“I feel like I’ve wanted to live my life kind of free, relentlessly pursuing goals and dreams and not being afraid of taking on new challenges. This show is just a way to encourage people to the same thing, in a totally different capacity.
“I’m inspired by people trying to take on their new challenges, kind of overcome some fears of their own.
“The show’s been really fun.”
On Thursday, Calgary’s Upperton, women’s bobsleigh pioneer, went on to a new phase of her life, retiring from competition at the age of 32.
On the track before, as on the tube starting in October, she always Made It Happen.
“When I started,” she recalled, “the women’s program was very developmental. My first World Championships in ’04, in Germany, I watched Pierre Lueders win in the two-man and I thought ‘One day our women’s team is going to be there, too.’
“And it’s kind of nice to leave knowing it happened in my career.
“But that’s the point, right? Everything’s supposed to progress. Women’s sport is constantly changing, evolving and progressing. My second season was the first year they allowed women to compete in World Cups on all of the same tracks as the men.
“My second season. That was only 2004. That’s crazy. Only eight years ago? That’s nuts.
“The last four years I’ve had such great people to work with, Jenny (Ciochetti) and Shelley-Ann (Brown). We’ve had such amazing women in the program that it’s just kind of propelled everything forward.”
Appropriately, her collaborator in the 2010 Olympic silver-medal performance at Whistler, B.C., Brown of Pickering, Ont., called it a career on the same day, to go into teaching.
Upperton’s contribution and influence to and on her sport are difficult to downplay. She was the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup bobsleigh race. Over the course of nine years on the circuit, six World Cup wins, 20 podiums and, as a capper, partnering with Brown to finish second in a one-two Canadian finish at the Vancouver Games.
“For sure, the two most prominent memories in my career were standing on the podium in Vancouver, belting out the anthem at the top of my lungs, and the first time I stood on top of a World Cup podium. Heather Moyse was my brakeman. You do something that’s never been done before your country.”
Thursday, Helen Upperton went out on the best terms any athlete can — her own. There’s the TV gig, hopefully the chance to get into coaching.
“I’d thought about retiring after the Vancouver Olympics. I’ve been nursing a lot of injuries for a long time and the quality of your life post-sport can start to deteriorate. I need to make sure I’m listening when my body’s telling me ‘Please stop pushing so hard!’
“I don’t compete just because it’s fun. I want to do my best representing the country and push for the podium. So I don’t want to just hang onto a career.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to something you love so much. But it’s definitely time to stop for a lot of reasons.
“There are a lot great things still to come in my life. so onwards we go.”