USABS HOSTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY FOR SIX NEW MEMBERS
by Abby Slenker
LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK (December 21, 2022) – On December 9, 2020, USA Bobsled/Skeleton (USABS) proudly announced the six individuals that would be inducted into its eighth class of its Hall of Fame: Steve Mesler, Tristan Gale Geisler, Randy Jones, Vonetta Flowers, James “Nitro” Morgan, and Geoff Bodine. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time, the official induction ceremony was postponed until December 17, 2022, when the celebration was finally able to be held at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
The USABS Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the sports of bobsled and skeleton. Their dedication and commitment as athletes and supporters of USABS will be forever honored through their induction into the Hall of Fame.
“These six people had a tremendous impact on our sports, and we are honored to recognize their achievements as the newest members of the USABS Hall of Fame,” said USABS CEO Aron McGuire. “Our current success is thanks to the hard work, dedication, and success of the people that have come before us and who’ve paved the way for the future. We are grateful for their involvement in their sports, their contributions to the team, and their legacies on and off the ice”.
Melser gained his recognition through his contributions to the sport of Bobsled as a push athlete, where he was able to accomplish becoming a world champion, an Olympic champion and three-time Olympian and the winner of 39 World Cup medals - the most of any American Bobsled push athlete in the history of the sport. In 2009, Mesler and his sister, Dr. Leigh Mesler Parise, founded Classroom Champions, which has grown into an international organization that connects Olympians, Paralympians, student-athletes, and pro athletes to millions of students in classrooms across the U.S., Canada, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Costa Rica, and military installations in Germany.
"To be included amongst teammates, like Randy, Tristan, and Vonetta and legends like Nitro and Geoff, is beyond anything I ever thought I would accomplish in sport. I missed celebrating our accomplishment with Holcy, who passed away in 2017, but it is exciting to remember all that we accomplished together with the Night Train through this recognition" Mesler elaborated.
Geisler was a pioneer in the sport of Women’s Skeleton, competing in the inaugural women’s skeleton Olympic race in her hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002. In front of her friends and family, Gale Geisler became the first-ever women’s skeleton Olympic champion. Geisler followed up her Olympic performance in 2003 with a bronze medal at the world championships in Nagano, Japan.
Jones competed in 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006 Olympics as a push athlete, winning the Olympic silver medal in the 4-Man Bobsled event alongside Todd Hays, Bill Schuffenhauer, and Garrett Hines. It was the first time since 1956 that the U.S. won an Olympic medal in men’s bobsled. In addition, he finished the World Cup season ranked in the top three three times: third in 1993 and 1997, and second overall in 2003. At one time, Jones held numerous push start records across the world and was considered one of the best push athletes to compete during his world cup seasons.
Flowers was a pioneer in the sport of Bobsled as a female brakeman by competing in the first two women’s bobsled Olympic races in 2002 and 2006. Her early accomplishments proved to be an inspiration to several future American push athletes. Flowers’ transition to bobsled from track athlete paved the way for many other female sprinters and athletes to follow in her footsteps. Flowers pushed Jill Bakken in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, winning the inaugural gold medal in the event. As part of the winning team, Flowers became the first African-American Winter Olympic gold medalist in history in any sport. Since her historic accomplishment, other African-American athletes have won medals at the Winter Olympics in bobsled as well as other sports, thanks in part to the path paved by Flowers.
“Bobsledders are a unique breed of athletes that live by the edge of our runners, and we defy odds by finding speed living outside the lines. And I’m proud to say that I was once a Bobsledder,” Flowers shared in her virtual speech at the induction ceremony.
Morgan, known as Jimmy, but nicknamed “Nitro” because of his explosive driving style, started driving bobsleds in 1971 and quickly rose up the ranks as one of the top bobsled pilots in the country. He competed at the 1975 World Championships in Cervina, Italy, where he finished seventh in the two-man event. It was the best American finish at the world championships in Europe in the decade of the 70s. Morgan went on to be the top American bobsled pilot at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympic Games in the two-man and four-man competitions, finishing 12th and 13th, respectively. Morgan tragically lost his life during the 1981 World Championships in the final curve of the Cortina, Italy track. He is the only U.S. bobsledder ever killed in competition internationally. Morgan’s younger brother, John, was calling the competition with ABC Sports’ Bill Flemming at the 1981 competition that took Morgan’s life. He joins John as the second Morgan sibling to be inducted into the USABS Hall of Fame. Morgan was raised in Saranac Lake, N.Y., and was also a Vietnam veteran.
Bodine, a former NASCAR driver and the 1986 Daytona 500 winner, brought car racing principles, competitive savvy, and 3-D design software to build a gold-worthy bobsled. Bodine noticed that the team had been using hand-me-down sleds from European teams, and he had the desire to see U.S. Olympic athletes compete in American-made bobsleds. Bodine collaborated with race car designer Bob Cuneo of Chassis Dynamics to create the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project. Bo-Dyn bobsleds first appeared in the 1994 Winter Olympic Games. The most famous Bo-Dyn sled was the four-man “Night Train,” which was driven by the late Holcomb to the 2010 Olympic gold medal. The achievement ended a 62-year drought for the United States, which had not won a gold medal since the 1948 Winter Games.
There are now 28 members of the USABS Hall of Fame with the addition of Mesler, Gale Geisler, Jones, Flowers, Morgan, and Bodine. Learn more about all 28 Hall of Fame inductees here.
For media inquiries, please contact USABS’ Digital Media & Communications Manager Abby Slenker at email@example.com.
About USA Bobsled/Skeleton
USA Bobsled/Skeleton (USABS), based in Lake Placid, N.Y., is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton in the United States. For more information, please visit the USABS website at www.usabs.com. Individuals interested in becoming a bobsled or skeleton athlete can visit www.usabobsledskeleton.com.