Feb. 21, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Former UC Santa Barbara track and field standout Valerie Fleming can also call herself an Olympic medalist, teaming with Shauna Rohbock on Tuesday to capture silver in the women's bobsled competition held in Cesana, Italy.
With Rohbock driving and Fleming serving as brakewoman, USA-1 finished the four-race competition in a combined time of 3:50.69, just .71 of a second behind gold medal-winning German team of Sandra Kiriasis and Anja Schneiderheinze. It marks the first-ever Winter Olympic medal earned by a UCSB alumnus. Fleming - who won the 1998 Big West Conference javelin competition during her four-year Gaucho career - began bobsledding in 2003.
Through six sliding competitions - bobsled, luge and skeleton - held at these Olympics, Americans had failed to medal, but Rohbock and Fleming busted through the ice for Team USA. As they crossed the finish line, the pair pumped their fists and Rohbock pounded both hands on the front of USA-1 in celebration.
Fleming - a 29-year-old native of Foster City, Calif. - and Rohbock are also roommates, living together near the U.S. National Training Facility in Park City, Utah. Rohbock is a three-sport standout, earning All-American honors in both soccer and track at BYU before playing two seasons in the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). She was an alternate on the 2002 U.S. bobsled team, while this is the first Olympic Games for Fleming.
Fleming graduated from UCSB in 1998, beginning her collegiate career as a sprinter before switching to javelin as a senior. She kept throwing beyond college, but tore a ligament in her elbow that required three surgeries over three years. While in rehab she finished up a graduate program in Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Saint Mary's College.
Afterward, she felt it was time to get out into the "real world," but Fleming wasn't ready to give up sports, which is when her friend Ben Fogel - a member of the U.S. men's team - suggested she try bobsled. She did well on her initial physical testing and was invited to Park City to try out for the team. Fleming took her first trip down the track with experienced driver Jean Prahm, yet still felt nauseous and thought to herself, "What did I sign up for?" But Fleming made the U.S. team for the 2003-04 World Cup season and slid mainly with Rohbock during her first season.
Some copy courtesy of NBColympics.com)