LANDOVER -- If it wasn't for the plaque he was holding, Trevor Christie, dressed in his brown uniform, would have easily blended into the background, the way he likes it, surrounded by other United Parcel Service drivers. He looked uncomfortable accepting the applause, handshakes and congratulations, but he is learning to adjust to the spotlight.
Early yesterday morning at a UPS facility, Christie, 33, an Olympic hopeful for the U.S. bobsled team, accepted an award as the first employee to be sponsored in a winter sport by UPS' Athlete Training Assistance Program.
The program was created in fall 1994 to support the Olympic aspirations of UPS employees and to promote UPS services. Christie qualified for the training program on the basis of his world-level bobsledding experience and will be returning to competition after eight years away from the sport.
"I've never been very egotistical. I hate talking about myself, but I'm learning how to do it here," said Christie, a brakeman and a former U.S. national team member. "Having to get up in front of everyone and talk was something I usually never do, but has to be done."
Christie, an Annapolis resident, isn't a flashy athlete. Slight in build (5 feet 9, 175 pounds) and modest by nature, Christie does not stand out in crowds nor draw attention to himself. And he has excelled in a sport that is obscure -- with the possible exception of Olympic years -- in the United States.
Christie, a high school swimmer, decided on a whim to become a bobsledder in 1985. He wrote to the U.S. bobsled federation in Lake Placid, N.Y., asking how he could break into the sport. The federation responded with a list of requirements for the national team.
Christie went to Lake Placid for the training test, consisting of "running, sprinting, lifting weights, throwing a shot put to test your leg strength" for the 12-foot-long, 600-pound, four-man bobsled.
"I went out and I took the test. In my eyes, I didn't do very well," Christie said. "I talked to one of the coaches and asked him if he could help me prepare some training regimens so I could do better the following year. I went out that winter for six weeks.
"The goal then wasn't to be in the Olympics. I didn't anticipate the '88 Games. I didn't think that far ahead. I'm just an average person off the street. I'm still just an average person off the street even after all I've done, in my eyes."
And he has done a lot in a short time. He was a member of the U.S. national and world teams from 1985 to 1989. He missed the 1988 Games after his team flipped on the course at the U.S. trials, finishing fifth. He had essentially given up the sport after joining UPS full-time in '89.
His bobsled aspirations had to take a back seat to earning a living, but now with the support of the UPS training program, Christie is moving one step closer to gaining a spot in the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
"I've been working part-time jobs my whole life, trying to make ends meet and doing sledding. [The program] was great; I couldn't believe it. At that point in my mind since then was, 'I got to do this.' "
Since its inception two years ago, the UPS program has sponsored 15 summer athletes, two of whom qualified for the Atlanta Olympics. Eugene Swift of California finished sixth overall in the 100-meter hurdles, and Peter Gabrielson of Sweden finished 22nd overall in the Olympic match and English rifle events.
UPS-sponsored employees receive full-time wages while getting time off for training and competition.
"I'm working full-time. They offered to lighten my work schedule, but I just didn't think it was right," Christie said. "I like what I do and to be part of the team."
Christie has concentrated on weight training and running to build strength and endurance until track training begins in a few weeks.
He will fly to Lake Placid in four weeks for the national team tests. He estimates selections of the three brakemen by the driver for the four-man bobsled teams will be completed by September.
The top three teams at the Olympic trials beginning Dec. 26 will form the U.S. team and travel to the Games. Two teams will advance, and the third will serve as the alternate.
Pub Date: 6/24/97