Bobsled team/s in Panama: Spirit of Panama, is the first Panamanian team trying to qualify for Bobsled competitions to participate in the Olympic Winter Games to be held in Sochi, Russia, 2014. It all started when Chris Zollinger, Panamanian born in Switzerland, home town for this sport, went down for the first time in a taxi-bob at St Moritz in February 2010. Amazed, Chris wonder if there will be a chance to put together a Panamanian bobsled team and after a deep looking he finally got a name: Hans Hiltebrand, a two-time champion who competed in three Olympic Winter Games. Chris sent him an email entitled “A dream… a crazy idea”
In April 2010, Chris meets for the first time Hans Hiltebrand, Swiss bobsled coach, who explained the “ingredients” required to make this project a reality. He agreed to help, and advised him on what specific type of athlete would be needed for the team.
In August 2010, back in Panama, Chris meets Dr. Sasso – President of the Panamanian Athletics Federation – who recommends Jonathan Romero, born in Colon City, Panama, a lifelong track & field long-jump star, ranked #2 in South America, and he accepted the challenge and together started the first Panamanian bobsled team. He also unhesitatingly accepted the invitation to fly to Igls, Austria to try his luck. At the beginning Jonathan did not understand the concept of bobsled since he grew up in a Tropical Zone, with zero snow, playing basketball and participating in track & field so the thought of pushing a sled down a tube of ice was just strange. When Jonathan finally saw the snow, and understood the whole idea about the sport, he immediately encouraged himself to be part of the first Panamanian Team on this category.
Hans and Chris conjured up the idea of a national casting show in Panama. It was a two-day event attended by 85 Basketball, Soccer Athletes, American-style football and Rugby. Two were selected: Andres Rodríguez (track & field star at 17 age. At one point, was the nineth-fastest 200-meter sprinter in the world); and Arsenio Caballero (star on the Panamanian National American Football and Rugby Team)
So far, this is our team:
CHRIS ZOLLINGER – PILOT “Excellent.”
Lawyer by profession and Partner of a well-known law firm in Panama, Chris is also an active pilot with private licenses for helicopter and airplane, skills that allow him to develop his bobsleigh skills. In 2010 at St. Moritz, he went down for the first time a bob track as a passenger in a taxi-bob . This experience was what sparked the passion for this exciting sport. He decided to go to Bob school in Igls, Austria, with the help and guidance of Hans Hiltebrand and graduated as a pilot bob pilot. He then went on to organize the first bobsled team of Panama – “Spirit of Panama”.
JONATHAN ROMERO – BREAKMAN “…on three levels”
Athletic career started in Colon participating in different sporting events: sprints, long jump and triple jump.
Triple jump National Champ in 2009.
Long jump Champ in Central American Sport Games in 2009
Has represented Panama in Central American Sport Games celebrated in PA in 2010 and at Costa Rica in 2011 obtaining Gold medal in the 4 x 100 men event.
Started as bobsledder in 2010.
EDUARDO FONSECA – PILOT “Speed frees us.”
An active pilot, he first flew alone in an Ultra-light airplane at age 13- his fixed wing and helicopter ratings plus 75 hours on aerobatic aircraft gives Eduardo the necessary abilities to be a Bob pilot. A surfer and spear fisherman, he played soccer for a local junior league and paddled through the Panama Canal. As a collegiate athlete he rowed 8-man Crew in NCAA Division 1 for Santa Clara University. Started as bobsledder in 2011.
ANDRES RODRIGUEZ – BREAKMAN/RUNNER “Spicy.”
National Champ in 200 m and 400 m dash – Athletics National Championship
9th in 200 m – World Championship for under 17 at Debrecen, Hungary. Baseball player since age 7 playing in different categories of National leagues.
Basketball player in Colon
Joined the team after winning a Casting Show held in September 17 – 18th, 2011.
ARSENIO CABALLERO – BREAKMAN “Right on!”
National American Football player since 1999. Went with the National team to play at the first Global Football in Atlanta 2000 (from where Frank Davis was discovered, NFL player). Baseball player since age 7, representing Panama in the Junior Category at Dominican Republic. Joined the team after winning a Casting Show held in September 17 – 18th, 2011.
We have already participated in the Utah Olympic Park and Calgary in 2011 and achieved success finishing 12th in Park City and 9th in Calgary and after 5 races reaching position 42 in the world rangking, feeding our hope to have a dream come true.
In spite that bobsleigh is not a tropical sport, Spirit of Panama athletes train from Monday to Saturday at the gym and at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium athletics track, running and pushing the Bob or “carrito” as we call it.
It is time to American Cup in Utah, November 5 to 11; and Calgary, November 12 to 18 of 2012. We will do our best to participate in most of the competitions, including Euro Cup, October to February 2013. Through these races we have good chances to qualify for the World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland in January 2013.
Last year we had already qualified for the World Championships in Lake Placid 2012 but could not participate that year because of lack of budget.
At this moment, we are still knocking doors in Panama for sponsorship. It is not an easy job… Companies prefer to support local sports such as soccer or baseball which are the most popular and profitable for their investments here in Panama.
Even so we have received some appreciable support from international sponsors, like many other sports, we still are looking for additional funds to make our dream come true!
Saludos / Kind regards,
54th E. Street, Panama
Tel. +507 2055888 ext 192