Olympic experience fuels Tomasevicz's teaching, research
From earning Olympic gold to shaping research, Curt Tomasevicz has discovered a world of opportunity at Nebraska.
The former Husker and native of Shelby, Nebraska, has earned three degrees from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, collected 11 medals as a world-class bobsled push athlete, returned to campus to teach engineering, helps advise Team USA bobsled crews, and is guiding cutting-edge research at the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab.
“I enrolled at Nebraska simply because I grew up wanting to be a Husker on the football team,” Tomasevicz said. “I had no plans on becoming an Olympic athlete or finding a career in academia and research. Those are opportunities realized simply because I came to the University of Nebraska.”
After four years with Nebraska football (2000-2003), Tomasevicz was focused on finishing a master’s degree in electrical engineering. One day while working out in the Memorial Stadium weight room, Amanda Morley, a former Husker track and field athlete, approached him about trying out as an Olympic bobsled push athlete.
“I really knew nothing about the sport, but Amanda talked me into giving it a try,” Tomasevicz said. “She made all the contacts with the national team. In September 2004, I flew in for tryouts and made the national team, which led to me making the 2006 Olympic team.”
Tomasevicz competed internationally as a bobsledder for 10 years, excelling as a push athlete — a team member whose sole responsibility is to sprint at top speed, pushing the bobsled at the very start of each run. He was part of two four-man teams, both led by driver Steven Holcomb, that earned Olympic medals. The first came as gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. The second was bronze at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.
As a competitor in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Championships, Tomasevicz was part of nine United States teams that earned top-three finishes. Those honors included gold in 2009, 2012 and 2013.
After thousands of bobsled runs, Tomasevicz said there’s no really good way to describe the experience other than it’s extremely uncomfortable, slightly terrifying and very violent.
“It rattles you around pretty hard,” he said. “In my 10 years, I was involved in two dozen crashes. I ended up with a few concussions, separated my sternoclavicular joint and had countless bumps and bruises.
“It was very similar to my 10 years playing football — only bobsled training is tougher.”
He retired from bobsled after the 2014 Olympics, but has continued as an adviser with Team USA. His work includes serving as an athlete representative for the men’s and women’s teams, making sure the selection process is fair and assisting athletes as needed. The role includes helping select which athletes make the national teams.
“I can serve as an athlete representative for up to 10 years after retirement,” Tomasevicz said. “It’s been four years now and I hope to be asked for another four years so I can help with the 2022 team.”
The opportunity to return to campus came after Tomasevicz delivered a motivational talk to students in 2014. Following the presentation, David Jones, a professor and department head for biological systems engineering, asked if Tomasevicz would be interested in teaching a course on engineering and sports. He jumped at the opportunity.
“I really liked the idea of teaching and maybe helping with athletic research,” Tomasevicz said. “And the side perk was getting to work on my PhD.”
While at the campus lectern, Tomasevicz has led courses on engineering economics, introduction to electrical engineering, engineering ethics, and engineering in athletics. He’s also connected with the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab to conduct research.
For his doctoral dissertation, Tomasevicz examined the power output of jumping. He’s also been a part of other athletic studies, including defensive back footwork, softball pitching, golf swings and how small movements can impact the accuracy of rifle shooters.
“I get more nervous standing in front of a class than I ever did standing at the start of a bobsled run,” Tomasevicz said. “But watching students grow and succeed through the semester is a very rewarding process.
“Honestly, I can’t say there is much more from a job or career I could ask for. And getting to say that while I work here at Nebraska is just icing on the cake.”