The next four years beckon the Olympic dream

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by Whistler Sliding Centre

February 26, 2014 (ISN) – The Sochi Russia 2014 Olympic games are over; 88 nations and 2873 athletes are packing up and heading home. Some proudly successful at attaining their Olympic dream and riding the high of podium finishes.

Others, so happy to participate and experience their first taste of Olympic competition, accomplishing personal bests and  looking forward to the 2018 games. Then there are the few who leave disappointed and shaken as chances were taken, moments were lost and now the competitive future remains uncertain.

For Canada, the tight community of Bobsleigh was elated with golden achievement, then pushed to its limits with last minute team changes and unexpected results.

Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyes displaying their gold at the medal ceremony in Sochi

Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyes displaying their gold at the medal ceremony in Sochi

The Women’s bobsleigh team’s  gold medal was hard won with strong push starts from Heather Moyes and focused consistency from Kaillie Humphries, out driving the faster built US BMW sleds by 1/10th of a second for the win in the final heat.

The first ever-consecutive Olympic gold medal finishes for a single team in Women’s bobsleigh history.  The women’s success was honoured with the opportunity to bear the Canadian flag proudly into the Fischt Olympic Stadium for the closing ceremonies.

Within the Men’s bobsleigh team, Justin Kripps affinity for driving the Sanki track  was proven with a 6th place finish in 2man competition and his results during 4man Official Training pointed to podium potential.   Looking to increase this possibility, Bobsleigh Canada coaches made the call to switch the push teams between Kripps (Canada 3) and Spring (Canada 1).  Bringing home another medal for Canadian bobsledding looked promising with the combined talents of Kripp’s driving skills, Cody Sorenson and Jesse Lumsden, two of the sport’s fastest side pushers, and Ben Coakwell’s, speed as brake man.

The coaches’ decision to switch teams was hard felt by all.  Spring’s high hopes of achieving the Olympic dream were being shifted to another team and he felt the loss of confidence from the coaches in his driving ability.  His openly emotional response and vocal outpouring over his choice of quality equipment had the Canadian fans reaching out through social media and encouraging them on.  Pulling strength from within, Team Spring rallied, refocused and drove clean, consistent runs to finish in 13th place .

Canada 3 Piloted by Justin Kripps Heat 2 Olympic crash at Sanki Sliding Centre, AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL

Canada 3 Piloted by Justin Kripps Heat 2 Olympic crash at Sanki Sliding Centre, AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL

Coming up 1/100th of a second off the start record, Team Kripps’ Heat 2 push start was everything the team hoped for. Kripps was driving with a precision and speed that had the announcers foretelling of a great run; after taking a clean line out of corner 11 was surprisingly early entering corner 14, the sled lifted off the ice, flipped on its side and team Kripps was done.

The heart felt outpouring of concern for the team was instant as fellow bobsledders, spectators and coaches looked on. The result weighted heavily on Team Kripps and it remained to be heard if they would carry on.

Luke Demetre and Graeme Rinholm join Justin Kripps and Jesse Lumsden for an Olympic moment.

Luke Demetre and Graeme Rinholm join Justin Kripps and Jesse Lumsden for an Olympic moment. (JAE C. HONG / AP)

Team Kripps rallied and returned ready for Heat 3.   However, with Cody Sorenson and Brian Barnett unfit to slide, Luke Demetre and Graeme Rinholm jumped in for their first Olympic opportunity.

Sitting in 30th position there was no hope to advance, but the crew recovered its confidence and passion by sliding again. Although slower in start time, Kripps was able to drive a 10thplace finish within that run.

Bobsleigh Canada’s risk of switching up the push teams may have seemed reckless to some, unnecessary to others and perhaps degrading to those involved.  But it certainly tested personal confidence, relationships and the ongoing commitment of the athletes.  The next four years will develop new talent and hone and advance the skills of the experienced with  the Olympic dream beckoning  them to be compete on this stage again.

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