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Kentucky Olympian overwhelmed by support from home

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Dallas Robinson Dallas Robinson
Dutch and Sandy Dutch and Sandy
Lauren Lauren
Buck Buck
Stella Wallen Stella Wallen

CRESTWOOD, KY (WAVE) - He is Kentucky's only Olympian in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Dallas Robinson will represent the USA in a fast and dangerous sport, the four-man bobsled. 

Robinson now lives and works in Georgetown, Kentucky, but Oldham County is his home and you could say, he has quite the extended family. You can start with his relatives in Crestwood then, Robinson is one of seven soldiers competing in the games and his military family is behind him all the way. And we can't leave out everybody at Oldham County High School, both students and alumni just can't stop smiling.

[SLIDESHOW: Athletes who served in the military]

His Senior yearbook quote was so fitting it even surprised the Oldham County high student who chose it 13 years ago. "The harder you fall the higher you bounce?" Robinson asked and we confirmed. Robinson laughed, "Did I say that?"  Robinson had no idea his "bounce" was a spot on the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team, he also didn't realize how rough his road from Crestwood to Sochi would be.

Regardless of how the U.S. Army Reserves Sergeant got there, his hometown Colonels are beaming. OCHS Principal Brent Deaves said, "It doesn't happen too often that somebody from Oldham County is going to be part of an Olympic team!" The track team practicing inside the school yelled in unison to our WAVE 3 News camera, "Good luck Dallas in Sochi!"

[FEATURE: U.S. Olympian Dallas Robinson]

Robinson said of all the hometown backing, "It's overwhelming the support, you know, I'll put something on Facebook and I'll look the next morning and there's 500 likes on it."

As for family? The Olympic t-Shirts they wore said it all. Parents and head cheerleaders Sandy and Dutch Hartlage said news in town traveled as fast as their son's sled. Dutch said of the reaction, "They couldn't believe it you know, here he is and he's going and I said we can't believe it either."

Little brother Buck helped spread the word too. He smiled remembering, "I'm like, have you heard about the guy from Louisville going to the Olympics?" It's pride all around from 8-month-old nephew Carter to sister-in-law Lindsey, Uncle Roger, Aunt Suzanne and Grandma Stella. 

"You know," Robinson's Grandmother Stella Wallen laughed, "All grandmas like to brag, but I do have some bragging rights here I think."

They always knew his athletic ability would put him on Team USA, they just never thought it would be a bobsled track he ended up on. Robinson's Uncle Roger Hartlage said Dutch called him with this message, "'He's on a bobsled team' and I thought wow, how did he do that?"

Robinson, a record setting track star in high school, at Morehead State University and Eastern Kentucky University always thought he would sprint his way to a medal. After years of preparation, a pulled hamstring took him out of the running in Beijing in 2008. Then a second shot came as the USA National Rugby Team invited him to play, but again he got hurt. Back home and coaching track at Berea College, one of his students encouraged him to train for bobsled. And, you know what they say about the third time. "He's got his heart and soul in this one," his mother Sandy said of his third Olympic sport.

So, a guy who hates winter is now a push athlete for driver Nick Cunningham's 4-man sled. At 6'4'' and 235 pounds Robinson can make it fly.

His high school football Coach Mike Jackson said it makes sense for the former tight end, "You look at Herschel Walker and you look at guys who have transitioned from the football field or the track into bobsled and it's kind of a natural progression."

Four years of training have been a challenge for Robinson's wife Lauren and so has one other thing, the grocery bills. "He eats four dinners a night," Lauren grinned, "I'll make what I think is a good sized meal for a guy his size and he'll eat that like an appetizer."

The biggest hurdle for everyone? The dangers the sport brings.

Robinson's childhood friend and college roommate Matt McCarthy said of the sled, "It's kind of like you're just sitting in a bathtub going 80 miles an hour, that's exactly what it is so, you have to worry about him." Especially when there's a crash like the one Robinson went through in St. Moritz that had him flying out the back. His mother, Sandy, recalled watching him crash, "Your heart just goes straight up into your throat and you just can't breath."

Unfortunately, for the games in Russia, safety has also become a concern outside the sled. "He told us to not come," Dutch said of the warning after the family had planned to travel to the games. While Robinson is confident the athletes are safe, he said he didn't want to worry about his family's safety while he was competing.

Now ready to try his Olympic luck and skill, he doesn't believe in the word can't and proved it recently when asked about being on the USA's second fastest four-man team. "We have a team motto and it's prepare to podium," Robinson told reporters in Sochi, "and we've been saying that for weeks and we've been pretty darn close to the podium and I think we're going to have a good crack at it and I'm pretty excited about that."

The feeling is mutual in Kentucky.

"To see him come to this point and succeed, it's just indescribable," his wife Lauren said of her husband's success, "this is just a mountain top moment for us." His mother agreed, "It's the world to him and we're just proud, but for him it's a lifetime dream."

Remembering that high school quote Robinson said, "I've gotten stronger getting up from where I've fallen."

The family calls Robinson "Waldo" because in the last four years, he's been all over the world training. The Kentuckian will compete in four-man bobsled for Team USA-2. He's also in a pool of six push athletes and could possibly compete as early as February 16 if chosen for the two-man sled. He said it's all in God's hands.

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