Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Meet Olympic Skeleton Athlete Kyle Tress

By Alison Burdo
|  Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014  |  Updated 12:29 AM EDT
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    The job never stops for crime scene investigators or Olympians – something Lambertville native Kyle Tress knows from his acting work and his athletic career.

    "I registered with Central Casting in New York," he said. "Shortly after, I got a call to be on CSI: NY."

    "I was walking past Gary Sinise, investigating something," said Kyle, who has also appeared as an extra on Gossip Girl and, in movies, When in Rome and Transformers 2.

    Even though he was intrigued by acting, he put that pursuit on hold and turned his focus to a sport he discovered as a 21-year-old.

    "I knew that I had to make a decision," he said. "And I chose skeleton."

    In the winter sport, athletes sprint for several meters and then launch themselves face-first on a sled nearly double the length of a school cafeteria tray. They slide down the same frozen track used in the bobsled and luge events and can reach speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

    "If anyone should be on a Wheaties box, it should be him," said long-time friend John Marriot Jr., who unknowingly witnessed his childhood friend’s first training sessions when they were 12-years-old.

    "It started in his father’s armchair," Marriott said.

    He and Tress drilled through a sled, threaded a rope through the holes and then raced around the house on their makeshift equipment.

    "He would run into our family room," added Gail Tress, the Olympian’s mother. "Jump on these club chairs and pretend he was sliding on the sled."

    Yet 32-year-old Kyle says he discovered skeleton while reading a story about Gold-medalist Jim Shea Jr. during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, when the sport returned to the Olympics after a 48-years long hiatus.

    "I didn’t know it existed," he said. "But at that moment, I just knew."

    "I was an active kid, but never really played many sports," said Kyle, who played baseball and basketball for only one season each before graduating from South Hunterdon Regional High School in 1999. "[Skeleton] hit all the right notes for me."

    "You have the element of danger and adrenaline and speed," he said.

    A few months after reading Shea’s story, Kyle tried out for Team USA coaches.

    "The very first instructions that I received in skeleton were – don’t let go – and that was it," he said.

    Kyle, who normally studied any new interest in its entirety before diving in, called the "trial by ice" a shock but came to understand the coaching strategy.

    "You can immediately see who panics and who is a natural," he said, estimating about half the people who slid down the mountain that day walked away.

    Despite the bloody elbows and ice burn Kyle suffered during his first week of runs, he, along with fellow Olympians Matt Antoine and Kate Uhlaender, stuck it out.

    "He is not the kind of kid that lets things go," said Gail, who described how her son taught himself piano and guitar, as well as computer coding. "Once he has the basics, that’s all he needs and he takes off."

    "He has always been naturally gifted. It used to drive me nuts as a kid," added Marriott, who recalled the duo’s interest in skateboarding around 8-years-old.

    "Ten minutes into skateboarding, I’m learning to balance on the board," he said. "And [Kyle] is doing kickflips.”

    Since there is no feeder sport to skeleton, it often takes about eight years for athletes to gain the skills and experiences necessary to succeed, Kyle said.

    And it also takes money. Equipment for the sport, including a sled and several sets of runners, could cost as much as $10,000, he said.

    "Skeleton doesn’t pay much, but it is something I love and I’ll pursue it relentlessly," he said.

    Kyle and another former skeleton athlete, Chris Nurre, teamed up to develop apps for the iPhone and other Apple devices through their company, A Tiny Tribe.

    "It doesn’t make a ton of money, but it is enough for me to pursue this," Kyle said.

    About six years after committing to the sport full-time, which includes training for six hours a day six days a week, and less than a year after forming the mobile app development company, Kyle started to break through the skeleton ranks.

    He earned his first world ranking – 26th—following the 2008-09 Intercontinental Cup, the first step above junior circuits.

    At the start of the following season, he earned three gold medals at the America’s Cup, sweeping the men’s skeleton competitions.

    Although he had a strong 2009-10 season, it wasn’t enough to take a spot away from Eric Bernotas, Zach Lund or current teammate John Daly.

    Even though he was disappointed, Kyle bounced back. “Once I start worrying about something like that, I could worry about 100 other things that are outside my control,” he said.

    He continued to train, steadily improving over the next few years until a break-out 2013-14 season in which he placed in the top ten in three different World Cup competitions.

    “Once things start going well, I don’t want to mess with anything,” he said.

    Kyle will hit the track in Sochi on Feb. 14.

    And Americans can rest assured the 2014 Olympic Games won’t be the last time they hear of the athlete-slash-actor-slash-software developer.

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