My Skeleton Journey -Road to the 2026 Winter OlympicsUS National Championships
March 22, 2019 - Lake Placid, NY
I stand atop a 1,680-meter track made of concrete and ice knowing that, in a matter of seconds, I will be lying face down on a sled, head first, with my chin less than an inch off the ice, going 70+ miles per hour. This is Skeleton, and it’s the first day of US National Championships. As I stare down the start ramp into the belly of curve one, I can’t help but think back to just over a year ago when I hadn’t even heard of this crazy sport.A Little About Myself
My name is Zack Goodwin and I’m a Skeleton athlete for the USA Bobsled and Skeleton (USABS) team. Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York, I went to Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School (Class of 2012) where I played football for four years. After graduating, I enrolled in the Architectural program at Dutchess Community College (Class of 2014), and then transferred to SUNY Alfred State College where I played football for four years, ran track for one year, and earned my Bachelor of Architecture degree (Class of 2017). I currently work in architecture for a wonderful company called Clark Patterson Lee (CPL). Outside of my job and Skeleton, I love to snowboard, play golf, go cliff jumping, and spend time with my family and friends.My StoryThe Seed was Planted
December 11, 2017 - Alfred, NY
I was walking up the cold, windy campus on my way to the athletics building. Flooded with nostalgic memories of the last three and a half years, I realized my time as a student at Alfred State was coming to an end. I was graduating in less than a week and I couldn’t help but feel uneasy about what my future would hold. For my entire life up to that point, I had been heavily involved with athletics, and I thought that was about to change.
As I sat in my track coach’s office for a closing meeting, we shared a few laughs over how the season had gone. After my football season ended, I joined the indoor track team with only one month until graduation. Though my time on the team was short, the experience was impactful and I quickly realized what I had been missing out on. After only two meets, I ended my track career among the top 10 in school history in the 60-meter hurdles.
It was an Olympic year, so my coach mentioned that the USABS team typically recruited athletes out of college and taught them how to slide. I didn’t know much about the sport, but I was intrigued after our conversation. It was hard for me to believe that I could have the opportunity to learn an Olympic sport with no prior experience. But just like my decision to join the track team, the need to challenge myself and chase my dreams quickly kicked in. With no athletic plans post-college, I decided I would do whatever it took to make this new Olympic dream happen.
May 17, 2018 - Poughkeepsie, NY
I officially signed up for the USABS Combine Test. This intensive evaluation of speed and power includes general athletic movements (short sprints, a broad jump, and a shot toss) that are graded using a set point system. For the next month and a half, I worked tirelessly to become stronger and faster.
July 7, 2018 - Lake Placid, NY
The combine day had finally arrived. I showed up to the track early and warmed up with the rest of the athletes. The track in Lake Placid sits just below the Olympic Jumping Complex, allowing the enormous ski jumps to tower over us. The setting was breathtaking and I felt grateful just being there.
We tested our sprints then moved to the standing broad jump. Feeling strong and positive about my performance thus far, all that was left of the combine was the shot put toss. I was looking at the combine chart, crunching numbers in my head, figuring out exactly how far I needed to throw that small, 16-pound ball. The number quickly came to me. To earn a spot to train with the team at the Olympic Training Center, I needed to throw 12.8 meters.
On my first of three attempts, I threw 12.2 meters, and the pressure immediately began to build. On my second throw, the adrenaline kicked in and I felt great as the shot left my hand. The coach measured the distance and it was 13.8 meters! I was ecstatic when it registered to me that I had officially qualified for the next stage of the process.
Competing with the Best
August 19, 2018 - Lake Placid, NY
It’s rookie push camp in Lake Placid. This is where all the qualifying athletes from around the country come to compete against each other. For the first time, the coaches will be able to see how the athletes look running bent over behind a sled on the push track.
From the minute I showed up, I felt out of place. There were dozens of athletes who had successful track or football careers at major Division I universities. Not only was I just a Division III kicker, but I also had the lowest qualifying combine score of all the athletes who were invited to rookie camp. I knew I had my work cut out for me.
As we started learning the techniques of pushing a skeleton sled, I started to feel more and more comfortable. I picked up the coaching points quickly and began running faster and faster. We weren’t being timed just yet, but I was feeling good.
After one week of training, it was time for our rookie push competition. The coaches stood by and watched as we ran as hard as we could, trying to squeeze every hundredth of a second out of each rep. After the first of three heats, I was surprised by my time. I was toward the top of the leader board. As I did my last two pushes, I was eager to see where I stood. Out of the 20 male skeleton rookies, I finished in 6th place. After that strong finish and testing well in the lifting portion of the combine (a power clean and a 3-repetition back squat), I was invited back to start sliding with the team in the fall!
First Time on Ice
November 3, 2018 - Lake Placid, NY
My first week of sliding was both exciting and nerve-racking. There were roughly ten athletes from rookie camp who had returned to give this sport a shot. After all the time I had put into training, I would finally feel what it was like to go down the ice track on a sled. Developmental athletes begin from start 4, which is lower on the track (Curve 9 of 19). Starting from this point, we would only reach speeds of about 35 mph. We weren’t given much direction besides “just lay down and relax.”
After a couple of days, I became increasingly more comfortable, and moved farther up the track to start 3 (Curve 4). This is when things started to get real. Speeds accelerated to 60 mph, all the curves came at me faster, and I had to start learning to drive the track.
While most people think we simply lie on the sled and let the track do all the work, this is not the case at all. Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way. On my second run from start 3, I entered a curve way too late. As the curve started to end, my sled began to climb. I hit the roof, which resulted in me flipping on my back and sliding a couple hundred feet. I watched my sled tumble down the track uncontrollably as I tried to collect myself and figure out what had just happened. Everything in this sport happens faster than the blink of an eye. Luckily, I was unharmed other than a fairly significant “road rash” that covered the entirety of my butt.
That weekend, I went home. As I sat uncomfortably in the car on my new wound, I thought maybe this sport wasn’t for me. I had already crashed and we weren’t even at the top of the track yet. I discussed it with my mom and she reminded me that when I want something badly enough, I go after it with everything I have. After spending that weekend at home, tending to my ice burn, I went back to Lake Placid for week two with a new mindset.
A New Track
January 27, 2019 - Park City, UT
In this sport, it’s important to know that not all tracks are created equally. After getting comfortable at the Lake Placid track, we ventured off to the other US track located in Park City, Utah. Unlike the one in Lake Placid, this track is not only faster, but it also drives differently.
This is one of the many reasons why it takes so long to progress in this sport - every track has its own unique challenges. If you’re on tour and you show up to a new track, you typically only get 6-8 training runs before you compete on that track. As you can imagine, home track advantage is extremely important. That being said, the more skeleton knowledge and overall driving ability you have, the easier it will be to ascend in the ranks and adapt quickly to new tracks around the world.
The experience I had in Park City was incredible. This track ended up flowing much easier than I expected and seemed smoother than Lake Placid. Within a week, I felt comfortable and ended up placing 10th at Western Regionals. Final Stretch
February 26, 2019 - Lake Placid, NY
I arrived at the Olympic Training Center for the last stretch of the season. After sliding for almost five months at both US tracks, I not only felt more comfortable on the sled, but I also continued to drop time. I was getting faster, but more importantly, I was gaining a lot of confidence in my ability to push and drive.
When the weekend of Nationals came around, I was extremely excited. I was finally going to see how I stacked up against everybody in the country. On day one of the competition, while all the athletes started warming up for the 10am race, I was getting loose outside. I started to see my family roll in; mom, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. It was amazing to see how much support I had. I welcomed everyone with hugs and then went back to finish my warm up.
When it came time to race, I felt no pressure. As I stood at the line and looked around, I just felt happy to be there and grateful for the opportunity to be competing. The race was four heats over the course of two days and, by the end of the fourth heat, I finished 12th place in the country! I was very pleased with the outcome and it was a great way to finish off the season.
After seeing the progress I made this season, the coaches offered me the opportunity to tour with the North American Cup next year! I won't be officially racing, but I will be traveling with the team, getting invaluable experience on all the tracks in North America, and seeing what being on tour is all about.
I often think back to where this all started for me. 138 people showed up to the combine, 23 competed in skeleton push camp, 10 came back to slide, and I was the only first-year slider invited to tour. I am so excited for next season and can't wait to keep progressing!Why the “Go Fund Me”?
Most Olympic development athletes in the US receive little to no funding for expenses incurred during training. When I am in Lake Placid, I am able to stay at the Olympic Training Center where food and training facilities are provided to me; however, anywhere else I travel, I am on my own. Next season, I will be traveling to and spending extended periods of time at the two Canadian tracks (Whistler and Calgary), Park City, and Lake Placid. Not only will I incur costs for flights, places to stay, car rentals and food, but I will also be unable to work while I am traveling to train and compete. Although this sport is somewhat of a financial burden, my dream of competing for the United States in the Olympics heavily outweighs any doubts I’ve had in regard to those inevitable costs on my path there. I am 100% committed to this sport and will do whatever it takes to make this dream a reality. Thank you in advance; I greatly appreciate any and all support! Go Team USA!!