Olympic Gold Medalist Talks Science and John Paul II
Bobsledder Curt Tomasevicz Discusses Faith and Sports
Curt Tomasevicz’s illustrious bobsledding career includes three World Championship gold medals and one Olympic gold medal. However, the medal he appreciates most may be the bronze one he and his teammates won in Sochi on Feb. 23.
His curiosity for all things Catholic has spanned his bobsledding career, which, after many triumphs, has likely come to a close. Tomasevicz recently spoke with the Register about his athletic endeavors in light of his long-standing Catholic faith, as well as his academic interests and John Paul II.
How was the competition in Sochi?
It was awesome. From the time we won the gold in 2010 to when we just won the bronze, the competition had gotten so much better. In 2010, it was basically Germany vs. the U.S., but this time, any one of six countries could have won the gold. Germany, the U.S., Latvia, Russia, Switzerland — even Great Britain — were all contenders. We won the bronze by three one-hundredths of a second in a very competitive field, so we’re very happy about that.
Has your Catholic faith always been a part of your life?
Yes. Most of the town of Shelby is Catholic, so the faith has been there for me from the start. When your life is centered around the Church, like it was for me in Shelby, it gives you the solid foundation you need. You can trust your neighbors, who are more like extended family than strangers who happen to live near you. Then at the University of Nebraska [while playing football], the Catholic players had the opportunity to go to Mass before every football game. This was a much-appreciated gift, since college games are usually on Saturdays. It wasn’t as if we were obliged to go to Mass, like we would be on a Sunday, but the opportunity to go was still offered to us.
My faith also played a role in my academic minor, which was astronomy. The Church has a long history of supporting science, especially astronomy. A Catholic from Poland, Nicolaus Copernicus, first developed the idea that the earth rotated around the sun, which is known as heliocentrism. Blaise Pascal, Gregor Mendel (a priest) and Louis Pasteur are some other remarkable examples of Catholics who have made valuable advances in science. It’s easy to see that if you take creation to be a good thing, which the Church does, then studying that creation is also good, as long as it respects the laws of God and dignity of man.
What are some other aspects of the Church you appreciate?
I’m grateful for how the Church has consistently kept its moral teachings over the centuries. Some people want the Church to become more liberal, but there’s priceless value in the Church’s conservative character. Yes, the specifics of what we know on a natural level can develop, but that serves to strengthen, not diminish, the Church’s message about our basic human dignity. One example of this is in embryology, where the advances in ultrasound have shown more and more clearly that the unborn child is just that — a child, a magnificent creation of God that is owed respect. That’s what true science gives us: a greater, more vibrant understanding of what it means to be human.
Another thing I’m grateful for, especially in light of my Polish heritage, is the pontificate of John Paul II. I was born in 1980, so he had always been the leader of the Church for me. He knew the importance of young people, and he had the ability to communicate very well with them. This was formative for me as I grew up and learned more about being Catholic. […]
What are your plans now that the Olympics are over?
Well, there are about 15 different directions my life could go, but one thing I do know is that my days competing in bobsledding are probably over. I’ve traveled the world and done everything that can be done in the sport — in some cases, many times over. I’m grateful for that, and, now, I’ll most likely be transitioning into something new, at least somewhat so. It may be coaching. I’ll be getting away soon and spending time in solitude, thinking about my future. Growing up in a small town helps you to understand the value of silence and reflection, so I plan on using those gifts — and my tattered prayer book — to discern where God wants me to go. The future may include pursuing a Ph.D., getting married or any number of other things.
One thing I will do for sure is travel back to Europe. I’ll be going to Italy this summer with my mom to see some of the same things I did at the Olympics in 2006. We’ll also go to other parts of the country and other countries as well. That should be a great cultural — but most of all, spiritual — experience.
Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.