Mission accomplished

The four-man bobsled team made up a small deficit to jump into the medals on Sunday. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- He had not yet had a chance to talk to his wife. Had not yet told her what it felt like to finally have an Olympic medal hanging from his neck. But already, the tears were beginning to fall.

This had been the dream since 2007, when Chris Fogt attended a bobsled camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Three years later, he was part of the USA-2 sled that crashed and finished last in Vancouver. Since that disappointment, he had counted the days until Sochi. Even in the year he spent on duty in Iraq as an Army captain, his mind thought of his other mission: to win an Olympic medal.

On the days when the pain was too much to bear, when the fibers in his quadriceps muscles seared with pain amid a grueling workout, Fogt thought about Iraq. He thought about the birthdays and anniversaries and high school graduations that his troops had missed. He thought about the sacrifice. And then he'd push harder. And harder. And harder still.

And so it was here, on the final day of the Sochi Games, that all that hard work finally paid off. Riding with driver Steve Holcomb, Curt Tomasevicz and Steve Langton, Fogt and the USA-1 sled's four-run time of 3:49.99 earned them a bronze medal.

Afterward, as Fogt tried to put into words what the moment meant, his eyes filled with tears.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "We crossed the line and I was overwhelmed with emotion ... just like I am now. This means a lot for me and my family, for the military and everyone. I'm very excited that I could win something for them."

In the final American event of the Sochi Games, Fogt's sentiment was yet another reminder as to the power of a medal-winning moment, no matter the color. No agents. No choreographed celebrations. No concern about endorsement deals or prime-time television interviews. Just pure human emotion. Just a man who grew up always wanting to represent his country feeling like he had done so in a completely new way.

Part of the Army's World Class Athlete Program, Fogt spoke of the letters and emails that had poured in from Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and Army bases all over the United States. They all believed in him. They all suggested this time was his.

"It's been amazing," he said.

Since the USA-1 won gold in Vancouver four years ago, it was Holcomb, the driver, who had become a household name. With his gold in Vancouver and bronze in the two-man event last week and again in the four-man Sunday, Holcomb became the first American bobsledder to win three Olympic medals. He is also the first in 62 years to medal in the two- and four-man events.

But on this day, the story was about the only man in USA-1 who had not yet stood on a medals podium. The man who for the past four years has had to explain that, yes, he was part of the U.S. bobsled team in Vancouver, but no, he didn't win gold.

"I watched these guys win in 2010. You're envious of it," Fogt said. "You think it would be so cool to have one of those. And the past four years I met people and it's, 'Oh, you went to the Games? How did you do?' Last place. It's been tough to say that. But now I have something to show for it."

In the middle of his brief chat with reporters, Langton tapped Fogt on the shoulder. He had a phone call. It was Fogt's wife, Rachel, five months pregnant, calling from home in Utah. When Sunday's races began at 2:30 a.m. Utah time, Rachel was hosting a viewing party, where her brother and other friends dressed in Fogt's old speedsuits. So, too, did her 5-year-old nephew, despite what must have been an unfortunate fit.

Fogt grabbed the phone and stepped away. His wife told him how proud she was. How excited she was. How insane things were at home.

"I think they woke up the neighbors," Fogt said after hanging up.

USA-1 was in fourth place at the midway point Sunday, trailing third-place Germany by 0.01 seconds. But with a pair of strong runs, coupled with a disappointing day for the Germans, the bronze went to the U.S.

It was fitting, in a way, that the key behind the Americans' performance was their strength. In three of the four heats, the U.S. had the fastest start time, highlighted by its record-setting 4.75-second start in the first heat Saturday night.

"No one pushes harder than us. No one trained harder than us. I guarantee it," Fogt said. "Whether it's in the weight room or running sprints, the way we train -- no one trains harder."

Fogt said the close proximity of teammates creates a brotherhood, just like it does in the military. That, he believes, is one of the reasons the U.S. men have been so successful in the past two Olympics.

"In the Army, you bleed together, you sweat together, you work out together," he said. "You travel around in downtown Baghdad on a 120-degree day in a Humvee for four hours.

"Here, your life is not in danger but you're sliding down a track in a bathtub with four men in spandex. We travel together. I've slept two feet away from Steve Langton for the last three months of my life. You're together all the time. There's never a break."

Nor will there be one anytime soon. On May 5, Fogt said he will report back for active duty. Where he will end up and what he will do is anyone's guess. The one thing he does know: His Olympic medal will be coming with him.

"I'm taking that thing everywhere," he said.

In fact, Vogt said he had no plans to remove the medal from his neck for at least a week.

"I'm going to wear it in the shower. I'm going to wear it to sleep," he said.

What about metal detectors at the airport?

"I think they'll understand," he said.