A Northern California athlete who competed in the 2010 Olympics has joined the Army.
Nick Cunningham of the 2010 bobsled team tweeted Monday: "Just signed my papers with the New York Army National Guard. Off to basic training in 2 weeks @ Ft.Sill Oklahoma."
Cunningham was a "brakeman" on the 2010 USA Olympic team where he placed 12th in the two-man bobsled. He also place 13th in the four man bobsled.
He called the Olympics "a dream come true," during an interview on KSBW. He was born in San Jose and has since moved to Monterey. His father Tim Cunningham said Nick will be part of the Outstanding Athlete program for the National Guard.
The program is specifically for elite athletes. Tim Cunningham said after basic training Nick will compete with the Guard subsidizing the effort.
Tim Cunningham explained the trade off like this: Nick will be a public spokesman as a promoter for Guard, and in exchange he gets to keep chasing his bobsled dream.
Three other U.S. bobsled team members are also in the program.
Sometimes exceptional athletes develop a passion for a sport that doesn't offer million-dollar paydays. But with the right support, they can still compete at the very highest levels. The Oustanding Athlete Program (OAP) allows Soldiers the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of Olympic greatness while serving their country in the National Guard. These Soldier-Athletes participate in the same initial entry training as all Guard Soldiers—including training in a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)—before being considered. Then, in addition to representing their country, they also serve as ambassadors for the Guard and its many outstanding programs.The idea of supporting National Guard Soldiers for the Olympic Games originated during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was using the Olympic Games to promote Communism and spread its influence across the world. The United States wanted to instead promote the ideals of freedom and democracy.To better compete with the Soviet Union in international sporting events, the United States Army created the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), in which Soldiers with exceptional athletic abilities were allowed to train full time and compete in the Olympic Games. Since 1912, American Soldiers have been responsible for at least 131 of the Olympic medals awarded to the U.S.A.During their competition season, Guard athletes spend most of their time training and competing in World Cup tournaments. During the off-season, OAP members assist with National Guard recruiting efforts. Soldier-Athletes tour the country educating the public about their Olympic experiences and the impact the Guard has had on their success.