Trust, training earn reservist's daughter gold

  • Published
  • By 349th Public Affairs Staff
  • 349th Air Mobility Wing

Emily Bradley, 14, set a new Mount Van Hoevenberg track record on March 15, 2022, as the youngest bobsledder to pilot a sled from the highest point of a one-mile track at Lake Placid, New York.

Her inspiration and mentor is none other than her father, Tech. Sgt. Michael Bradley, of the 301st Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base. The aviation manager holds an impressive bobsled resume, including competing in the 2006 and 2010 United States Bobsled Team trials while assigned to the U.S. Air Force World Class Athlete Program.

Not every father can watch as his daughter speeds down a track at 80 mph. Bradley will never forget the first time he ever pushed his daughter down the track.

“It was gut wrenching until she would get to the bottom,” said Bradley. “Emily just loved it! Now I know how my mom must have felt when she pushed me down the track the first time.”

He described passing down bobsledding to his daughter as surreal, but a proud moment for him.

Emily first became interested in bobsledding after watching the U.S. Women’s team win gold and silver at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The women were making history in the monobob event that was featured for the first time in competition category.

After the televised games ended, the elder Bradley knew his daughter was serious about giving the sled a run, so he made some connections with old friends still involved with the sport.

The timing was everything for the Bradleys, and it was in their favor.

Two weeks later, they were flying to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation Development Camp at Lake Placid.

Emily was about to embark in a bobsled run down one of the most technically demanding tracks in the world. Her dad credits the Air Force for helping prepare him for moments just like the one she was about to experience.

“Both in active duty and now as a reservist, my training and professional development has instilled in me a sense of diligence, attention to details, and preparation.”

Bradley explained that the camp’s development process exposes bobsledders to Lake Placid conditions by starting runs at the midpoint of the track to maintain a lower speed and practicing manageability of the sled. He concluded that the bobsledders eventually work their way to starting at the top of the mountain.

“I like the technical way the mechanics work in the sled,” said Emily. With just five days of training and 15 runs added to her credit, she became the youngest athlete to bobsled down the 20 challenging curves of the Lake Placid Combination Track.

When she broke the 21-year-old record as the youngest bobsled pilot to glide down the track, set by American bobsledder John Napier, he was there at the end of the track to cheer her on as she broke his record. Emily was recognized with a gold medal for her achievement.

Napier and Emily’s father have been friends since their preteen years and were professional competitors in the sport.

This summer, Emily will commit her time to speed and strength training. Her goal is to build endurance to go faster at the top of the track to increase speed and distance at the bottom. She said she plans to begin a weight lifting program to help her strengthen particular muscle groups she needs to help her improve her initial blast forward.

In addition to the training, Emily revealed that she wears a chain necklace her father gave her that he wore when he was a bobsledder. It’s her personal good luck charm, she added.

The Bradley family is looking forward to the exciting youth circuit and focusing on top racing opportunities coming up in North America and Europe.

Emily is extremely focused on competing in the Youth Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2024, and making a run for the Olympic Winter Games scheduled to be in Milan Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in 2026 when she turns 18.

“I’m confident that Emily’s on track to check all the right boxes, remain resilient and bounce back no matter what curves she has to navigate,” Bradley said.