Valley athlete finds new ride
Steven Jacobo never considered taking up bobsledding until he was introduced to the sport last month during a U.S. Adaptive Bobsled and Skeleton Association training and introduction school in Calgary.
Now, the 24-year-old Gardnerville wheelchair athlete is looking to see how far he can go.
“I love winter sports and this is something new,” he said. “I’ve always liked extreme sports and it seemed like a great opportunity to do this. I love it now.”
Jacobo was paralyzed after a 2013 skiing accident that resulted in severe T9 and T10 vertebrae spinal cord damage.
Adaptive sliding sports — bobsledding and skeleton racing — are still in their developmental phases and at present not scheduled to be part of the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“If it doesn’t make the 2018 Paralympics then 2022 is more promising but it is still a possibility,” Jacobo said.
He performed well enough in Calgary to earn a spot on the U.S. Adaptive Bobsled and Skeleton Association roster.
“I got to meet a bunch of athletes from all over the country and other nations and got to see some competitions,” he said. My next goal is to make it out there and start training more with them so I can compete because we do compete in World Cup events.”
He is now looking to travel in January to Europe, where he said the USA adaptive bobsledders will spend a month training starting on Jan. 18 at Innsbruck, Austria and St. Moritz, Switzerland. Jacobo’s efforts are geared toward two-man sledding.
“The officials told me if I stick with it I’ll be really good in this sport because every single one of my runs I did really good,” he said.
Financial considerations are the main obstacle at this time, especially in terms of transportation costs. Local sponsorship commitment has been received from Testa Motorsports, Jacobo acknowledged, as well as assistance from BAMF Nation, Box Wheelchairs, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Truckee-based High Fives Foundation.
“We pretty much have to pay for this ourselves because the team does not have its own sponsors yet, so we have to work on raising the funds and coming up with our own sponsors to help get out there,” he explained.
On a two-man adaptive sledding team, wheelchair athletes serve as drivers, while amputees push the sleds and then act as brakemen. Jacobo described the experience as exciting, yet intense.
“I’m not going to lie, my first time down that track, my heart was pounding,” he said. “You just start taking the speed faster and faster. It doesn’t get slower at all and those turns start coming up faster and faster and you’ve just got to be prepared to take it all in, stay focused and don’t worry about crashing.”
From top to bottom on the mile-long course, Jacobo said a sled reaches speeds from 90 to 120 mph. The mental aspect is all-important — focus being the key word — according to an athlete who has a background in extreme skiing.
“It felt like a roller coaster on ice,” he said. “A lot of people don’t think you drive those things, but you do. You’re controlling the whole sled.
“You have to just stay focused, look for your entrances and exits around the corners. If you don’t enter or exit right, you can flip the sled. One way or another, you’re going to get down to the bottom of the track, either on your tracks or upside down. When you flip the sled, you’re sliding upside down at 90-plus miles per hour, so it’s pretty extreme.”