Local athlete chasing Olympic bobsled dreams
A California native, Olympic bobsled hopeful Shane Fisher had never even once seen the snow the first time he pushed a sled down the track in Park City, Utah last year. The guy who didn’t own a single item of snow gear found himself taking on perhaps the most extreme of winter sports.
“It is the scariest thing I’ve ever done….it’s like being in a rollercoaster without a seatbelt,” said Fisher, 27, a Carmel Valley resident. “The only thing that keeps you in the sled is the strength of your grip. It is terrifying.”
Fisher said it’s even scarier for the guys in the back, their heads tucked down just hoping the pilot doesn’t crash. That’s why he prefers to be in the front, he wants to be the driver, he wants to be the captain. A lifelong competitor, he wants the pressure.
For years Fisher has been chasing an Olympic dream—first as a tennis player, then transitioning to the brutal decathlon. Now he is gunning for Olympic gold by piloting a 600-pound sled down an icy, curving track at close to 75 miles per hour.
“I’ve got my eyes on the prize and I’ll do whatever I have to do to get there,” Fisher said.
Olympic hopefuls like Fisher are almost entirely self-funded—he has to raise all of his own money to cover the costs of travel, lodging and equipment.
To help support his dream and those of other athletes who aspire to represent the USA in their sport, Fisher created the nonprofit Bobsled Brothers Fund. The nonprofit will be hosting a pickleball fundraiser at the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club on Aug. 10 from 5:30-8 p.m.
Tennis was Fisher’s first love. He grew up in Bonsall and attended a charter school for high school because he was playing so much tennis. He worked as a tennis pro for nine years, including two years at Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club, where he came to be well-known in the community.
“(Bobsled Brothers Fund) gives me the opportunity to give back,” Fisher said. “My tennis coach always told me the more you take from the game, the more you’re required to give back. I owe my entire athletic career to the game of tennis.”
Fisher has long been driven by his Olympic-sized goals. He was playing tennis at San Diego Mesa College with plans on going to a four-year university until he met a pair of Brazilian sprinters, working out late in the gym one night just like him. He enlisted their help in making him a faster runner and trained with them seriously for a year. In 2016, he got to watch them compete for their country in the Rio Olympics while he was playing tennis in Europe, getting destroyed by European players. He re-evaluated his life, knowing his chances to make the Olympic tennis team were dwindling.
“I asked my coach ‘What if dropped out of school, quit my job and only run track and field?’’ He said ‘Shane that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard’ and that was all I needed to hear,” said Fisher.
A determined Fisher embarked on six years of intense training for the decathlon. The track and field discipline includes 10 events: the 100-meter sprint, the 400, the 1500, the 110-meter hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault, discus, javelin throw and shotput. As Fisher quipped, he was “a Jack of all trades, master of none”.
“It was very vicious,” Fisher said of those years of training. He didn’t have a lot of resources or even a dedicated place to train. He was kicked out of three different parks but eventually allowed to throw javelin and discus at the Torrey Highlands Dog Park as long as no one was around.
Fisher could only afford part-time coaching—back then he had six different coaches for 10 events and he had to pay them all individually. “I never had savings, I had a decathlon expenses account,” he said.
There are so many athletes like Fisher who are essentially on their own at the Olympic level: “There’s so little money and unless you are Usain Bolt, it’s virtually impossible and most of us end of having day jobs,” said Fisher, who worked as both a personal trainer and tennis pro.
Fisher spent the majority of his time traveling around competing in independent track and field events as he pursued an Olympic decathlon berth. While on the track and field circuit, he was recruited for bobsled.
USA Bobsled recruits heavily from sports like track and field, rugby and football — they are looking for athletes who are a rare combination of “jacked and fast”, Fisher said, between 210 and 240 pounds and strong and fast enough to push the sled.
Track guys are usually the smallest of the three but Fisher was always an anomaly on the court in tennis when he played due to his size. At 190 pounds, Fisher is working to get bigger.
After a tryout in New York, he was offered a spot on the USA team. He once again looked at his life and did the math—only the top three athletes in the country go to the Olympics in the decathlon whereas in bobsled, 16 guys go.
With his chances higher, he said: “Yup. Sign me up.”
Fisher attended a two-week long camp at the bobsled training center in Park City where three of the 12 days he went from the top of the track at full speed: “I just progressed very fast.”
The coach made room for him at the next training camp in Lake Placid, New York, considered one of the hardest tracks on earth and the site of both the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games.
At Lake Placid, they have a fake bobsled on a rail where they teach the fundamentals as well as a state-of-the-art ice house, with an indoor track on ice with high-tech capabilities to track velocity. He drove the monobob and never once crashed.
Fisher is now a member of Team USA on the developmental team. He will compete in the North American Cup in November and is a candidate to go to the Olympics. Athletes are selected from the pool only a month before the Olympics begin—he is hoping for either 2026 in Milano Cortina or the 2030 games.
The competitive season begins in September with the Bobsled National Push Championships, one of the qualifying steps for athletes to make the USA Bobsled National Team. At the Lake Placid training center, the competition will determine who the fastest push athletes are and the pilots will get to choose their teams. For his rookie competitive season, Fisher will hopefully be paired with the best athletes who aren’t on the World Cup team.
“Ideally, if I have three fastest guys, three absolute locomotives, I will be the fastest,” he said. “The only thing standing in my way would be me being a bad pilot.”
When he travels to the Olympic Training Center, he pays for his own plane tickets and accommodations. When he leaves for the National Push Championships he will be gone all winter but still has to pay rent and “normal life stuff.”
The Bobsled Brothers Fund will support not only himself but alleviate the financial burden on other athletes. A lot of bobsled athletes are forced to drop out of the program due to the expense, it’s really tough to get sponsors and to be able do it for five to seven years in row, he said.
There is so much to think about—athletes need to purchase their own helmets and Kevlar vests “(If you don’t wear them, your skin will melt off when you crash”)—everyone on the team needs three vests and they are $150 to $200 each. As team captain, Fisher wants to be able to make life easier for his teammates so they can focus on their performance and afford to compete.
“It’s crazy how the best athletes on planet earth and in the USA are doing it only with the help of their communities,” he said. “There’s no other way to do it….The only way to be able to survive is through community support,” he said.
He said it is heartwarming that all of the people at the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club are helping make his dream a reality. He is grateful for the support.
When asked how often he trains, Fisher laughs. He is training six days a week, 11 to 13 times a week. He has dedicated sessions at the track where he works on acceleration with a running parachute or he runs stairs or he is in the gym lifting weights trying to get stronger and bigger.
Other days he takes it easier on joints but still works to improve his cardio by biking or swimming.
He also has an incredibly busy schedule as a trainer and tennis coach—this summer he has a client he is working with five hours a day, helping him to achieve goals just as lofty as his own.
It is a grind but for Fisher, all of it is worth it.
“I never cared about being rich… I just want to win a gold medal for the USA,” Fisher said. “I wouldn’t trade this for the world. Every day is a vacation for me because I’m doing exactly what I want to do.”
Learn more about the Bobsled Brothers Fund at bobsledbrothersfund.org/
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