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February 19, 2002

Life's twists give Terre Haute
native Olympic experiences


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. --
When Bryan Leturgez landed a football scholarship to Purdue University, his future looked pretty clear.

But a change in coaches led to a change of colleges — and sports — for the Terre Haute native who found his calling not on the gridirons of the Big Ten but on the bobsled runs of Albertville, Lillehammer and Nagano.

One twist of fate after another — and a certain amount of athletic prowess and training — helped Leturgez become the only Indiana State University athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Born in St. Anthony Hospital in 1962, Leturgez attended Vigo County schools. But his family moved to northwestern Indiana when he was a seventh grader at Chauncey Rose Junior High.

Leturgez excelled at football and track in high school and then Purdue football coach Jim Young signed him to play for the Boilermakers.

But after Young left Purdue, Leturgez says he found himself “butting heads” with Young’s successor, Leon Burtnett.

By that time, Leturgez’ family had returned to the Wabash Valley where his dad had taken a job as superintendent of schools in Cloverdale.

“Dad said, ‘Why don’t you just come down here and go to Indiana State?’” Leturgez recalls.

Expecting to lose one year of eligibility due to the transfer, Leturgez planned to play football under then-ISU coach Dennis Raetz. But, when he learned he would have to sit out two years instead, he looked up track and field coach John McNichols.

“Outside I hope I maintained my composure, but inside I just about lost my equilibrium and fell off my chair,” McNichols says. “One of the best kids in the state — a kid  I had watched compete — just walked into my office. I’m sure there was some divine intervention.”

Leturgez competed in the high jump, the 400-meter hurdles and the decathlon. He made it to national competition in the hurdles and tried out for the 1988 Summer Olympics.

While he failed to make the team for the Summer Olympics in Seoul, he caught the eye of fellow Terre Haute native Bruce Rosselli, who was recruiting members for his bobsled team.

“I really hadn’t given it much thought,” Leturgez says of his opinion of bobsledding at the time. “I thought once trials were over that was the end of a career, but here was an opportunity to potentially extend it. So I took advantage of that situation.”

When Leturgez tested for the bobsled team, “he was just off the chart,” says McNichols, who was an official tester for the U.S. Bobsled Federation. McNichols tested both Rosselli and Leturgez.

While Roselli’s sled did not make the next Winter Olympics in 1992 in Albertville, France, Leturgez was asked to be on the U.S. Olympic team. He went on to compete in the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway, and the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.

Roselli kept trying but failed to make the games in any of his five bids, the most recent coming just this year.

While hurtling down a frozen bobsled run at 90 miles per hour may seem a far cry from running track or playing football, the sports actually complement one another, says McNichols.

“Boblsedding started to recruit out of the track and field ranks about the time Bryan was an athlete for us,” says McNichols. “That explosiveness and competitiveness is what it’s all about, a lot of the experiences Bryan had in football and track.”

Leturgez is a spectator at this year’s Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. He’s rooting for former teammate Brian Shimer to bring home the medals that proved elusive for him.

Putting to work the business management degree he got from ISU in 1991, Leturgez is an investment management consultant for IJL Wachovia in Atlanta.

He previously worked for Annheuser Busch and Coca-Cola, thanks to the Olympic Job Opportunity Program, which helps find jobs for Olympic athletes.

Employers like to hire former Olympians because of their work ethic, Leturgez says.

He began trading stocks while training for the Olympics and turned the part-time activity into a career as a financial planner.

“I had read some articles about it and I liked it,” he says. “It’s always been an interest and … I could do it while I was in Europe I could call or access the internet via laptop.”

After he retired from bobsledding following the 1998 games, Leturgez says he considered a career in sports management but his wife persuaded him to focus on financial planning instead.

“She said, ‘You know, you really like that so much. Why don’t you look at that as full-time instead of part-time?’” he recalls.

Leturgez says he likes his job because he can help his clients achieve their financial goals and his work is flexible enough that he can continue to do work with the Olympic committee.   

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Writer:
Dave Taylor, assistant director, public affairs
(812) 237-3743 or devtaylo@isugw.indstate.edu

ISU Public Affairs:
(812) 237-3773 or http://isunews.indstate.edu