Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Big League

"Oh you haven't been down the track yet? Good luck with that.." - A track worker at the Whistler bobsled track
A great shot down the Whistler track

This is the World Cup....and there’s an undeniable change in the atmosphere at the track. There's more focus from the pilots, the brakemen are bigger, and faster. The sleds are worth more, there are more coaches, physios, and support staff for every team. That is, all except for us.
We are very much the same as we were a few short months ago when we competed in the America’s cup. We’re even short one guy (Giseppi we miss you), so in fact, theres a little bit more for all of us to do.
Whistler village
This event has a totally different feel. We’ve had our photos taken, we have our own uniform (this time we won’t be appearing to represent Canada), and there are TV cameras everywhere.
But much like home, plenty of time is spent in the gym...

In fact it's in the gym where I first noticed the change. During the America's Cup we didn't see many of the European teams... now they are here in force. I mean that literally, they are huge.
The Russians in particular make everyone else look just that little bit smaller. They have legs the size of Redwood tree trunks…
They can't physically jog normally, the muscles don't even have enough room anymore. It doesn't mean they can't run though.
In the gym for the first time with them... I noticed that while they did their warm ups they systematically took control of the gym from the warm-up running area, to the squat racks. They even took charge of the music. I’m not sure what exactly I expected to hear, but it wasn't what blared through the speakers. It was the ghostbusters theme song… me and Lucas looked at each other and burst out laughing. We threw the Russians a quick look as if to say, ‘this is a joke right?’. They stared straight back blankly. We laughed some more.
With the sounds of the 1980’s movie running through my head, we went to the track, did some sled work and I prepared for my first run down Whistler.

It's the fastest track in the world, and you can hit speeds of 150km/h. Heath and I bombed it off the top just 24 hours after I'd arrived, and very quickly I remembered why I loved the sport. The speed, the adrenaline, and the competition.
"It's awesome to be back!" I yelled at Heath as we ground to a halt.
"Come on lets get to the top" he replied. I had a feeling he may have missed out on my enthusiasm...
Heath and Lucas lined up for Australia in the two man race in the World Cup. Lucas notched a 4.97 second start, a massive improvement on our training times. Despite the strong push, the best in the world were still two-tenths of a second faster at the start. It was a harsh reminder that despite how far we'd come, there was still a long way to go.
Harsh realisations come in many forms... whether it's other competitiors showing just how good and strong they can be... or it can just be yourself, not performing as well as you thought you could.
Such a realisation came for me in the first four-man push of the World Cup race in Whistler.

Our four-man start in Whistler

It was my first attempt at jumping in as the third man in the sled. It mightn't sound like much, but jumping in from the side is totally different from jumping in from the back.
While sprinting at full pace, you jam your outside foot on the side of the sled, leap up over the side of the sled, then quickly throw your legs under the number two in the sled and lower yourself down in under a second... at least... you're supposed to.
As we began our push, I can safely admit I wasn't confident going into it. How much of a role that played I don't know. I ran far too long, that was my first mistake, then I stuck my spikes in the back of Gareth's suit in number two. As I tried to pull my foot back a bit, I over-rotated and fell forward with my head.
Fortunately (not so much for him) I smashed my helmet into the back of Gareths... and managed to use the poor bloke to get my hands on the side of the sled and fling myself back into the sled.
Somehow I'd stayed in, and managed to sit before corner one.
Doesn't mean I, or the team, was happy about it. It was a dissappointing start to what ended up being a very good run for Heath. Still, we sat in 14th out of 14 sleds.
I managed to sort myself out for the second run, and on reflection it's unfair to be too hard on myself after my first crack at something new... I guess it's just not that often you do something for the first time on international TV.
We've trained hard this week in Calgary after an epic drive through the Rocky Mountain and tomorrow the final World Cup races kick off with the two man event. Lucas and I contested a pushoff and Lucas won by a massive margin of three-hundredths of a second and will race tomorrow. We're excited to get another crack at the world's best...
I'll leave you with a picture of the Australian flag... flying high at Calgary Olympic Park.
Till next time....Keep feeling the rhythm!


  1. Great work boys!!!! All the best for tomorrow and saturday!!! We'll be watching you.....

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