Alpine’s Chris Fogt has been a busy man since winning a bronze medal in the bobsled event with his three USA-1 teammates at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Although just being an Olympian at Vancouver in 2010 brought him some opportunities, his experience and the demands on him have been greatly magnified this time because he won a medal.
The US triumph in the 4-man race came just hours before the closing ceremonies, and Fogt has continued on the fast track ever since.
Ought to be pretty comfortable by now.
“We had basically one day to pack up after the closing ceremonies and I flew home to a wonderful parade in Alpine,” Fogt said. He admitted to being a little apprehensive at first because he was going to be the whole focus of the event, but it worked out fine.
“It turned out to be a great experience for me,” he said. “They let out four schools along the parade route and it was so fun to be with all the kids. I let everyone touch the medal that I could. It was a real hands-on event, literally.”
After a few days of rest at home with his wife Rachel and family, Fogt was on the road again, making appearances in behalf of the bobsled team’s corporate sponsors in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
He was invited to speak and answer questions at elementary schools in Alpine, Orem and Holladay, and was also a featured guest at Juan Diego High School.
“These are my favorite activities that I’ve been doing,” Fogt said. In the elementary schools or in individual classes, he generally gave a 10-minute message and then let the kids see the medal and take pictures with it.
He said his informal talks generally focused on encouraging the students to chase their dreams, and added that there were always some funny questions at the end. Inevitably, he was asked if he knew other famous Olympians, most often Shaun White and new star Sage Kotsenburg.
Last week he participated in a trip to the White House sponsored by the US Olympic Committee. About 200 Team USA athletes from the Paralympic and Olympic squads elected to attend.
This was an especially moving experience for Fogt, who competed in Russia along with a few others as a member of the US Army’s World-Class Athlete Program. He’s a captain in the military intelligence branch and served a tour of duty in Iraq after the 2010 Games.
An event lasting a couple of hours for the other participants ended up being much longer for Fogt. He went a few days early to attend the retirement ceremony of the 2-star general who was his commander in Iraq.
“This was a full-blown salute to a great career, with a parade, a show, an inspection and even the Army Band,” Fogt said. “I felt privileged to be able to be there.” He was also able to visit with a number of Army friends stationed in the area and to ask questions related to his military job.
This was Rachel’s first trip to Washington, so the couple spent the next couple of days seeing the sights of the capital city. While touring one of the Smithsonian’s many museums, Fogt got a call from the Presiding Bishopric’s office of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A church member, he was asked for permission to tell part of his story during the church’s then-upcoming General Conference. He said the request totally took him by surprise, but he readily agreed.
On Thursday, he joined the other Olympians at the White House. He was among those who filmed a commercial on the South Lawn to be used in First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity.
The First Lady greeted the entire group in the East Room of the White House. According to the official press release, she told the athletes that she was “truly amazed” by their performances in Sochi.
“I am really in awe of everything you do, as so many people here in America and across the globe are,” she said. “Again and again, you all showed us that being an Olympian is about heart; it’s about guts; and it’s about giving it your all no matter what stands in your way.
“And that’s a message that I try to convey to young people all the time — the idea that if you work hard and commit yourselves to a goal, and then pick yourself up when you fall, that there is nothing that you can’t achieve.”
President Barack Obama also addressed the team, commending the athletes for their "dominating performances" in this year's two Winter Games, noting the 46 medals they brought home.
“From our ski jumpers who fought for equality, to the athletes and coaches who served our country in uniform ... these athletes all send a message that resonates far beyond the Olympic Village,” he said.
“And that's always been the power of the Olympics. In going for the gold and pushing yourselves to be the best, you inspire the rest of us to try to, if not be the best, at least be a little better.
"All of you remind us that the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight," the President said.
“They were very gracious,” Fogt said. The President greeted each of the athletes individually, beginning with those in wheelchairs. He then requested that the current and former service members on the team come forward.
“There were about 15 of us,” Fogt said. The President, who of course is also their Commander-in-Chief, presented each of them with a commemorative presidential medal before continuing on to shake hands with all the other athletes.
“Now when I play the coin game, I’ll always win because you can’t get higher than the President,” Fogt quipped.
The group was given a brief tour of the mansion and were also the guests of honor at a luncheon.
Fogt got a bonus here as well through a friend who works at the White House. He was treated to a more extensive private tour and met the President’s Chief of Staff.
He got to visit the Situation Room, where he said he was overwhelmed at seeing the place where so much history has happened. “It was a special moment for me,” he said.
After the luncheon, the team was invited to join the President for a press conference. It was originally intended to just include remarks about the Olympics, but the President took the opportunity to address the shooting incident at Fort Hood at the same time.
This was also especially meaningful to Fogt, not just because he’s in the Army but also since his brother is stationed at that post. He called it a very rewarding day.
Back in Utah, on Friday night he participated in a parade in Park City. “There were 30 present and past Olympians included,” he said. “Even though it was snowing, there were several thousand people on Main Street. We felt a lot of support.”
On Sunday, he and Rachel joined Noelle Pikus-Pace and her husband Janson at a session of LDS General Conference with tickets provided by the Presiding Bishopric.
“It was a huge honor to be mentioned in that setting,” Fogt said. “His talk was focused on the youth and fit in well with what I’ve been doing in the schools. It was really, really neat to be there.”
Fogt is busy now preparing for his upcoming return to full-time active duty. During Easter weekend, he’s excited to be visiting his brother at Fort Hood, where he’ll be addressing his brother’s unit and will have the rare privilege to be able to promote him to first lieutenant.
That’s not something a sibling gets to do very often in the military, but Fogt appreciates the commanders there arranging for that singular opportunity. He hopes his visit will serve a larger purpose as well.
“After what just happened there, I want to make the rounds and try to boost morale,” he said. “I want to help out any way I can.”
Continuing in his dual Olympic-Army role, Fogt will travel on to Kansas City from there, where he’ll be addressing four high schools at the request of the local recruiting command. He’s fielded assignments like this once or twice a year through WCAP, but this one is special.
“I’ll be talking to kids who’ll be going to basic training right after graduation, as well as their classmates,” he said. “I will talk to them about how there are a lot of different Army jobs and programs out there to help them pay for college and find out what they want to do.
“There will be question-and-answer sessions as well,” Fogt said. “Hopefully the kids will listen more because I’m an Olympian too.”
Fort Carson, Colo., the home of the WCAP program, is the next stop. He’ll be outprocessing from the program there, but also has some speaking engagements scheduled, including with those currently in training for the next summer Games, set for 2016 in Brazil.
“Hopefully I can give them some extra motivation and momentum to contribute to the buildup before Rio,” he said.
Fogt and Pikus-Pace will both be receiving honorary doctorates from Utah Valley University during commencement ceremonies on May 1. The two of them are now among the school’s most well-known alumni.
The next day, he’ll be joining former MLB star Dave Winfield for a Sons of Baseball charity event in Lehi before hitting the road and driving through the night to reach Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
Beginning the following Monday, Fogt will spend the next six months in the captain’s career course, after which he’ll receive a regular Army garrison assignment.
Fogt plans to consider returning to the WCAP in 2016 to prepare for the Winter Games in Korea in 2018, but that decision will rest on a number of factors and isn’t really the focus right now. He’s readying himself to re-embrace the Army life and his newest impending role as a father.
Fogt said the most important thing he’s learned from all his experiences is the value of perseverance.
“Things don’t always work out the way we want them to in life; we’ll fail sometimes, and we’ll have tough, dark days,” he said. “What’s important is to keep faith in yourself and in a higher power, and you’ll be successful.
“If you quit, you’ll never know what you’re capable of,” Fogt said. “I went from last place to being a medalist. We can’t expect life to be perfect, but we can pursue our goals and learn to be happy no matter how it turns out.”
Beky Beaton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @BeatonWrite.