Most Nebraskans know of Curt Tomasevicz, the Shelby native who won a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, as part of the four-man bobsled team. He also was a member of the Cornhusker football squad from 2000 to 2003.
For the past year, Tomasevicz has been under contract with the Nebraska Corn Board as an official spokesman for Nebraska corn and agriculture. He makes appearances at the Nebraska State Fair, Husker Harvest Days, county fairs and schools.
He traveled to Japan recently as part of a Nebraska beef promotion team and at many stops became the star of the show.
The Olympics is a universally recognized event, and to see an Olympic champion and his gold medal was an exciting experience for many of the Japanese we met. He's still obviously physically fit as a world-class athlete and when he was introduced to various Japanese officials and citizens, particularly convenience store clerks and restaurant staff, the response was universal—oohs and ahs. They crowded around him and wanted their photos taken with him and his medal.
"Having Curt on our mission was a cool component of the trip, because of the recognition of the Olympics and an Olympic medal," said Kelsey Pope, ag promotion coordinator for the corn board. He is a positive image for Nebraska and U.S. agriculture and a role model for younger folks."
The most memorable response came at a Tokyo elementary school soccer field where girls ages 10 to 12 were practicing on a Sunday afternoon. They were told he was part of the group to arrive, so they waited with high anticipation for him.
After Tomasevicz gave them cards with a photo of him in a cornfield, they stood in line to test their English skills on him. They all wanted photos taken with him and swarmed around him on the practice field. He told them of need to practice hard and to eat a healthy diet, with lean beef as part of that diet.
Tomasevicz, who graduated from UNL with bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering, continues to train for world championship events and for the 2014 Olympics and, in the meantime, will continue promoting corn.