Q&A with Clara Hughes on her return to competitive cycling

Sport Performance Weekly

Q&A with Clara Hughes on her return to competitive cycling

Written by CBC SportsTuesday, 23 November 2010 19:50

Why would one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians decide to jump back into competition at the age of 38? Cyclist and speedskater Clara Hughes had said this year’s Olympics in Vancouver — where she captured the speedskating bronze medal in the 5,000 m (her sixth Olympic medal) — would be her last. But as she tells CBCSports.ca, when it comes to cycling, she has a lot more to give and will try for a new personal best at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

CBCSports.ca: How did you make your decision to return to cycling for the 2012 Games in London?

Clara Hughes: It’s been a work in progress, something that has been in my mind as a distinct possibility for the past four years. It really was just a matter of getting far enough away from the Vancouver Olympics to make this decision for the right reason, and that was just that it was something that I can’t not do. I have to go and find out what I can do on the bike because I feel like I can be so much better than I’ve been, and I’m just really motivated to try and see what is possible.

CBC: Why try the comeback? You’ve already accomplished the rare feat of winning medals at both the summer and winter Olympics. Do you have something to prove to yourself or others?

CH: No, I’ve never had anything to prove, and I’ve never tried to break any records or win more medals than anyone, or medal here or medal there (laughs). That’s stuff that’s just been a result of putting everything I have into what I love to do, and this is a continuation of how I’ve always gone about sport – the ultimate pursuit of personal excellence, of bringing my best self to the line and, hopefully, setting an example for kids and people that anything is possible.

When you give everything, magic can happen, and that’s what inspired me initially to be an Olympic athlete — seeing Gaetan Boucher in 1988 in his last race. He finished in ninth place, but what inspired me was that he was not willing to give up; he gave everything of himself. And that’s what I always tried to show people that were watching, particularly young people, that it’s the effort that matters. It’s what you bring of yourself that matters, and that’s why I’m doing this and what I want to bring of myself if I’m good enough to make this team.

CBC: What were you doing after the last skating season ended? Did you have a lot of free time?

CH: No, I’ve had little to no free time (laughs). But it’s been a really unique roller coaster ride that I’ve been on since the Olympics … I’ve been very, very busy with public speaking engagements all across Canada. Also my husband and I did a big kayak trip on Great Slave Lake, so I was up north for about a month and a half this summer and in the bush for five weeks – [it’s] such a beautiful part of the world, but also we just had such special experiences with the Dene Chipewyan people in that part of the North. We were invited to their annual spiritual gathering [and] met so many elders in that community and just had a really awesome cultural experience in Canada that we’ll never forget.

It’s been really special because everywhere I’ve been in Canada there’s just so much excitement and pride that people have in our Olympics, and they’re sharing their stories with me as to what their favourite moment was or where they were when that moment happened, and as an athlete, it means a lot to hear those stories. I’ve barely been home … but I’ve been travelling with my bike as much as I’ve been travelling. I’ve had really fantastic training rides all over Canada because of it, [and] it’s been quite a whirlwind experience.

CBC: You retired from cycling in 2003. Why did you make that decision then?

CH: Because I was doing three sports at the same time (long-track speedskating, track cycling and road cycling), and I did that for two years. And then I blew my back out. I was doing too much. What I was doing is not humanly possible, and I did it for two years and succeeded in both sports at the highest level, and then, my back gave out because my body couldn’t handle it.

So, I had to make a choice at that time: did I want to commit to the bike, or did I really want to try to just be a speedskater? And I realized I hadn’t given myself a chance to just be a speedskater, so I wanted to see what that was, and I committed to that until the 2006 Olympics. Even though I won – I didn’t feel like I had skated my best race, and that’s what really kept me going for Vancouver. I still felt like I had that best, perfect race living inside of me, and I wanted to make it happen at the Olympics at home. And then they happened, and it was ironic because I didn’t win. I finished third, but I consider that to be my greatest race. I stopped cycling because I couldn’t do everything, and now, I feel I have a chance to pour myself into this sport one more time.

CBC: That being said, do you have any plans to try and skate in 2014 Olympics in Sochi?

CH: No (laughs). That’s a firm no. When I crossed the line in my 5,000 metres in Vancouver, before I even looked at the time that I skated, I knew that was my last stride — that race was poetry in motion. That’s how I always dreamed of skating, skating beautifully for Canada, and I knew that was my last race.

Coaches of Canada Announces 2010 National Award RecipientsWritten by Coaches of Canada

Tuesday, 23 November 2010 19:56

Coaches of Canada announced today the recipients of its two national awards – the Jack Donohue “Coach of the Year” Award and the Sheila Robertson Award. Both awards were presented during the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership sportif 2010 in Ottawa, November 18-20, 2010. The Sport Leadership Awards Ceremony will take place on Friday, November 19, at 6:30 pm at the Westin Ottawa.

The Jack Donohue Award recognizes a coach who exemplifies the great qualities that made Jack Donohue the legendary coach he was. These qualities include honesty, integrity, a positive attitude, competitiveness, a love of the sport, and that it is about more than wins and losses. Jack taught his athletes about life, about experiences, about a passion to play for your country.

The 2010 winner of the Jack Donohue Award is Melody Davidson, ChPC, of Oyen, Alberta, Head Coach of Canada’s 2010 women’s hockey team. Melody has coached at almost every level in Canada’s hockey system over the last 30+ years. Her first coaching position came in the eighth grade when she coached her younger brother’s team in the mid-1970’s. Throughout the years Davidson worked her way up from being a Canada Games coach for Team Alberta to being the Head Coach of the Canadian Olympic Team.

Melody started coaching with Hockey Canada in 1994 for the World Championships – a role she later reprised in 2001. After the 2001 World Championships Melody was named Assistant Coach of the 2002 Olympic Team and became the Head Coach of Hockey Canada’s women’s national team in 2004. Melody coached the ladies to a gold medal at both the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Over the years Melody has been the recipient of many awards including the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Alberta, the 2009 Clearview Award of Merit, and three Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Awards (2005, 2006, 2007). She was also named by CAAWS as one of the most influential women in sport in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

”Mel’s accomplishments speak for themselves,” commented Wayne Parro, ChPC, Executive Director of Coaches of Canada. “She is a deserving recipient of this honour and embodies the spirit of the award!” Bob Nicholson, President, Chief Executive Officer of Hockey Canada added, “Melody has done a tremendous job for our National Women’s program over the years. She helped grow women’s hockey not only in Canada but also at the international level. She is a great competitor and a hard worker. She is deserving of this honour and we are proud that she is still a part of our Women’s National Team as Head Scout”.

The Sheila Robertson Award, inaugurated in 2005, is named in honour of the founding editor of Coaches Report magazine. This award recognizes a national sport organization that demonstrates a consistent approach to valuing and recognizing the role of the coach within the organization, with the media, and with the public.

This year the Sheila Robertson Award will be presented to Swimming Natation Canada (SNC). SNC has demonstrated they have an exceptional relationship with their coaching fraternity and understand the importance of a strong coach/athlete relationship to a successful team. “Swimming Natation Canada has been a leader in coaching development and support for some time and is well deserving of this award!” said Wayne Parro, ChPC, Executive Director of Coaches of Canada. “They have set the bar high for future winners of this award!”

Christine Nesbitt: Queen of the 1000mWritten by Speed Skating CanadaTuesday, 23 November 2010 20:03

Christine Nesbitt (London, ON) won her second gold medal in the 1000m event, Sunday, at the second long track World Cup in Berlin, Germany. She is undefeated in the distance, as well as in the 1500m, so far this season. Nesbitt crossed the line in 1:15.86, besting American Heather Richardson by 45 one-hundredths of a second. Richardson finished in 1:16.31 for the silver medal. The Netherlands’ Margot Boer took the third step on the podium with her time of a 1:16.51.

“This is the first time that I’ve been paired with Boer, who is one of the best 1000m skaters in the world,” explained Nesbitt. “She is always really fast in the first 600m, but I focused on my own race because I knew I’d have a better last lap than she would,” analyzed the Canadian.

With this second victory in as many races, Nesbitt increases her points lead at the top of the overall international rankings in the distance; Boer is currently sitting in second, behind by 50 points. For a third consecutive week, Nesbitt will be in action in Hamar, Norway in a week’s time for a long distance world cup. Regarding her demanding schedule, and the progress of her elbow injury, she said “I had another busy weekend – I did five races last week and this week too, so my it’s not so much my elbow that hurts as my whole body!” she joked. “I’m a middle distance specialist, I always do the 1000m and the 1500m events. I always try to do the long distance World Cups because I know that if I can race a good 1500m, then my 1000m will be strong.”

Shannon Rempel (Winnipeg, MB) came seventh with a time of 1:17.00; Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) skated to 17th in 1:17.92, while Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB) finished 18th in a time of 1:18.02. Cindy Klassen (Winnipeg, MB) raced in Group B, skating the distance in 1:18.25 – which earned her third place. Norway’s Hege Bokko took the top spot, 68th hundreds of a second ahead of Klassen.

In men’s racing, Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, B.C.) was the fastest Canadian man on the ice in the 1000m event, crossing the line in 1:09.83 for ninth place. American Shani Davis took the win in 1:08.82, Korea’s Lee Kyou-Hyuk took the silver in 1:09.08, and the Netherlands’ Simon Kuipers took bronze in 1:09.11. Philippe Riopel (Lachenaie, QC) finished in 17th place with his time of 1:11.07. In Group B in the same distance, Gilmore Junio (Calgary, AB) earned tenth place in 1:11.56. Muncef Ouardi (Charlesbourg, QC) skated to 17th place in 1:12.02, and William Dutton (Humboldt, SK) finished 22nd in 1:12.80.

A Scare for the Canadian Women in the Team Pursuit Groves, Klassen and Schussler comprised Canada’s Team Pursuit members. They were unable to complete the race however, as Groves took a spill, and hit her head rather hard. Choosing to be better safe than sorry, the women did not finish their race. Happily, Groves is fine and the fall was more of a scare than anything else. Team Germany’s women were the fastest on the ice with a time of 3:04.91, followed by the Netherlands who took silver in 3:05.50, and Team Norway who crossed the line in 3:06.67 for bronze.

Canada’s men’s Team Pursuit featured skaters Morrison, Riopel and Justin Warsylewicz (Regina, SK), who united their efforts to earn themselves fifth place, in a time of 3:48.24 – only three seconds away from bronze medallists Team Netherlands, who completed the event in 3:45.38. The event was won by Team U.S.A. in 3:43.10, while silver belonged to Team Norway in 3:44.65 Next weekend, long track skaters will be in action in Hamar, Norway, for the third World Cup of the season.

Guay ready to defend Super-G title in Lake LouiseWritten by George Johnson, Calgary HeraldTuesday, 23 November 2010 20:10

Not only has Erik Guay crossed over to the western front, he’s managed on this day to infiltrate an enemy stronghold undetected. “I’m actually a Habs fan,” said the reigning World Cup super-G ski champion from Mont-Tremblant, Que., in hushed, conspiratorial tones, as the lunch crowd inside the Flames Central bar happily packed away the grub, oblivious to the bleu, blanc et rouge interloper in their midst. Actually, for the way he skied to close out last season, Guay can be forgiven virtually anything.

Using the gutting disappointment of narrowly missing out on two Olympic medals, Guay reached three super-G podiums in a row to wind down the 2009-10 World Cup fixture list, claiming top step in the last two, at Kvitfjell, Norway, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, to roar back from far off the pace and capture the Crystal Globe chalice as overall discipline champion. The first such trophy claimed by a Canadian male skier since downhiller Steve Podborski in 1982 – a year before Guay was born.

Guay brought along his cut-glass keepsake to a media event in Calgary recently, and no, he’s not one of those who feign indifference at achievement, like the actors who noisily, affectedly announce that they use their Oscars as doorstops. “I actually have a built-in nook above my fireplace with a light that shines down on it. It looks pretty nice there and reminds me every day of what I accomplished. I get to see it every morning. “It is – amazing. I’m very, very proud of this. It’s my Stanley Cup. “So no, it’s not a doorstop. I guess I don’t have enough of them yet.”
At 29, Guay, part of the national team setup for a while now, has been around long enough to understand how capricious the skiing gods can be. Additionally, this is someone who takes a huge interest in the history, the great names, of the sport.

“I grew up in a skiing family. Those guys – Zurbriggen, Maier, Tomba, Giardelli – were part of my daily life. I guess my dad looked up to them even more than me, but there’s no question they inspired me to be a skier in the first place. I watched a lot of video of Maier and Tomba. And of course I grew up hearing all the stories about the Crazy Canucks. So to win a trophy like this, looking back on all the people who’ve won it before, I consider quite a privilege.”

“The nature of ski racing, I think, is highs and lows. When you get on one of those rolls, when you experience that feeling of knowing you can straddle that edge. I’ve had the feeling before. In 2007, I finished off a great season, five medals in a row, and, like this last year, I wish it would’ve continued on all summer. Every year I try to start off better. Last year heading into Lake Louise, I wasn’t in a good spot. My back was all out of whack. I’d missed about a month of skiing, so I wasn’t ready to race and so the results weren’t there. I started off slow. By mid-season, I was starting to get those fifth, sixth positions again. At the Olympics, I felt I skied really well, although I wished I could’ve been a little bit faster. Sometimes you’re on the right side of the 100ths, sometimes on the wrong side.”

The Olympics proved to be a study in fractional frustration for Guay. He missed out on a super-G medal by 3/100ths of a second. “It is tough emotionally, being put through that kind of wringer. To win that gold medal, any medal, at home here in Canada – would’ve been a dream come true. But such is the nature of the beast. Sometimes you’re there, sometimes you’re not. Still, I think I can safely say we’re never going to have as much pressure as we did during those Olympic Games, managing the pressures, the media hype, all the expectations.”

In June, Guay, his wife Karen and small daughter relocated to southwest Calgary from their home in Quebec. “As I get older, I need more physio, more contact with our trainers and doctors. My wife is from northern Alberta and she has a lot of family and friends in the province. So it’s been really good for us. “Besides, this way, I get to spend two months more a year at home, with them.”

Whatever lies in store for Guay this winter, he has a tough act to follow: Himself. “Nobody’s won two of these, from Canada, I know that,” he said, the super-G chalice perched in front of him on the table. “I don’t think about a season in those terms, though, only because it’s tough to go and attack a season with that on your mind, as your focus. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to win another Crystal Globe. It’d be – unbelievable. “But what really makes me happy is that skiing in Canada right now is in a good place. For a while there, it took a bit of a dive, but it’s back – and that’s a wonderful thing to be part of.”

Sport Nutrition for Olympians and Recreational AthletesWritten by Kelly Anne Erdman, IMPACT MagazineTuesday, 23 November 2010 20:15

When it comes to sport nutrition, one diet most de­finitely doesn’t ­fit all. An athlete’s dietary needs are based on training volume (weekly hours), type of physical activity, body composition, body composition goals, environmental conditions, and individual therapeutic dietary and health considerations. Sorry folks, it’s not that simple for every athlete to follow the same way of eating; furthermore, how do you defi­ne the word athlete in the ­first place-even that term is all over the map.

I would define an athlete as someone with an above-average level of fitness that may be training to be fit or to compete. We could classify athletes as recreational (physically fit but not competitive), competitive (whereby competitions are secondary to the other elements of their life), and high performance (in which case athletic competitions are the number-one personal goal and training is more or less a full-time job).

Aside from variations in competition focus for athletes, the primary difference to consider when planning the nutritional demands of athletes would be their weekly training hours, training intensity, and body composition goals. We can periodize their nutritional requirements in the same way a physical training program is periodized (i.e., specific weeks spent building endurance, strength, speed, power, or technical skills, etc.). Let’s use weekly training hours as a way to illustrate sport nutrition planning.

First, let’s categorize exercise weekly volume in hours to help determine dietary energy requirements. These weekly training hours would be one of the following: less than six hours, six to twelve hours, and more than twelve hours. For example, a client of mine, Ross Manning, is in his triathlon “off season” and is training fewer than twelve hours a week. In comparison, four-time Olympian Haley Wickenheiser (hockey 1998, 2002, 2006, softball 2000), and first-time Paranordic Olympian Mark Arendz (2010), easily exceed twelve weekly hours with competitions and training. In addition, Manning, the triathlete, has a personal goal to reduce body fat and fully recover from a herniated vertebral disk, while both Wickenheiser and Arendz want to maintain the lean body mass they have built up for the 2009-2010 season, as they prepare for their main events in Vancouver. Arendz doesn’t have any therapeutic dietary considerations; however, Wickenheiser tends to limit some foods, specifically milk, bread, and cheese, that don’t make her feel well when consumed in large quantities.

You might think that a competitive or high-performance athlete can eat whatever they want because they are expending so many calories? However, a highly tuned athlete is easily able to sense the negative physiological effects from consuming beer and wings in their post-exercise nutrition. In fact, food quality counts for all of us, but especially for high-performance athletes. A few consecutive days of unhealthy fast foods will leave an athlete feeling energy depleted, recovering poorly, and subsequently at risk of contracting the latest illness. Wickenheiser says, “My diet has always been pretty balanced. As a high-performance athlete, I am watching the timing of when I am eating as well as what I am eating. Adding some supplements as well as making sure I get enough protein and good recovery meals are probably a bigger focus with the schedule that we have right now.”

As a result of greater training volume, athletes will have a higher percentage of lean body mass (LBM) relative to recreational enthusiasts; therefore, high-performance athletes will have a higher BMR (i.e., metabolism).

To support an athlete’s greater metabolic rate and therefore energy requirements, athletes need additional calories from all sources: protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. However, the precise requirement of each of these energy macronutrients is determined in conjunction with their nutritional periodized plan and their personal body composition goals. Every athlete should have their sport nutrition plan individualized based on these important factors.

Nonetheless, a universal dietary difference for an athlete’s diet, compared to a sedentary individual, would be their fluid needs. Aside from daily hydration needs to support bodily functions (generally two to three litres) it has been estimated that athletes lose anywhere from 300 to 2,400 millilitres of fluid (mainly sweat) during every hour of physical activity, depending on their exercise intensity, environmental conditions, and individual variability. The only precise way to measure personal fluid loss from physical training would be to check bodyweight immediately before and immediately after activity. Every pound lost (0.5 kilograms) reflects 500 milliliters of fluid lost (as sweat, elimination, and breathing). A reasonable guide to estimate fluid requirements during exercise would be to start with consuming ten to fifteen millilitres of fluid for every kilogram of bodyweight for every hour of activity.

For example, if you weigh 155 pounds (70.3 kilograms), you may need 700 to 1,055 millilitres for each hour of training. From this starting point you can check your pre- and post-exercise weight. As well, listen to your body for signs of sufficient hydration to see whether you are on track with preventing performance-limiting dehydration. Sodium loss in sweat is also highly variable from athlete to athlete. A salty sweater is more likely to experience muscle cramping and feel symptoms of nausea during lengthy training bouts or competition. And drinking plain water will make their symptoms worse, not better, since they are further diluting their low sodium levels.

Aside from food quality-plus greater energy and fluid requirements-one of the most important dietary practices essential for athletes is to consume ample recovery nutrition as soon as possible after exhaustive training. When we deplete our energy (muscle glycogen reserves) as a result of ninety or more minutes of hard work that consuming optimal quantities of foods and fluid within the critical two-hour recovery window is essential, especially when you plan to be physically active within the next twenty-four hours. Both Wickenheiser and Arendz admit that recovery nutrition is their number-one dietary goal. Arendz, a full-time, Olympic-bound athlete and engineering student, has indicated that immediately after training he uses specific “recovery drinks and snack foods to begin the recovery process as soon as possible.” Even Wickenheiser suggests that “on a regular basis for me, it’s about hydrating, eating balanced high nutrient foods, and definitely making sure I am getting great food into my body post-workouts and games for recovery.”

About the Author Kelly Anne Erdman, M.S., R.D., 1992 Cycling Olympian, member of the Canadian Cycling Team, 1985-1992, is a consulting dietitian for the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary, with a practice at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre.

Bobsleigh & Skeleton world cup teams announced

Written by Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton

Tuesday, 23 November 2010 20:23

Canada’s medal-winning bobsleigh and skeleton athletes made a captivating return to Vancouver, landing in front of the Olympic cauldron in a Harbour Air Seaplane Thursday as Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton unveiled its 2010 World Cup rosters. While officially launching the post-Olympic season, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton announced the Canadian sleds will be in good hands with each of the sports 2010 Olympic and World Cup medallists returning for the new season. The governing body for the two sliding sports named six athletes to the Canadian Skeleton Team, and 15 more athletes that will hop into a Visa bobsleigh on the World Cup circuit this year for men’s and women’s competition.

Headlining the star-studded line-up of athletes, who have won medals at all major international competitions, were the eight skeleton and bobsleigh athletes who inspired the nation by teaming up to win four Olympic medals in February on the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Each of the four medallists in women’s bobsleigh, Calgary’s golden bomber Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., along with silver medallists– Helen Upperton, of Calgary, and Shelley-Ann Brown, of Pickering, Ont. – will form a dynamic Canadian charge for the podium. Lyndon Rush, of Humboldt, Sask., who became the first Canadian to win an Olympic four-man bobsleigh medal in more than 40 years when he drove to the bronze medal, will be the lone men’s sled to travel the World Cup this year. Rush’s four-man medal-winning teammates, Calgary’s Chris LeBihan and Edmonton’s David Bissett, will also return to push the Canada 1 sled.

Canada’s golden boy, Jon Montgomery of Russell, Man., will lead the talented men’s skeleton team, while 2006 Olympic bronze medallist and the 2010 Overall World Cup leader, Mellisa Hollingsworth of Eckville, Alta., will look to tackle unfinished business in women’s racing.

“Having an incredibly talented group of athletes that includes nine Olympic medallists ensures Canada will continue to be a force to be reckoned with on the World Cup,” said Don Wilson, chief executive officer, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. “This is an extremely strong team of athletes that is focused on podium results each time we hit the start line. Our goal does not change this year. We want to replicate our success in 2010, and ultimately, peak at the World Championships in February.”

Joining the women’s bobsleigh athletes, who claimed Canada’s first-ever Olympic medals in the sport which was the only time the maple leaf hung behind two spots on the podium after the thrilling one-two finish, will be newcomer to the World Cup circuit, Melissa These. The Edmontonian will pilot the Canada 3 sled. A quartet of rookie brakeman will also travel the World Cup this year. Edmonton’s Heather Hughes, Diane Kelly, of Chatham, Ont., Montreal’s Marquise Brisebois, and Emily Baadsvik, of Smithers, will gain valuable experience as teammates to the top women’s bobsleigh athletes in the world.

Lyndon Rush, who had a breakthrough season winning his first World Cup races in both the two- and four-man events, will also welcome Edmonton’s Neville Wright, Ottawa’s Cody Sorenson and Calgary’s Justin Wilkinson to the men’s bobsleigh squad.

Canada will once again field one of the deepest skeleton teams in the world following another exciting set of team selection races.

Joining Montgomery on the men’s squad will be 2010 Olympic teammate, Mike Douglas of Toronto, and Calgary’s John Fairbairn. Douglas had two fourth-place finishes on the World Cup last season, while Fairbairn will make his World Cup debut.

Meanwhile, a veteran trio of Canucks will drive for the podium in women’s skeleton action. Hollingsworth, who won the Overall World Cup title after finishing on the podium in six of seven races in 2009-10, will look to rebound from a heartbreaking fifth-place Olympic finish. Hollingsworth will be joined by Olympic teammate Amy Gough, of Abbotsford, B.C., who posted five top-10 finishes on the elite circuit including a silver-medal victory at the World Cup in Park City, Utah last year, and Calgary’s Sarah Reid. The 23-year-old Reid is one of the most promising athletes in the sport, and first Canadian to ever win a Junior World Championship title in skeleton when she accomplished the feat in 2008.

“Canada’s bobsleigh and skeleton athletes will be looking to add to the astonishing total of 184 Olympic, World Championship and World Cup medals won since 2002, as they begin a new track to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. “We want to build on the momentum generated from last season in an effort to continue to recruit more athletes to our sports, while ultimately winning more medals for Canada.”

Bobsledder Kripps driven to succeedWritten by Gary Kingston, Postmedia

Tuesday, 23 November 2010 20:26

Justin Kripps calls his two-man bobsled “Lambo,” a twist on that marvel of Italian automotive engineering, the Lamborghini. The sled is actually a Swiss-built Hilti, made in 1990 or so. It has been through the racing battles on classic ice chute tracks at St. Moritz and Igls, and it’s heavy, weighing 20 kilograms more than a newer sled. “It’s kind of fast, like a Lamborghini,” said Kripps, explaining how he christened the sled provided by the BC Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association. “But it doesn’t look great. It looks a little beat up. “It’s white, got some scrapes and scratches and it leaks grease out of the back end.” For now, it’s Kripps precious baby, as cool a first ride as that Kawasaki Ninja he once rode. “I’m thrilled to get one as good as this is.”

Kripps, 23, was born in Na’alehu, Hawaii — his parents were Canadian aid workers who spent half the year in the state — and raised in Summerland, B.C. He’s in his first season as a bobsled pilot after serving for three years as a brakeman, primarily in the four-man sled of Canadian legend Pierre Lueders.

A two-time Olympic medallist, Lueders retired after fifth-place finishes in two- and four-man events at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Kripps figured it was the perfect time to go from back-seat passenger to driver. “Pierre always told me I’d make a good driver, just because when I’d do runs with him, I’d give him a lot of feedback,” said Kripps, a former track athlete at Simon Fraser University. “He felt I had a good feel for how the sled reacted with the ice. “For somebody who’s been so good for so long to tell me that he thinks I’d be good, I have to give it a try.”
There is, however, another reason for making the switch. “Sitting in the back gets a little boring after a while,” he said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do another four years sitting in the back.”

He’s not alone. CFL running back Jesse Lumsden, Lueders’ brakeman on the two-man sled, is also trying his hand as a pilot. They spent five days at a driving school on the track at Lake Placid, New York, last March, moving up from different start spots until they finally made one run from the top on the final day.

This fall, Kripps has made about 40 runs from the top of the track at Calgary, where the Canadian bobsleigh team is based. With former shot putter Pat Szpak of Guelph. Ont., as his brakeman, Kripps was a strong fifth at last the national team selection trials, beating Lumsden and some more experienced pilots. “It’s a whole new sport (as a pilot),” he said. “You still get to push, but now you get to make a real difference. You have to really be on it. To figure out how to do a corner really well, you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

Matt Hindle, Bobsleigh Canada’s high-performance director, said Kripps has shown “a good aptitude for driving and an ability to grasp the concepts being taught.” Hindle also said the older, heavier Hilti that Kripps is driving is perfect for learning. With the potential for young drivers to make mistakes and flip their sled, “you need a tank when you’re just starting.” Kripps, with Lueders as his coach, will race this season on the Americas Cup circuit at Calgary, Lake Placid and Park City, Utah.

Kripps said the biggest adjustment he’s had to make as a driver is in his preparation at the track. “When your only focus is pushing, you show up and get energized and then it’s all out effort for five seconds. Whereas driving, you have to be ready to have that all out effort at the start, but then you get in the sled, you immediately have to switch it off and be calm and focused.”

He said he grew complacent a couple of weeks ago, lost his focus “and all of a sudden we (flipped) over.” “You never want to go over. You feel bad for the guy in the back. You don’t want him to get injured. It ruins your equipment, bruises your ego and it delays everybody because they have to spend time to fix the track.” Now that he and Szpak have got that first spill out of the way, and Lambo survived with only a couple more scratches, Kripps is feeling pretty good. “It’s going really well, having a lot of fun.”

About the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary (CSCC)

The CSCC is one of the top Olympic and Paralympic sport training environments in the world. The CSCC is a non-profit organization that strives to develop a positive and comprehensive environment focused on excellence by providing athletes and coaches with leading experts in the fields of exercise physiology, sport medicine, strength and conditioning, biomechanics, nutrition, mental training, coach education and life services. The CSCC currently provides programs and services to over 500 summer and winter athletes and coaches living and training in Calgary and the Bow Valley Corridor. For more information please visit www.canadiansportcentre.com

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 November 2010 20:34