Austin Milward: From American Football Dreams to Bobsleigh Realities

When his dreams of an American football career were derailed by illness, Austin Milward took his chance in an exciting new career as a member of the Team GB Bobsleigh team. In an exclusive interview with SportsBoom, Austin talks about how tough it is to be on a competitive bobsleigh team.

Wade McElwain
Wade McElwain

Last Updated: 2024-02-23

Umaima Saeed

Many top athletes grow up dreaming of competing in their sport. But for British bobsleigh rider Austin Milward, the path was far less direct. After a shocking diagnosis ended his American football dreams, a chance invitation brought him to bobsleigh. In an exclusive interview with Wade McElwain from SportsBoom, an energetic Milward discusses everything from his unique path to bobsleigh, the strength of the German team, and the challenges faced by Team GB Olympics Bobsleigh team. 

Transition from American Football to Bobsleigh

Austin Milward's journey into the world of bobsleigh racing was not a conventional one, as Covid had pushed him to try his hand at playing tight end in American football.  
Austin had a plan to get noticed in the competitive world at JC football in California, opting to try out at the same college NFL legend Aaron Rodgers played at:  “And I was like, right, I'm gonna make a Twitter page, I'm gonna get out there, put my name out there and just give it a crack.”  

At 6’5”, 260 pounds, Milward had the right physical assets for the game, but sadly life took a turn when he was diagnosed with Graves disease shortly after his American Dreams became reality. 
Austin admits that this set back really made him question his athletic future: 
‘That was a really difficult period of time for me you know, I've been an athlete my whole life and almost having it like shut down. I just, you know, it was brutal.”

Despite facing setbacks due to medical reasons, Milward's indomitable spirit led him to discover a new passion and purpose in bobsleigh racing. Milward reflects on his transition, stating, "Bobsleigh completely changed my life personally. I'm so grateful for it because, obviously, none of us really grew up wanting to be a bobsledder, right?" His journey underscores the unpredictability of life and the power of embracing new opportunities with an open mind.

The First Thrill: Navigating the Icy Tracks

After returning home to the UK, Milward was invited to try bobsleigh. He immediately fell in love with the sport's adrenaline rush. "My first, my first ever run was right off the top. Most people have like a gentle start to it, but my, my pilot ads, he was like, you ready to go? We're gonna go full beans," he adds with gusto.

For Austin, the first time hurtling down an icy bobsleigh track was nothing short of exhilarating. Recounting his initial experience, he describes it as an adrenaline rush like no other: 
“It feels like you're going down a roller coaster during a car crash. That's what it feels like. Like it's just brilliant.”

His fearless approach to tackling challenges echoes throughout his journey, serving as a source of inspiration for aspiring athletes.

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It feels like you're going down a roller coaster during a car crash. That's what it feels like.

Austin Milward on his 1st Bobsleigh run

As a man of considerable size, one would think that getting in a tiny bobsleigh would be tricky, but Milward admits that his size plays a crucial role in his bobsleigh career. As the heaviest member of the British team, Milward leverages his stature to optimise sled performance, allowing for smoother runs and quicker times. However, he acknowledges the delicate balance required to meet weight regulations, particularly in four-man crews.

"My size definitely has its advantages and challenges," Milward explains. "While it allows me to push a lighter sled, we must ensure compliance with weight limits." His strategic approach to maximising his physical attributes underscores the meticulous planning and preparation essential to success in bobsleigh racing.

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The Team's Camaraderie

Milward also took to the close-knit aspect of being part of a bobsleigh team. "I've never felt closer as a team than I do with these guys. And that's a lot of teams," he said. "When you have a team that really, really gets on, everyone pushes better."

He described the crew's tight bond, forged through intense training, travel, and time trials measured in fractions of seconds. "You're gonna achieve highly" with that level of teamwork, Milward noted.

Advocating for the Women's Bobsleigh Team

In addition to his own journey, Milward shines a spotlight on the disparities faced by women in bobsleigh racing. He highlights the unfair weight restrictions imposed on female athletes, forcing them to endure restrictive diets and navigate gruelling training regimes.

"The women's weight issue is a bit of a joke," Milward asserts. "These girls are exceptional athletes, yet they're forced to starve themselves to compete." His advocacy for gender equality underscores the importance of addressing systemic barriers and fostering inclusivity within the sport.

Milward was quick to add that he is hopeful that the authorities in Bobsleigh rectify this glaring issue ahead of the next winter Olympics. 

Looking Ahead: 2024 Goals and Beyond

As Milward sets his sights on future endeavours, including the 2024 Winterberg World Championships and beyond, his unwavering determination remains steadfast. Despite the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead, Milward remains committed to pushing boundaries and striving for excellence.

"My journey in bobsleigh has been transformative," he reflects. "I'm excited to continue pushing the limits and chasing my dreams alongside my teammates." With each twist and turn of the icy track, Milward's journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and the pursuit of passion.

As someone who has studied sports psychology, Austin Milward is quick to apply what he’s learned, and channel it towards his new business in young men’s development coaching. 
His remarkable journey from American football aspirations to bobsleigh racing triumphs encapsulates the essence of resilience and determination. As he continues to carve his path in the exhilarating world of bobsleigh, Austin Milward's story serves as an inspiration to athletes worldwide, reminding us that with courage, perseverance, and a dash of fearlessness, anything is possible on and off the icy tracks of life.

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Wade McElwain
Wade McElwainSenior Sports Writer

Wade McElwain is our Mr. NFL, a bona fide North American sports nut who knows about NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA plus MMA boxing and more. Originally from Canada, Wade is also an international award-winning stand-up comedian; host of numerous TV game shows; and a TV producer & writer. He also runs NFL in London-the largest NFL fan group in Europe, and has hosted NFL events at Wembley and around the world. Yes, he lives alone and does nothing but watch sports.