Few people probably know all the work, perseverance, dedication and help from others that it takes for an athlete from the United States to pursue an Olympic dream.
For Norfolk’s Nicole Brungardt, it also includes tons of gratitude.
Brungardt, who was back in Norfolk this week before heading to Utah to train, took time to thank some of the people personally who are supporting her during her quest to make the U.S. women’s bobsled team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
She said without them, there’s no way she would be competing now to try and fulfill a dream — competing in the Olympics.
Although Brungardt said she always dreamed when she was young that if she made the Olympics, it would be in basketball or track.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t diminish the skill and dedication it takes to become an Olympian.
There are 22 elite athletes who are currently competing for a chance to be on the U.S. Olympic women’s bobsled team. The U.S. women will have two or three sleds, depending on their rankings at the time of trials.
If the U.S. only qualifies two teams, it will just have four athletes — two pilots and two brakemen. If three teams qualify, it will have six athletes — three pilots and three brakemen.
That means a maximum of six athletes could make the Olympics from the 22 now competing. There are no four-men bobsled teams for women at this time because there are no competitions for women beyond two members.
Brungardt and the other elite athletes have made the world cup team, which will be named again in November. It takes years to make the Olympic team.
“You have to go through all the processes again to get renamed,” she said. “It will be about 2021 when that world cup team gets named then about three weeks or so before the Olympics that the teams will be named.”
Along with actual bobsled runs, there’s a lot of fitness and strength training, including lifting weights and sprinting. She also works with a push coach from Canada, who helps her work on pushing the sled.
Brungardt said most of the winter athletes train in Lake Placid, N.Y., but some also train at Colorado Springs, Colo.
Brungardt has trained at both places, most recently at Colorado Springs. That enabled her to “mix it up and be closer to home,” she said.
She will be heading to Park City, Utah, this weekend for more training. There are two bobsled tracks in the United States, Park City and Lake Placid. Both sites have been used for the Winter Olympics.
It’s also worth nothing that team trials will be at Park City this year.
Brungardt joined the U.S. women's bobsled team on the North American Circuit in October 2017. She won three gold medals on the North American Circuit her rookie season, and placed ninth in the World Championships in 2019, securing a spot as one of the Top 10 bobsled athletes in the world.
“I absolutely love it and all that it (bobsledding) has brought to my life,” she said. “I still have a passion for basketball and volleyball though. Even after my training yesterday at the gym, I was playing basketball for a half-hour. I just shot around and listened to music. It’s almost like therapy for me because I just love it (basketball) so much.”
Brungardt’s athletic achievements include being a four-year letter winner and defensive specialist on the Wildcat volleyball team. She played on four teams that made the NCAA National Tournament.
Brungardt also competed in women’s track and field for two seasons (2011, 2012). In her first season in track, she was NSIC indoor newcomer of the year after earning All-NSIC honors in four events (champion in 4x400 relay, second in 60-meter dash and long jump and third in 200-meter dash).
Brungardt was a three-time NCAA indoor All-American in the 2011 season, helping Wayne State to its best-ever NCAA finish as a team, 13th place at nationals.
In two years of track, Brungardt was a four-time All-American, eight-time All-Region selection and five-time NSIC champion. Brungardt still holds four indoor school record — 60 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4 x 400 relay and holds three outdoor school records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and 4 x 200 meter relay.
She graduated from Norfolk Catholic where she earned the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star Female Athlete of the Year awards in 2008.
The daughter of Tim Brungardt of Norfolk and Julie Brungardt said that family is especially important to her. One of her favorite things to do is be with them for “down time.”
When she isn’t training, she lives in Omaha and said she always feels grateful at home in Norfolk.
“Everybody around here has made this career possible for me,” she said. “That’s why I love to come back here and say thanks to all the people who have gotten behind me and made it possible. I’m always going to give it my best and give it to God.”