The American Olympians competing in the three bobsled events in Utah are from all over the country, but their vehicles have a distinctly Connecticut flavor.
Each of the six U.S. bobsleds in the 2002 Games, two sleds in both the two- and four-man competitions plus two more in the women’s competition, were designed, built, painted and detailed in the Greater Waterbury area.
“It’s been our goal, our passion, for a long time,” said Bob Cuneo of Chassis Dynamics in Oxford, the designer of the U.S. sleds. “When we started this way back in ’92, our only objective was to come up with a sled good enough to help the U.S. win a gold medal. And nothing’s ever changed.”
Cuneo and his three partners — Frank Briglia, Tom Centinaro and Angelo Guerrera — had all been heavily involved in auto racing at one time or another.
“We’re just a group of Americans who thought it’d be a great thing to build an American product for American bobsledders to race in,” Centinaro said.
The United States has not had much success in Olympic bobsledding over the past 50 years.
U.S. bobsledders last won an Olympic medal in 1956, when American Art Tyler won a bronze in Cortina, Italy. The last time the United States struck gold was in 1948 in the four-man competition. The last American gold medal performance in the two-man event was in 1936.
The group became involved in the bobsled business shortly after the ’92 Winter Games in Albertville, France.
“At the time, there were no bobsleds being built in the U.S., so the U.S. bobsled team had to drive whatever discards and hand-me-downs we could pry away from the Germans or Italians or whomever,” Cuneo said.
One American who was particularly disturbed by the results was Geoff Bodine, a race car driver in NASCAR’s Winston Cup series.
Bodine contacted Cuneo and his late partner at Chassis Dynamics, Bob Vaillancourt, two old friends who had helped him design and build many a race car.
The three of them got together and laid plans to create a new generation of domestically designed and built bobsleds, with Bodine funding out of his own pocket the research and development for the first prototypes.
With Cuneo designing the chassis, Briglia making the composite fiberglass shell that fits over the chassis, and Centinaro and Guerrera helping with everything from the assembly process to the body work to the painting, the group produced the first Bo-Dyn sleds in early 1993.