January 15th, 2011
Happy New Year. I’m in Igls, Austria, sitting in the sunshine thinking about yesterdays race. Another 4th. Part of me is really happy…happy about how fast we are pushing, how amazing Shelley is doing and how much better I’m driving compared to last winter! But frustrated that I cannot seem to be fast enough. Bobsleigh is a complicated sport with lots of factors that affect the outcome. It can be driver error (it usually is), it can be push times or push velocity. It can be weather and start number. It can be steel runners or the wrong sled set-up. Often it’s a combination of all, but sometimes….you are just not sure what it is. I watch my runs and I analyze the times…I see other pilots making mistakes but keeping speed. It seems the inevitable truth of our Canadian program that we are destined to be a team that has to out start and out drive the competition in order to win races. Don’t get me wrong; I made mistakes yesterday. In fact, I probably should have ended up 2nd in that race. I had a couple of exceptional training runs that I couldn’t duplicate on race day. My race runs were just “pretty good” and for a Canadian “pretty good” is just not good enough. We are one of the only strong nations without a homegrown equipment program. Bobsleigh equipment and development is a very expensive and time-consuming venture. The German, USA and Swiss teams all have great technology programs. Unfortunately, in the sliding sports of bobsleigh, skeleton and luge, the equipment is almost as important as the athletic ability and talent of the athletes. When the equipment is not working, it is so frustrating and when all of the pieces start clicking and you start finding your speed back, it is the BEST feeling. In the past, our Canadian team has relied on the kindness of other nations (like Monaco) to sell us or rent us the equipment we need to race, and the funds from OTP, B2ten or sponsors to foot the bill. We are still however, competing against countries that have government or privately funded equipment programs that are constantly pushing the envelope of sliding technology. Our team, on race day is usually just trying to keep up.
This winter, our national federation is working in partnership with a Dutch company called Eurotech. It gives me hope for our team in the future…long after I retire from this sport. Eurotech has been working with the Netherlands bobsleigh team for the last 4 years and has been developing their own sleds and steel runners. The brains behind this project are some very smart gentlemen who have dabbled in numerous other high-speed sports like car racing. Their material is exciting, and innovative and maybe soon… it’s ours. My fingers are crossed for my teammates. For the future and legacy of our great bobsleigh program, we need to find a way to stop chasing and start leading. The work ethic and talent of the athletes in this program deserve better than to stand at the start line and know that they have to be perfect just to keep up. Every athlete out there knows how infrequently in their career “perfection” comes around.