Frank Del Duca serves as driver for the U.S. team during the Men’s 4-Bob World Cup on Sunday in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Mayk Wendt/Keystone via AP

Frank Del Duca of Bethel was named Monday to the U.S. bobsled team that will compete at the Beijing Olympics in February.

It will be the first Olympics for Del Duca, 30, a graduate of Telstar High in Bethel and the University of Maine. He will drive in the two- and four-man races.

“I’m not surprised,” said Del Duca’s father, Frank Del Duca III, on Monday morning. “He had a plan and he stuck to the plan.”

Frank Del Duca, right, tried out for the U.S. bobsled team in 2015 on the urging former University of Maine track and field teammate Jimmy Reed, left. [email protected]

Jimmy Reed, Del Duca’s former teammate on the UMaine track and field team, was also selected Monday to the U.S. Olympic bobsled team, as a push athlete. Both graduated from UMaine in 2014.

Reed, 30, was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and attended high school in Germany at Munich International School. He was named as an alternate for the U.S. team at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, but did not compete.

“They were both great guys,” said UMaine track coach Mark Lech. “They were great to have on the team. They did nothing but make us better as a program. Hopefully the ice is good to them.”

Advertisement

Del Duca and Reed are among four athletes with Maine ties to earn a berth for the U.S. squad at the Beijing Olympics. Emily Sweeney, who was born in Portland and lived in Falmouth until her family moved to Connecticut when she was 10, was named to the U.S. Olympic luge team last week. Cape Elizabeth native Clare Egan has been nominated to the U.S. Olympic biathlon team. Both competed in the 2018 Olympics. Other teams have yet to be announced.

No one from the U.S. bobsled team, which is still in Europe, could be reached on Monday.

Del Duca’s rise through the U.S. national team has been swift. At the urging of Reed, who joined the bobsled team soon after he graduated from UMaine, Del Duca attended a tryout camp in 2015. His physical and mental attributes impressed the coaches, and he earned a spot on the U.S. national team, eventually sitting in the second spot on the U.S. No. 1 sled, driven by the late Steve Holcomb.

Two years later, Del Duca became the driver, rather than a pusher. Slowly he learned how to handle the machine and the ice. And this year he blossomed. Rather than starting the season on the World Cup tour, Del Duca raced on the North America Cup level.

“His plan was to get as much ice time as he could,” said Frank Del Duca III, adding that his son was not frustrated or disappointed that he wasn’t on the World Cup tour. “His strategy was to be on the North America Cup so he could get more experience, more trips down, and could still accumulate points. He also knew he had to do very well to get to where he wanted to go.”

And he did. Del Duca medaled in all 16 North America Cup races. He finished first seven times and second six times.

Advertisement

“I went to several of his races,” said Frank Del Duca III. “He had great teammates. To see those guys work together was amazing.”

Del Duca was promoted to the World Cup level after the Christmas break. He had four strong races to earn the Olympic spot along with Hunter Church, a third-generation slider who was selected as the other U.S. Olympic driver. On Jan. 8, Del Duca’s two-man sled finished 15th in Winterburg, Germany. The next day, his four-man sled finished 11th.

On Saturday, his two-man sled, along with Joshua Williamson, finished 15th at St. Moritz, Switzerland, the best finish by a U.S. team that day. On Sunday, his four-man sled finished 15th.

His father said those finishes were impressive given the fact that Del Duca had never competed on either track before.

“He had to learn and compete on the World Cup stage,” he said. “To accomplish that, and to do as well as he did is huge and speaks volumes.”

Del Duca was born in Florida and moved to Bethel in 2001. He played soccer and skied at Telstar High, but his greatest success was in track and field, establishing school records in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and the 300-meter hurdles. At UMaine, he was one of the top sprinters and jumpers in the America East conference, winning the conference’s long jump title in 2014 as a senior.

Advertisement

“Frankie has come a long way,” said Lech. “It says a lot for him, and Jimmy, that they’ve accomplished this because they’ve been at it for a long, long time.”

His father has never been surprised by Del Duca’s athletic achievements.

“There has to be something you’re born with to go to the level he’s at,” said Frank Del Duca III. “Some of it’s learned and some of it is instinct and some of it is who you are, if you know what I mean.”

Olympic bobsled competition begins with the two-man heats on Feb. 14. The four-man heats will be held on Feb. 19.

Del Duca’s parents will not be able to attend the Winter Games in Beijing. “It is what it is,” said his father. “Life goes on.”

His father said he will hold watch parties at the family diner, Crossroads Diner in Bethel, on the days of his son’s races.

“I’m at the diner at 5 a.m.,” he said. “I’ll put some TVs in here and we’ll watch it together. There are a lot of people pulling for him here. I’ve always been known around here as Frankie’s dad.”

Del Duca is a member of the U.S. Army, where he competes in the military’s World Class Athlete Program. In all, four women and eight men were named to the U.S. bobsled team that will compete in Beijing, nine of them first-time Olympians.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.