POCATELLO – After four years of playing football at Idaho State University, Andy Whittier was looking for a way to continue his athletic journey.
One day, while looking for bobsleigh and skeleton athletes, he came across an online tryout. Whittier said he’s seen bobsleigh before but never heard of skeleton, so he did a YouTube search.
After watching videos of people flying headfirst down a track at 80mph with nothing between them and an icy tube but a helmet and a bodysuit, Whittier decided skeleton was the sport for him.
“I want something that will take me to the edge of my seat, to the edge of my life,” Whittier told EastIdahoNews.com. “When I go out, I know I’m going out with a smile on my face.”
He found the sport in 2020 and his love for it quickly blossomed into Olympic ambitions. There’s a possibility, Whittier said, that he could be competing for a spot on the US Olympic team for the 2026 games in France. But his goal is to represent his city, state and country in 2030 — possibly at his home track in Park City, Utah. Park City is one of several locations competing for these games.
“When I do that, I feel like I’m – one – representing Pocatello, Idaho, Idaho itself and the US at that next level,” Whittier said, admitting he thinks about it often. “It would be the highlight of my sporting career.”
As Whittier explained, after a college football career, he played in a few tryouts for the Canadian Football League, but concluded that his career was over. After scouring the internet and finding an open call for those crazy enough to try the skeleton, he sent in his information and received an invitation to a shortened run at the Park City track.
The first few runs, he said, were just rides on the lower part of the course.
“They want to be like, ‘Hey, do you even like this sport,'” he said of those early runs.
After learning the basics – and slowly building up from turn six to turn two – he was eventually loaded into the chute at the top of the hill, more than three-quarters of a mile from the bottom. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that when his trainers let him go there was some fear in his helmet.
“I was shocked. I was absolutely terrified,” he said. “All I can remember was thinking … I can’t turn back. Just stay in shape and ride it out. Let whatever happens happens. Bring it down safely and then we’ll take care of everything else.”
At those speeds, the wall is coming at you fast, he joked.
While he made it down without incident back then, Whittier said he fell – “everybody breaks down at some point in their career,” he said. But falls haven’t affected his dreams in the slightest.
In fact, he believes everyone should try a “tourist run” at least once in their lifetime, or push off at the end of the course.
“You have to feel what it’s like to be three inches off the ice and going 80 mph headfirst,” he said.
Whittier’s “athlete progression path” currently has him participating in what he calls a rookie tour – the North America Cup. Sometime in the next year or so he plans to move up to the Europa Cup – where he would travel around the world to compete.
After that comes the World Championships, where he would compete against Olympic-level athletes.
The schedule Whittier has set for himself would see him at the pinnacle of his sport and master his craft for two or three years before it comes time to qualify for the 2030 Olympics.
From there, his goal is to make a lasting impact on the sport.
“I’m going to keep doing this until they tell me, ‘You’re no good,’ or until I get to the point where I’m going to retire.”