Seven years ago, Cory Butner was a part-time athlete dreaming of Olympic glory while holding a full-time job at Southern California Edison (SCE).
But after deciding a few years ago to take his training full-time, his dream came true when he was recently named as a driver for one of the three U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation’s two-man bobsled teams and will compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
“Seven years of hard work finally paid off for me,” said Cory, 32, of Yucaipa. “There have been a lot of ups and downs and being named to the team was just instant relief. I just told myself, ‘all right, I made it.’ I’m one of 230 Olympians representing the U.S. this year, which is a very small percentage of Americans.”
It definitely puts Cory in select company, but his Olympics pursuit had humble beginnings.
It was only a few years ago that he was working as an SCE technical specialist in the hydraulic services department of the Business Customer Division. He was trying to juggle his time at work in California and his training in Lake Placid, New York, or anywhere else competitions took him.
“It does feel like a long time ago,” said Cory.
In 2011, he finally made the decision to quit his job and pursue his Olympic dream full-time.
“Cory really enjoyed his time at SCE,” said Yvonne Butner, his mother. “It just came down to the fact that he had to train full-time. If he was going to reach his goal, he had to give 100 percent. He adored them all. He had a good group of men and women there, but he had to follow his dream.”
Although bobsledding won out, no one told Butner how hard it would be to leave SCE and his co-workers who had become his friends.
“Hardest thing for me was actually leaving,” he said. “I did get a little emotional with my manager at the time, Bill Hammond. I was there for five years, which isn’t that long of a time, but for me, it was. It was more of a family. So it was like leaving a big family when I moved to Lake Placid.”
When he’s in town, he still swings by his old work location on Fridays to chat and grab a bite to eat with former co-workers like Kory Meyers, who hired Cory. These are the same people he relied on early in his bobsledding career for emotional and professional support.
“All the guys that I worked with have been mentors for me,” he said. “You can ask Kory (Meyers) or Ron (Ford) or Bill Hammond. When I worked there, I was really quiet and shy. Now, I’m more vocal and more confident in myself, and that’s because of all of them. They made you feel good, more confident. They were always good to talk to and learn from.”
Cory is currently ranked fifth in the world in the two-man bobsled based on points accumulated so far in the 2013-14 season. And he has a good shot at getting on the medal stand in Sochi.
“Realistically, I can medal in these Olympics,” said Cory, who started off as a breakman, but was elevated to driver in 2010. “I have one of the best two-man pushers in the world at these Olympic games. We didn’t always have the best start times during the last season, but we still finished down the hill third, fourth or fifth. If we can get a top six start, we can medal.”
His father, Jim, knew that Cory would succeed, but not to the extent that he has so far.
“Just seeing him make the Olympics, when he first started this I never imagined he would get this far,” said Jim. “I knew he’d do well, but never thought he’d be at this point. You have to have speed and coordination and he definitely didn’t get that from his father.”
Cory knows there’s still a lot of hard work ahead, but sometimes he lets himself imagine a trip to the medal stand.
“Honestly, I might just break into tears,” he said. “It might seem cliché, but to have all this build up — there’s a lot of pressure. There are so many emotions going on that I might just lose it if we won a medal.”
Hometown: Yucaipa, Calif.
Birthdate: March 27, 1981
College: UC Riverside
SCE Employment: 2006-2010
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