After the 2002 Winter Olympics in Park City Utah USA, Meeche White, the director of the National Ability Center had an idea.
She realized that everyone in the sport of Bobsled at one point or another is supposed to be “seated in the sled”. So, why not have Para and
Amputee athletes participate? So, after the Olympics Meeche received 2 two man sleds from the Virgin Islands Bobsled Team
adapted one with a higher seat back to accommodate Paraplegics or Quads with higher SCI Injuries. There was also a 4 part harness system
and a modified roll cage. Aaron Lanningham was the first seated “Para” to use the sled with BK Amputee Matt Profit as his brakeman.
We then saw Aaron and Gary Kuhl travel to our neighbors to the North and were the first to participate in a “Guest Class” at a North American Cup held in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Later, Dave Nicholls and Brandon Smith would travel North and demonstrate the 2man in the modified “Bo-Dyn Red Sled”.
The NAC began a “Intro Program” holding sessions at the Utah Olympic Park one night a week from the Junior Start.
Next we then saw Aaron and Gary Kuhl travel to our neighbors to the North and were the first to participate in a “Guest Class” at a North American Cup held in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Later, Dave Nicholls and Brandon Smith would travel North and demonstrate the 2man in the modified “Bo-Dyn Red Sled”.
Our first Coach was Joe Sisson. The fledgling program operated from roughly 2003 – 2005. But soon, Meeche retired and hard times fell upon the US Economy and the NACBobsled program was then “Shelved” and the sleds went to storage. Dave, Gary,, Aaron and others were not at all happy to say the least. They had all shared Meeche’s “VISION” and had been working very hard to improve their skill, driving and technique with the hope of one day racing in a Paralympic event.
It was Dave Nicholls who refused to let his and others “Dreams Die.” He decided to pick up where the NAC had left off. Nicholls, a native of New Jersey and California Transplant was recruited by the NAC as an Ice Hockey Goaltender and Wheelchair Rugby Athlete in 2003. Then in 2005 he was invited by the NAC to try “something new at the Utah Olympic Park.” Nicholls agreed and relocated to Park City. He knew the sport and our athletes needed organization, funding, equipment, credibility, uniforms and money for ice time if the sport was going to grow or go anywhere. He gathered Aaron and Gary and formed a Utah Corporation first called the US Adaptive Bobsled Team or USAABT. This was the first organization of its kind designed specifically to promote, fund, recruit and enable physically challenged athletes to Learn, Practice, and Compete in the Sport. Additionally, its mission continues to advocate for full and equal opportunities for all disabled athletes to have a chance to learn, train , experience and compete in the sport. Nicholls, obtained the Moab Brewery as the first local sponsor. They were instrumental in helping to fund our organization allowing us to scholarship athletes, cover ice time and track fees, and assist with sled maintenance and more. Later, Nicholls and his team applied for and were granted Federal 501c-3 Status by the IRS and remains in good standing today. The organization has been successful and responsible for raising thousands of dollars providing scholarship funds for new pilots and driver training schools, uniforms, lodging, transportation, registration fees, sleds, helmets and more.
Next, it was Mr David Kurtz, past USA Bobsled Chairman, Skeleton Athlete and FIBT/IBSF representative who was the first to offer his full support and share our vision. He arranged for Aaron and Matt Profit for an opportunity to ForeRun a World Cup Race for able bodied athletes here in Park City, Utah.
The following year Nicholls was given the same honor to Forerun but for a World Cup Championships. During the event, Ivo Ferriani, FIBT President, approached Nicholls and the “Red 2 Man Sled”. Mr Ferriani got very excited about all our pioneering athletes and our organization. He immediately made a promise to Nicholls that he would do everything in his power to help us, our athletes and our organization see the sport get recognized by the IPC as an official Paralympic Sport. The Forerun was also broadcast Live on FIBT television throughout Europe in an effort to gain interest and promote the sport globally.
Later, Mr David Kurtz was appointed as the first FIBT/IBSF Paralympic Chairman to lead the initiative, to fully engage the FIBT and prepare the petition to
the IPC in an effort to begin the long, challenging process of helping Para Bobsled & Skeleton become a full medal sport. Undoubtedly, the sport would not
be where it is today without his tireless efforts and constant leadership.
In his continued efforts to advocate for equal opportunities for disabled athletes to participate, experience, and learn the sport, Nicholls continued his
advocacy pressing for more opportunity. Then, in the 2006/07 season Nicholls decided to approach and engage the USA National Federation by
recruiting Mr John Rosen, (then chairman of the USBSF/US Bobsled & Skeleton Federation). Nicholls invited him to a USAABT Athlete and Sponsor Team Dinner where he made his case to Mr Rosen. But, Rosen was still not convinced that our sport would “fly” and told Nicholls it would take us at least 10 years
to accomplish the task of Paralympic Status. However, gradually, Rosen became more interested and soon became fully engaged in sharing Nicholls vision.
Rosen then became a member of the newly formed FIBT Para Committee initiated by Ivo. Under Kurtz and Rosen’s leadership, it was the USBSF that hosted the
very first Para Bobsled & Skeleton event at the Utah Olympic Park during the 2012 season.
Later, Nicholls was elected to the USA NGB as “Club Development Director” and the first Disabled athlete to ever serve on the USA Bobsled Board of Directors.
While serving on the board representing both able bodied and disabled club developmental athletes, Nicholls realized soon enough that with limited funds the NGB was not yet “ready” to accept, serve and include disabled athletes as a part of their current mission and responsibility. As a result, he ultimately resigned from that board. But, Nicholls pressed on advocating. During his tenure and despite much objection, he was able to educate, others how they,our Federations and US tracks could become fully compliant with Federal ADA law. Nicholls gained a nick name as “Thor” by quietly swinging his hammer yet “Demanding” equal opportunities for his USAABT and USABSA athletes. He continued to advocate that each and every athlete be given the opportunity to have “Independent Evaluations and Assessments as the ADA required before being excluded from participation. Additionally, he advocated for disabled athletes to have the same opportunities to participate in driver training schools and USA developmental training sessions at both USA Tracks such as UOP G-Force promoting full integration and “equal access” as a cornerstone requirement of the ADA. These “Rights” and opportunities are still in effect today and have been instrumental in growing the sport and provide entry level driver training opportunities that otherwise may not have been possible. We are happy to have developed a model of
integration and training that is now recognized and accepted by other tracks and federations around the world today.
Nicholls still serves as our USABSA Chairman and continues to lead, direct, advocate, recruit, fund raise and engage others in our sport. He is also a member of the USA Para Bobsled Team.
Currently, almost every member of the USA Para Bob and Skeleton Team has been personally recruited by Nicholls, has worn a “Red Coat” and has been a member of the USABSA. Nicholls has also personally recruited the first athletes starting teams from Greece, Australia, Spain, Austria, New Zealand, Italy and more.
Finally, as a result of many dedicated, driven, and committed IBSF officials, Para committee members and Pioneering athletes such as Nicholls, Lanningham, Kuhl and many many more volunteers, track crews and program directors in the USA and all around the Globe, a major milestone has been accomplished. On September 5, 2016, the IPC, International Paralympic Committee gathered in Rio voting in favor of having Para Bobsled provisionally become a full medal sport joining the family of other Winter Paralympic Sports.