A couple of Saturdays ago (2010.05.29), I again schlepped out to York University to report on Bobsleigh Canada’s talent/recruitment camp. (Photos. Last year.)

Where’s Florian? I asked once I got there. He’s running the Whistler Sliding Centre, organizer Amanda Stepenko told me. Quite the promotion. (Amanda looks and sounds exactly like Tami on Friday Night Lights, though the accent is a tad different.)

I counted six male and three female contestants. I showed up early this time so I wouldn’t miss the sprinting and jumping tests, none of which I could do or ever could have. (Nor can I push anything heavier than a shopping cart.) There was a bit of amusement between events as Amanda told the guys to switch from cleats to “flats.” (Boys don’t really wear flats.)

  • Tim Randall (23) plays football, as one might expect. So: Why do you want to push a bobsled? “It’s always been a dream of mine.” Wants to compete in not one but two Olympics. Who’s his hero? Lascelles Brown. Aiming high there.

    But does he want to drive the bobsleigh? “I haven’t actually thought about it.” He’s training more for brakeman.

  • Ryan Moreira (23) is about half Tim’s size and, appropriately, actually wants to be a skeletor. (Just like chaotic ginger gold medallist Jon Montgomery!) Found out about it from the Web site and was dimly aware of last year’s camp.

  • Stefan Sing (20) was overflowing with enthusiasm. You want motivation? You go to Stefan is what you do. So why do you want to push a bobsled, Stefan? “It looks awesome, man.” Visiting the Vancouver Olympics Web site triggered the idea. Played rugby for five years, also hockey, soccer, and of course lifeguarding.

    OK, but do you want to drive the sled? “I’ll do anything.” He’d even be the waterboy. “I’ve been training for the last three months by myself.”

    The whole weightroom was rooting him on, and Marcus and Carl did a lot of coaching on form and amateur psychology. But Stefan kind of psyched himself out of the competition, I think. Ability is merely one factor; drive and trainability are two others. Plus: What’s the rush? There’s always next year (at the ripe old age of 21) and the year after that. And once you’re in, it’s like wheelchair sports – you can pretty much keep doing it as long as you want.

  • Marcus Mitchell (23) could be the most chipper man I’ve met all year. (Hey, what’s that like?) His focus is really rugby, which maps onto bobsleigh well because of the “power and speed”; bobsleigh could “complement my rugby career.” Trained 3½ weeks just for this camp.

    His hero is Jesse Lumsden, who, as a bobsledder and pro football player, is an overachiever. But “I’m only competing with myself.” He was never consistent enough when at university – academics, “partying,” rugby, track. But “as soon as I graduated, I missed it!”

    Drive the sled? “That’s not something I’ve considered.” Wants to play rugby in the 2016 Olympics,” but could be a winter/summer double threat. “I want to be an Olympian, period.”

  • Carl’s mohawk (with actual hair at the sides) Carl Stahlbrand (22), the star of the show, was apparently made to order from the bobsledder catalogue. He seems more than fast enough off the blocks, but the killer was the jump test – leapfrog five times in a row for distance. After his first run, which left the room in momentary stunned silence, he muttered “Maybe not so high.” (He was pushing three feet off the ground and ended up covering 15′6″.) Of course he aced it in the weightroom, doing about 390 pounds in front squats. (He warms up by jumping up and down in place, obviously.) And he’s about as flexible as a wet noodle and is a double major at university.

    Best athlete I’ve ever seen, but most of the athletes I’ve covered have been gay and/or crippled, so maybe this isn’t saying much. And don’t you like Carl’s mohawk?

    OK, Carl. What brought you here? Played rugby for four years, high-school football. “I kind of was just excited to try something new…. I’ve been training for this my whole life.” Saw bobsleigh on the Olympics, but hadn’t considered signing up till he heard about the camp.

    Anyway: Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new push athlete<slash>overlord. (Just a prediction.)

Men’s bobsled teams around the world are faced with the task of picking away at a dwindling supply of Herculean speed freaks. It’s too simplistic to call them alpha males, because some alpha males are fat bastards who double over wheezing at the top of a staircase.

But really, is there any skill less in demand in a post-industrial, computer-based society than shoving a fibre-glass deadweight down an ice path a tenth of a second faster than 60 other guys your size? The whole process is a battle against the odds. Fortunately, men still exist.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.06.13 10:49. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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