If there’s an Olympic medal for moustaches, Carlo Valdes gets the gold. Team USA’s bobsled star speaks about his ‘stache, LeBron James possibly joining the Lakers and more!
He’s a former UCLA track and field star, a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan, knows kung-fu and possesses a handlebar moustache of the ages. He is Carlo Valdes, the 25-year-old bobsledder looks to launch him and his team to the top of the podium at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Before Carlo, the 2015 USA Men’s Bobsled Rookie of the Year, takes part in the four-man events on Feb. 23-24, he EXCLUSIVELY spoke with HollywoodLife.com about one surprising fact no one really knows about bobsledding, his love of metalcore, and what he thinks about those rumors about LeBron James, 33, going to L.A.
HollywoodLife.com: How’s Korea treating you?
Carlo: Good. It’s been good. We’ve been here for almost for twelve days now, almost two weeks. We don’t start competing until the 24th, 25th*. We’ve had some time.
*(Feb. 24-25 in South Korea, which is 14 hours ahead of New York City)
What do you do with your free time in Korea?
We’ve been catching other events, that’s for sure. The Opening Ceremony, that was on the 9th, so we’ve had some time to check other things out. In the meantime, we also continue to train, like lifting and sprinting. Stuff like that, just try to stay ready. Try not to get too distracted.
Nobody smuggled over an X-Box and you’re not doing like a Madden tournament or anything?
Well, they actually have a game center here. There’s like eight PS4s in an Athlete’s Lounge in the center of the Village. If we wanted to, we can go play a few games. I haven’t checked it out yet. But, we can have that stuff. With the X-Box and consoles, we don’t really like to bring our own because we don’t really like to play the game of ‘Shorting Out Our Power Boxes.’ It requires a huge converter if we want to do that. … There’s been some problems.
Since the average person’s knowledge of bobsledding is well – limited – what would be one fact about the sport that would shock or surprise someone? As far most of the younger generation, they only know the sport as Cool Runnings.
Exactly. I know, that’s true. I would say that one thing most people really don’t know about it is that the feeling you get, when you’re going down a track, is like being like, put in a dumpster, and then someone kicks that dumpster off a hill. You’re just there for a ride. That’s the best way I can describe what one trip feels like. Or being thrown into a washing machine, you’re just tumbling and tumbling.
It’s a very violent ride. It’s not smooth. Like, people think it is, like it a roller coaster, where you’re strapped in and stuff like that. There are no seat belts in this. There’s no padding. It doesn’t look luxurious in the bobsled at all. There’s metal and carbon fiber everywhere. Yeah, depending on the track, you can get messed up pretty good if you’re not tight enough or going with the turns. You can get bashed around pretty good.
The G-forces hit you, like we’re pulling 5 to 6 Gs in some of these turns and we’re going close to 96 miles per hour, depending on the track. It’s definitely a violent sport, not smooth or gentle by any means.
(Note: Carlo means he’s experiencing 5 to 6-times the gravitational constant. 9.80665 meters per second squared, according to Gizmodo. That means he’s getting hit with 58.8399 meters per second squared. Astronauts routine endured 3gs during shuttle launches, and Carlo says he deals with more than that.)
Now, did your past history of football kind of help out? You’re considered a natural of the sport, that you transitioning from football/track and field to become an incredible bobsledder.
Yeah, it’s funny how that worked out. Football [experience] was good to have and luckily, I played most of my life, since I was 7. The transition from football to bobsled was perfect to me just because you need that toughness aspect, especially being in that sled.
It’s not just being in the sled, but the everyday work. It’s a lot of the behind the scene stuff. A bunch of sled work, a bunch of training, and making sure these sleds are dialed in. We transport these sleds wherever we go, ourselves. We’re lifting these sleds, not just to get to garages but also to get to training. A minimum weight for a sled for a two-man is 170 kilo, which is roughly 370 pounds. A four-man’s [sled] minimum weight is 210 kilos, which is 470 pounds. With scabbards [protective covers that go over the bobsled’s runners when transported] on, these can be 500 pounds. We’re moving the sleds back and forth, back and forth a ton. You really need to be tough to survive in this sport, just because of how demanding it is off the ice.
I was reading that you used to mosh to heavy metal music in the UCLA locker room before football practice. Is there any music that you usually blast to get you hyped before heading to track?
[laughs] Yeah, I did it then and I still do it now. I’ll listen to bands like metalcore, hardcore, metal. I’ll listen to The Ghost Inside, Breakdown of Sanity, Wage War, August Burns Red, Buried In Verona. I have a huge playlist that I listen to before races, mainly.
Dude, you are metal.
Yeah, very much.
That’s not like, ‘oh, Metallica, and like, Iron Maiden.’ That is some deep cut metal.
[laughs] Yeah, some of its still underground. Some of these bands are mainstream in the scene but no one knows about them because of the genre that it is, obviously. But that’s the kind of stuff that gets me going, gets me on that emotional level where I’m able to just block everything out and be a madman on that line when pushing the sled. So, yeah, I try to limit my time listening to that playlist. I won’t listen to it at practice. I won’t listen to it just sitting around. It just has to be before a race, day of race. I make it to where it just, once it hits me, it hits me – hard.
Now, we have to talk about the facial hair.
Of course, yeah.
Your moustache, in a word, is pretty dope. Is there a reason behind it? Are you trying to get your trademark look, like [Los Angels Angels pitcher] Matt Schoemaker?
You know, [laughs], we’ll see. You’ll definitely see the handlebar moustache come out here pretty soon. Once we get closer to the race, if you see me on TV, you’ll see the handlebar ‘stache in full effect, that’s for sure. I usually bring it out for special occasions. You know, like the Olympics are a special occasion. Movember. Moustache March.
Yeah, I love doing it. People love when I do it, especially here. People know me by it just because I’ve done it so much. Every time I do it, I get a kick out of it and I know it’s going to get some kind of attention. It’s just something I enjoy doing.
Is there a celebrity – be it an athlete, a musician, a movie star – that you would make a good bobsledder? Who would you have on hand to be a possible substitute for the 2022 Olympics?
2022 Olympics? You know, I haven’t really thought that far. When someone says, ‘who do you think would be a good bobsledder,’ I always usually say [NFL running back] Adrian Peterson.
Oh, yeah. He would be an awesome bobsledder in my opinion, just the way he runs. He’s a violent runner. He runs with a purpose. He would be insanely [good] at bobsled. … running backs in the NFL tend to have that kind of build. So, up and coming football guy right now? Maybe Leonard Fournette. I’d like to see that possibly happen but he’s doing too good of a job in Jacksonville right now.
Shifting to another sport, what did you think of the Los Angeles Lakers getting Isaiah Thomas?
You know, I woke up to that. It was a nice little surprise. I went to bed the night before with him saying how he’s tired of being traded. People went, ‘oh he’s going to go to the Lakers,’ and I said ‘you’re absolutely crazy.’ I went to sleep, only to wake up to him becoming a Laker. I’m ‘alright, this might be pretty good.’ It sounds like he’s happy. … I think they easily can make a run, like they have been in the past twenty games, just add to that. I’m pretty excited if they do make the playoffs this year. … Definitely excited about Isaiah Thomas joining, and Channing Frye. Missing Jordan Clarkson is going to hurt in my opinion, but that’s the move you made so we have to live with this.
Do you think this trade paved the way for the long-rumored plan for LeBron James to come in and throw on a Lakers jersey?
There’s always rumors like that. Honestly? You know, I’m not really a LeBron fan. There’s something about him – he’s a great player, lot of respect of him as an athlete but I just don’t like the guy because he’s been bouncing back and forth and he can’t make up his mind on which team he wants to be on. I have much higher respect for guys who stay with one team. That loyalty is pretty important to me.
Like Kobe [Bryant] and Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan, obviously. Kobe is my favorite player, by the way, of all time. I’m so glad I got to be part of that generation that watched his whole career. Yeah, but if LeBron were to come to LA? I wouldn’t know how I would feel, honestly. I wouldn’t know if I would be mad, if I would be upset, or if I would be somewhat happy. We’d have to see.
This year’s Team USA has been the touted as the most diverse American squad in Winter Olympics history. As a Mexican American – and as Mario Lopez put it, one of two ‘Southern Californians competing in the games” – have you felt any added pressure to show out? Or is pretty much “business as usual?”
This is business as usual. So, people just think we compete during the Olympics and that’s it, but really, we compete every year. We have seven or eight World Cups – a year – and a World Championships to follow. For me, the routine has been the same, every race, every year, and I’m not going to stray from that. Obviously, there are more distractions here and more things to stray you from the path, but if you have a good head on your shoulders and don’t let too much get to you, it’s easy to stay on the right path and get on the right path.
Making the Olympics is a great, a long childhood dream of mine to make finally make it but at the same time, that ultimate dream is to win a gold medal. Just have to remember why you’re here. Once you do that, everything else becomes very easy…you can block out all the bad distractions.
One more question – have you been able to find any decent Mexican food out there? I’ve read that you were living and training in Lake Placid for a little bit, and you were hurting for some more “authentic” food.
Yeah, there’s nothing in Lake Placid when it comes to Mexican food. It’s really hard to find good, quality, authentic Mexican food. So when I go home I have to take advantage fully, whether it’s in Newport, I usually go to Santa Ana… I’m in San Diego quite often just because of the training center down there and Chula Vista. If I’m in San Diego, I’ll eat Mexican food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s how good it is to me and how rare it is for me to find it.
Nothing like that over in Pyeongchang?
No. A lot of Korean food, which I love.
Thanks to Carlo for speaking with us. Cheer him on when he and Team USA hits the track on the 23rd. For information about Carlo, visit TeamUsa.org.
HollywoodLifers, are you excited to see Carlo and the American bobsledders take home the gold?