Can­di­date ref lects on his skele­ton race record

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Paul Post ppost@dig­i­tal­first­ @paul­v­post on Twit­ter

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. » There’s one race re­sult no one can ever take away from Rus­sell Fin­ley, re­gard­less of how things turn out in his bid to be­come a U.S. con­gress­man.

Fin­ley, 53, a St. Lawrence County beef cat­tle farmer, plans to chal­lenge U.S. Rep. Elise Ste­fanik, R-Wills­boro, in Repub­li­can and Con­ser­va­tive party pri­maries this fall. The district in­cludes part of Saratoga County.

In 1987, at U.S. Na­tion­als, he set a world record time in skele­ton on the bob­sled track in Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Win­ter Olympics.

“Rid­ing to the top of the run in the back of an old dump truck, the sky was gray and omi­nous,” Fin­ley said. “We saw the track and it looked just like crys­tal. I’ll never for­get it. Ev­ery­one in the truck fell silent. We were ter­ri­fied be­cause this was some­thing we had never seen be­fore. It was go­ing to be ridicu­lously fast.”

The first slider down broke the pre­vi­ous record by a full sec­ond. The mark con­tin­ued to fall in small in­cre­ments as the next three com­peti­tors raced down the track.

Then Fin­ley took his turn for the ride of a life­time.

At the track’s 10th turn, the in­fa­mous Shady II curve, he ac­cel­er­ated from 35 mph to 72 mph in the space of 150 feet while mak­ing a 48-foot de­scent at the same time.

“The sled was fly­ing,” he said. “They said I was pulling 5G’s when I ex­ited the cor­ner.”

A state trooper with a radar gun clocked Fin­ley near the fin­ish line at 101.2 mph, the first time any­one had ever topped the cen­tury mark. His time down the course was 1:02.72, a new world record for a mile-long track, which he eclipsed the next year, 1988, with 102.66.

It’s never been bro­ken and never will be be­cause shortly af­ter­ward mile-long tracks were deemed too dan­ger­ous and races were short­ened.

Skele­ton wasn’t part of the 1988 Win­ter Olympics in Cal­gary, or Fin­ley would have made the U.S. team.

He also had a lengthy ca­reer on the U.S. Bob­sled Team and nar­rowly missed mak­ing both the 1988 and ‘92 Games in that sport as well. In 1988 he was an al­ter­nate on the USA-2 sled, but never got the call. In 1992, the

U.S. was try­ing to raise bob­sled­ding’s pro­file. Fin­ley’s team was bumped aside by fa­mous ath­letes such as NFL stars Her­schel Walker and Wil­lie Gault.

How­ever, Fin­ley’s World Cup sled­ding and slid­ing ca­reer from 1985-91 took him around the globe, high­lighted by 45 World Cup races in places such as St. Moritz, Switzer­land and Cervinia, Italy, along with Rus­sia, Aus­tria, Ger­many and Yu­goslavia.

He had spon­sors, but com­peted as an am­a­teur, which he could af­ford to do by hold­ing down three jobs dur­ing the sum­mer months, in Lake Placid.

“I did roof­ing all day,” Fin­ley said. “That was my work­out, car­ry­ing heavy bun­dles of shin­gles.”

From 5-8 p.m. he had a de­liv­ery job, and tended bar from 8 p.m. till clos­ing. Then it was up early, to start all over.

Fin­ley said his ath­letic pur­suits, and near-Olympic ex­pe­ri­ences, gave him the men­tal tough­ness needed to suc­ceed in agri­cul­ture.

“It taught me the work, drive and de­ter­mi­na­tion you need to suc­ceed,” he said. “You’ve got to get up ev­ery day, even if you don’t feel like it, to get things done to the best of your abil­ity.”


Rus­sell Fin­ley, left, com­peted in 45 World Cup bob­sled races from 1985 to 1991.


Rus­sell Fin­ley holds the world record for fastest time in a one-mile skele­ton race. His speed reached more than 100 mph.


Rus­sell Fin­ley, 53, was an in­ter­na­tional bob­sled and skele­ton racer from 1985-91 and nar­rowly missed a chance to com­pete in the 1988 and ‘92 Win­ter Olympics. He is now a St. Lawrence County beef cat­tle farmer and can­di­date for Congress.


Start­ing down the bob­sled track is a syn­chro­nized ef­fort. Team mem­bers push with max­i­mum ef­fort then climb aboard be­fore rac­ing down the track.

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