This is not about going down a hill at the Dunes on your toboggan and getting a snow sandwich.

Whoopee! Hot chocolate for everyone. Who's next?

No, thank you. We're talking Olympic bobsled here.

Imagine being strapped inside 400 pounds of steel and fiberglass, reduced to a blur on hard ice, reaching speeds of 80 miles an hour with only a helmet for protection.

Bryan Leturgez, a 1981 Kankakee Valley grad, did it competitively for 10 years and has the scars and medals to prove it.

In just the first six years, he had six friends, most of them Eastern European bobsledders, die in accidents due to faulty equipment and poor training.

"There's a lot of things going on," Leturgez said of running 30 meters and jumping into the sled with your heart about to explode. "Then you have to get into a complete state of relaxation, rapidly, and remain focused on the track ahead.

"Now comes finesse. Your entire body feels like it's in a paint shaker like at Home Depot or Lowe's. You're absorbing, in some curves, up to 4 1/2 to 5 Gs which is the equivalent of what F22 fighter pilots are absorbing."

Leturgez compared it to holding your breath underwater for a minute, then breaking the surface.

"Exhilarating," he said. "You have all these incredible impacts on your body within a one-minute span."

Leturgez misses the thrill of competition but with the 2018 Winter Games underway in South Korea, is content to watch on TV with his two high school-age daughters, Emilia and Kate, both of whom are outstanding athletes as well.

A self-employed businessman now living in New Jersey, Leturgez retired from the sport in February of 1998 with a flashy resume' featuring eight World Cup medals (four gold, three silver, one bronze); two World Championship bronze medals; and Olympic appearances in 1992 (Albertville, France); 1994 (Lillehammer, Norway); and 1998 (Nagano, Japan).

A natural-born athlete at 6-foot and 210 pounds, he did it all in the four-man competition — side-pusher, brakeman and was the driver in '98 when Americans finished fifth.

"At that time, there was no greater sensation in my life than to stand on the podium and hearing the national anthem being played," Leturgez said. "For that moment, that day, that time, you were the best there was in the world.

"You watch the Games now and there are all kinds of emotional reactions. I still feel the same way when I hear the national anthem being played and it takes me back to competing again."

I called him a "natural" and that might be an understatement. Leturgez had a football scholarship to Purdue but transferred to Indiana State, where he concentrated on track and the decathlon.

He set a school record of 7 feet, 1 3/4 inches in the high jump, ran a 48-second quarter mile and did the 400 hurdles in 52 seconds — the first time he tried.

Leturgez also competed in the 1986 NCAA Track and Field Championships and 1988 Olympic Track and Field Trials in the 400 hurdles.

The guy had a spartan-like training regimen, telling me he would push himself so hard, he'd throw up, then resume his workouts.

While training for Nagano as a pusher, he suffered third-degree burns on his left knee and second-degree burns to his left shoulder during a horrific accident in which the skin literally "melted away" from tissue and muscle.

It took five months for his scarred flesh to heal.

For 10 fulfilling years, these were the risks to life and limb Bryan Leturgez gladly took to stand on that podium.

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This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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