The Mason Spirit

Michael Kohn

Rainmaker: Alumnus Helps Men's Bobsled Team End Medal Drought

By Sarah L. Jackson

George Mason alumnus Michael Kohn, B.S. Health, Fitness, and Recreation Resources '97, helped the United States end a 46-year bobsled medal drought in the Winter Olympics when his four-man team won the bronze medal on Saturday, February 23, 2002. USA-2, piloted by Brian Shimer and manned by Kohn, Doug Sharp, and Dan Steele, finished the four heats in a combined time of 3:07.86. USA-1 won the silver medal with a time of 3:07.81; the gold went to Germany-2, which finished the four heats in 3:07.51.

Competing in the Olympics had been a longtime goal for Kohn. In a seventh-grade English paper, he described his aspirations of becoming an Olympic athlete. "I always thought of the Olympics as the greatest spectacle in sports and knew I wanted to be a part of that," he says.

Kohn was introduced to bobsledding by a friend of his high school football coach, and after graduation, he trained to become a bobsledder. When he passed a six-part test at the University of Maryland in May 1990, he became, just shy of his 18th birthday, the youngest ever to make the U.S. Bobsled Federation roster. In 1992, he again made history by becoming the youngest member ever to compete in the Olympic bobsled trials, where he finished in sixth place.

In 1993, Kohn decided to attend George Mason full time to study exercise physiology.

"I wanted to study how to use my body to maximize my potential and success, and my degree from Mason has had an immense effect on how I got where I am today," he says.

Kohn joined the U.S. Army, following in his father's footsteps as an infantry soldier with expert classification in rifle and grenade. As a participant in the army's World Class Athlete Program, he was given the chance to pursue his Olympic dreams.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy, despite the possibility that he and his teammates might have been called for active duty, Kohn's motivation to win became even stronger. "Nothing can compare to competing in the Olympics on your home soil," he says. "We were even more driven to win the gold medal for our country through our pride as soldiers, as athletes, and as Americans."

Looking ahead, after the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, Kohn hopes to return to Mason for graduate school. "I'd like to start a business where I can properly train and coach kids to excel in their desired sport," he says. "I think kids need accurate and helpful information about the right way to train as an athlete."