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Golden effort
Santa Rosa's Craighead earned Olympic ring as trainer for U.S. bobsled team

  • Retired SRJC trainer Byron Craighead with the gold medal 4-man bobsled team at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. (BYRON CRAIGHEAD)

]It's called “The Participants Ring” and once it arrives, it will have Byron Craighead's last name on it, the image of his sport (bobsled), the five Olympic rings, the host city's name “Vancouver” and the year, 2010. It will have diamonds. Craighead is not sure how many, and he is sure he doesn't mind.

The ring could have inlaid black walnuts, for all Craighead cares.

The ring is not be just a piece of jewelry. It is Craighead's scrapbook, representing not only where's he's been for the last three weeks but for the last 39 years. All Craighead needs to do is rub it, like Aladdin's Lamp, and presto, like the genie, all the memories suddenly will appear, all of them leading up to his most recent one — being the trainer for the U.S. women's and men's Olympic bobsledders, standing there at the finish line watch the four-man team win its first gold in that event in 62 years.

“For them to ask me back, for them to trust me enough. . .” Craighead's voice softens.

The USOC is not known for being warm and fuzzy after someone declines an offer. Yet Craighead did just that in 2006. Craighead said no thanks, he just couldn't take two months off from his teaching at SRJC to be the U.S. bobsled trainer at the 2006 Turin Winter Games. He had done it in 2002, to be America's bobsled trainer at the Salt Lake Games, and Craighead didn't want to put the school, the students and the substitute teachers through that chaos again.

But Craighead retired in 2007. The USOC came back to him again and Craighead came back to them again with the same kind of response that he had in 2002.

“I'll give you one of my earlobes for the chance,” said the Santa Rosa resident.

Why would USOC pursue Craighead? A number of reasons explain it, but none more colorfully than the story behind Craighead being called “Evel Knievel” after the famous motorcycle daredevil.

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