Disney. For my pre race, I always like to do a couple mind runs in my head for extra preparation.
Q: Do you have a favorite cheat food?
A: Well, I have a severe dairy allergy so that eliminates a lot of foods, but I love spicy sweet chili Doritos. Also, any non dairy Ben & Jerry's ice cream is good by me.
Q: Do you have a favorite bobsledder?
A: I would have to say Steve Holcomb was my idle and I was there to watch him win his first championship in 2009. He was my Tom Brady and I was heartbroken by his death. I value the time I got to spend working and training alongside him. Also, Francesco Friedrich is another bobsledder I greatly admire. I've been lucky enough to compete next to him and even receive some pointers from one of the best drivers in the world. Overall, any teammate or competitor I go up against I have great admiration for as I was such an enthusiast of the sport before I got to compete on this high level.
Q: Lastly, what is one interesting fact that not a lot of people know about you?
A: Actually, I love to sing and I'm a pretty good singer. From seventh grade til I graduated I was in choir and just thoroughly enjoyed singing.