Charles 'Tom' Butler: PSL man recalls bronze medal win in bobsled at the 1956 Winter Olympics

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The 2014 Winter Olympics are almost here.  Competition starts Thursday and you can bet athletes are feeling a little nervous right now. A Port St. Lucie man knows exactly what they're going through. 

Charles "Tom" Butler was on the bobsled team in the 1956 Winter Olympics in Italy. Butler wasn't nervous before the games instead he was focused on safety.


"We had a lot of bad accidents and several fatalities," says Butler. 


He says the bobsled can be dangerous. Teams rode at their own risk.


Butler wore a football helmet during runs.


"It was more important to get down alive than it was to get the medal," says Butler.


On his team's first heat the brakes went out.


"He had the brake arm in his arm and he said 'no brakes'," remembers Butler, "He shoved the brakes in my face and now you're doing 70 til the finish with no brakes. The Italians started calling us the 'crazy Americans'."


A few days later his team had more trouble when a photographer got on the track.


"He jumped in front of the sled and we ran over him, broke his legs, put him in the hospital," says Butler.


The team took home the bronze medal that year. Despite the risk, Butler says he enjoyed every second.


"Once you ride you have the answer," says Butler, "It's a wild ride."


Butler and his team won the world championships a few years later in 1959. They qualified for a second trip to the Olympics but the 1960 games didn't include the bobsled. The organizers decided the sport did not warrant the cost of building a venue. It was the first and only time bobsled was not on the Winter Olympic program.


He hopes America sees more Olympic glory this year in Sochi, Russia. You can watch the games on WPTV.


"It's going to be super," says Butler, "I think they're gonna win. I'd love to see them win two golds."



Print this article Back to Top