“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” says Natalie DeRatt, UNC Asheville graduate and newly appointed member of the U.S. national team for bobsledding.
After finishing third in two team selection races (in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Park City, Utah), the Asheville athlete was confirmed on Nov. 9 as one of the youngest members of the 2014-2015 national lineup. From December 2014 through March 2015, DeRatt and her teammates will compete in the World Cup circuit’s two-woman bobsled races, which culminates in a March championship.
The Sheffield, England, native moved to Western North Carolina in 2006 to attend UNC Asheville, where she sprinted her way into the Division 1 NCAA Track and Field National Championships twice. Many accolades later, DeRatt had a taste for what she calls “elite level competition,” and the transition to bobsledding required only a few words of encouragement from former UNCA teammate, and now coach, Keith Scruggs.
“I had a blast!” she says of her initial Olympic recruiting process last Summer. DeRatt, who was tested in the 45-meter sprint, broad jump and shot toss, was a natural pusher — the person who propels the bobsled from its stationary position to a skyrocketing pace.
Stellar performances at the early recruitment, a subsequent two-week “Bobsled 101” session at the Olympic Training Center and another handful of qualifying races earned DeRatt her place at this month’s national team trials. The young Brit was “over the moon” that Olympian Jazmine Fenlator, ranked third among U.S. bobsledders, asked DeRatt to push with her during the races.
“So far, it has been a wild, yet fun ride,” says DeRatt. “Bobsledding definitely takes some getting used to. Your first ride feels like a car crash for a minute straight, and I had to run straight out and get some motion sickness medicine.” But DeRatt says the tough, behind-the-scenes work (like moving 400-pound sleds) is all worth the effort. “There’s an awesome group of athletes here, and it’s a really fun community to be a part of.”
Now DeRatt’s got her sights on Pyeongchang, South Korea, for 2018, calling it her “Olympic dream” to compete in the winter sport. In fact, DeRatt is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to cover the many expenses associated with bobsledding at the international level. So far she’s raised just over 20 percent of her $5,000 goal.
“I’ve worked really hard to get here, and after coming close to competing internationally with track and field,” says DeRatt. “I’m going to do all that I can do to hopefully secure a spot in this sport.”