—Three Canadian bobsleigh crews on a World Cup mission for medals—
CALGARY— on Wednesday while joining Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton coaches to officially name the national squad before introducing the robust athletes to synchronized swimming.
Montreal-based Karine Thomas and Jacqueline Simoneau flew into the Stampede City to welcome eight men and three women onto Canada’s World Cup Bobsleigh Team.
With a focus on fielding a team of athletes with medal potential, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton will start the first three races of the season with one women’s sled, two sleds in two-man races, and one sled in four-man races.
“Our goals are completely clear – to win medals,” said Chris Le Bihan, high-performance director, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. “We are sending a smaller team this year to start the World Cup, but after a very competitive series of selection races, this is a team of world-class athletes who are fiercely determined to succeed, and are all capable of standing on the international podium.”
Two-time Olympic gold-medallist, Kaillie Humphries, will pilot Canada’s lone women’s sled. The 30-year-old Calgarian, who captured three bronze and one silver medal last year, will reunite with Melissa Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta. Lotholz, 23, pushed Humphries to two podium finishes during her rookie season on the World Cup last year. Quebec City’s Genevieve Thibault will also join Team Humphries this year. The former varsity track athlete is the sister to Calgary Stampeder, Adam Thibault.
Canada will field two veteran men’s sleds piloted by Justin Kripps, of Summerland, B.C., and Calgary’s Chris Spring for two-man racing this season. Kripps, a two-time Olympian and winner of two World Cup medals, will head into the World Cup as the top-ranked Canadian pilot. Chris Spring will look to climb his way back onto the international podium while in the driver’s seat of Canada’s second sled.
The two Canadian pilots will have a deep crew of brakemen to work with including Alex Kopacz, of London, Ont., Olympian Ben Coakwell, of Saskatoon, Calgarians Josh Kirkpatrick, Derek Plug and two-time Olympic medallist Lascelles Brown, along with Olympian Tim Randall, of Burlington, Ont.,
Kripps will also pilot the lone Canadian sled for the opening three races of the World Cup season in four-man event.
Olympians Inspiring Olympians: Introduction to Synchronized Swimming
Immediately following the team announcement, the burly bobsledders shed their specially-designed Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton bathrobes – sported their Canada swim caps and nose clips, and took to the water at Calgary’s Talisman Centre for an introduction to synchronized swimming from two of the country’s best. Working in their crews, athletes were given basic instruction on the sport while working on a short routine.
“At first glance bobsleigh and synchronized swimming appear drastically different – at opposite sides of the spectrum, even,” said Le Bihan, who added last year the team did a similar exercise with curling’s Team Jennifer Jones and Team Rachel Homan.
“But, like many sports, there are incredible synergies we share with synchro – none more striking than the importance of working together as a cohesive unit. The start is critical in our sport and the crews need to communicate with each other and operate in perfect sync – much like in synchronized swimming. Our goal for this exercise is to get our athletes out of their comfort zone, working together as a team, with the ultimate goal of achieving excellence.”
Canada’s synchronized swimmers will also need to be in perfect synergy as they head down the final road to Rio.
“The importance of cross-training with other sports, and being in the presence of fellow athletes who share a commitment to excellence should never be underestimated,” said Karine Thomas, who was a member of Canada’s fourth-place synchro squad at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games.
Our two sports both require amazing synchronization and athleticism. Although they are displayed in very different ways, we have no doubt that we will all end up having helped each other through this exercise. I know this experience will be another critical tool that we can take with us on the final road to Rio.”
Canada’s top bobsleigh athletes will head to Altenberg, Germany for the start of the World Cup circuit, November 21-30. The World Cup will make its lone stop in Canada at the Whistler Sliding Centre, January 18-23.