May 1, 2014
OREM, Utah - Former Utah Valley University track & field stars and 2014 Winter Olympic medalists Noelle Pikus-Pace and Chris Fogt received honorary doctoral degrees from UVU during the institution's commencement on Thursday evening at the UCCU Center.
Pikus-Pace and Fogt, who are both alumni of UVU, earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, for Team USA at the recent Sochi Olympics. Pikus-Pace picked her silver medal in the sport of skeleton while Fogt picked up his bronze with his `Night Train 2' teammates in the four-man bobsled.
The inspiring story of Noelle Pikus-Pace is one for the record books. After competing 13 years professionally, Noelle won the silver medal in skeleton at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Noelle began her skeleton career in 2001 and quickly proved herself one of the best sliders in the world. A 2005 Utah Valley University graduate, Noelle participated as a track and field athlete while at UVU, where she broke the high jump record and was named first team All-American. She also won the 2003 NJCAA national discus championship.
After leaving UVU she was at the height of her athletic career. Then, the unthinkable happened. At the end of a run, she and a few teammates were waiting near the bottom of a bobsled track. A sled barreled down the hill, veered off the track and slammed into her leg, causing a break so severe it punctured the surface of her skin. She missed the first half of the 2005-2006 season and did not qualify for the Olympics that year.
Noelle's determination pushed her to fight back that much harder to rehabilitate and train, and that next year she won the World Championship title and finished second overall in World Cup standings. After taking a break from skeleton to have her first child and earn a master's degree in business administration from Colorado Technical University, Noelle returned to training and qualified for the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver. She placed fourth and announced she was retiring from the sport.
Two years later, Noelle experienced a devastating miscarriage. Her husband, Janson, suggested she return to skeleton as a way to cope and heal. With two young children by her side, Pikus-Pace began training again.
Faster and stronger than ever, she won 28 national and international medals on her way to Sochi. She finished the season ranked third in the world and in February 2014 became the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in skeleton since 2002, which marked Team USA's 7th skeleton medal of all-time -- the most by any country.
The U.S. Olympic Committee recently awarded Noelle the "Moment of the Games," at its "Best in the U.S. Awards Show" for the touching celebration she had with her husband and children after her win in Sochi.
It was a hero's welcome when Chris Fogt returned to Alpine, Utah, for a hometown celebration after winning the bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics as member of the four-man bobsled team 'Night Train 2'.
The 2008 Utah Valley University business management graduate was introduced to bobsled when recruiters saw his speed and strength at a college track meet. Fogt was captain of UVU's track team for two years and set six school records. Incidentally, Chris' brother, Mike, is a member of this year's UVU's track and field team.
While at UVU, Chris joined the ROTC during his sophomore year and earned his commission as a second lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Branch.
After an impressive performance at a training camp, Fogt joined the Army's World Class Athlete Program, which allowed him to compete for the U.S. while serving his country as a captain in the U.S. Army.
Despite having to interrupt his training and competition for an extended military deployment in Iraq, he worked his way up to win the U.S. National Push Championship which qualified him to compete with the top-rated bobsled team.
In 2010, Chris qualified for the U.S. Olympic team and competed in Vancouver on the four-man USA-2 bobsled, but the bobsled lost control and crashed, landing them in last place. Shortly after this disappointing loss, Chris was deployed to Iraq for a year.
When he returned home in July 2011, he immediately began training for the 2014 Olympics.
On the final day of the Sochi games, his team won a bronze medal, earning Chris his first Olympic medal -- though he hopes not his last. He plans to try for another medal in the 2018 Olympics.
Chris reports back to military service May 5. He proudly says: "When I look down at that flag on my suit it reminds me of my buddies in Iraq and it reminds me to push harder."
He and his wife, Rachel, are expecting their first child in July.
Thursday marked UVU's 73rd Commencement and the school's largest graduating class to date with 5,258 students receiving degrees.