LATHAM, N.Y., Jan. 19, 2018 — Four New York National Guard soldiers will compete at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month.
The four soldiers are enrolled in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program:
— Sgt. Emily Sweeney, who is assigned to New York Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and lives in Suffield, Connecticut, will be part of the U.S. Luge team;
— Sgt. Matthew Mortensen, a member of the 1156th Engineer Company headquartered in Kingston, New York, who lives in Lake Placid, New York, will also be part of the U.S. Luge team;
— Sgt. Justin Olsen, assigned to New York Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and a Lake Placid resident, will be part of the U.S. Bobsled Team; and
— Sgt. Nick Cunningham, also assigned to the New York Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters and a Lake Placid resident, will also be part of the U.S. Bobsled Team.
Sweeney, 24, joined the New York Army National Guard in December 2011 and is trained as a military police soldier. She has been competing in luge since 2008. In 2013, she was the luge junior world champion. She holds one World Cup gold medal and three World Cup silver medals.
Sweeney just missed representing the United States in the 2014 Olympic Games. The 2018 Winter Games will be her first Olympics.
Mortensen, 32, jointed the New York Army National Guard in February 2010 and is trained as an electrician. He has been competing in luge since 2009 and currently competes as part of a doubles team in which two rides share the sled.
His hometown is Huntington Station, New York, and the 2018 Games will be his second Olympics. In 2014, he finished in 14th place at the games in Sochi, Russia.
Olsen, 30, joined the New York Army National Guard in January 2011 and trained as a human resources specialist. The 2018 Games will be his third Olympics appearance. In 2010 he was part of the four-man bobsled team that took the gold medal at the Vancouver Games.
During the 2014 Games, he was on the same team as fellow Army National Guard soldier Nick Cunningham. The team finished in 12th place that year.
Olsen, whose hometown is Lubbock, Texas, has been competing since 2007 and has taken gold and silver medals in a number of competitions.
Cunningham, 32, joined the New York Army National Guard in March 2011 and trained as a carpentry and masonry specialist.
He competed on two-man and four-man bobsled teams in the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games and has been competing in bobsled since 2008. Cunningham, from Monterey, California, has a number of gold and silver medals to his credit.
He and Sgt. Justin Olsen competed on the same team in 2014 and will compete together again in this year’s games.
A fifth soldier, Sgt. Jacob Hyrns, who is a member of the 1427th Transportation Company based in Queensbury, New York, and who lives in Lake Placid, missed making the Olympic luge team by 6 hundredths of a second during team qualifying competitions in December.
Army World Class Athlete Program
The Army World Class Athlete Program is a military detachment run by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. It was established by the Army to support Public Law 84-11, which allows the Army to provide soldiers — including those in the National Guard and the Army Reserve — an opportunity to train for and participate in the Pan American Games, World Championships and Olympic and Paralympic competitions.
The World Class Athlete Program detachment was established in 1997 at Fort Carson, Colorado, near the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Most soldiers in the program are assigned to the detachment and train on Fort Carson or at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Others train with the U.S. national team for their specific sport. On average, 40 to 60 soldiers are in the detachment.
Soldiers must be nationally ranked in their chosen sport to be considered for the program. Soldiers in the program balance athletic training with their military careers, and are soldiers first. They represent the United States and the Army, maintain their military occupational skills, and often return to traditional military units when they are not competing or training.