On top of the world - or right next to it
After Christmas the World Cup Team and I headed back to Germany for two World Cup Races.
Our first stop was in Altenberg, Germany for IBSF World Cup #4. Altenberg is the home of the 2020 World Championships so in preparation we spent two weeks there prior to Christmas and competed there on the Europacup circuit. Europacup is the lower tier or development circuit in Europe but don’t be fooled – there competition was still fierce – very strong German, Swiss and Korean teams where there to give us a run for our money.
Altenberg is widely regarded as the most difficult and dangerous European track. It holds a lot of both success and fear for the Canadians. We have had some astonishing results but also some devastating injuries in the past so there are always some mixed emotions when we roll up to the tinny town that is known for its overcast skies, delicious kabab shop and terrible wifi connections.
During the Europacup race I teamed up with Christine de Bruin and to our surprise we came away with a victory. It’s always difficult to beat the Germans on their home track so we were very pleased with our result. This was particularly special to me because it was my first ever gold medal in an international sporting competition. The very first time I got to watch the Canadian flag raised and hear O Canada played for me. It’s an experience I am hungry to repeat.
Flashing forward to the World Cup – Christine and I were partnered together again. We had some great momentum but really did not know what to expect. Last year when Christine raced in Altenberg she finished 13th but with a year of experience under her belt we knew we had to the potential to surpass last year’s results.
We laid down the 5th fastest push in the first heat (5.79s) in a field of incredible push athletes. After the first heat we were ranked 6th but the times were incredibly tight between us and 1st.
We got to the bottom after the first run and reminded each other - a bobsleigh race is two runs we weren't out of it.
We were right.
Christine had a clean first run but because of the rain and humid temperatures the ice was slower than she anticipated - meaning that it was more grippy and required less steering.
In the second heat we posted the 4th fastest push and found an extra hundredth (5.78s).She made some small adjustments and out second run was also clean but faster than the first!
We got to the bottom and knew it was a great effort but we had no clue where we would end up.
We were elated with the prospect of coming 6th – as we put on our coats and snow pants and waited for the competition to continue we both agreed that no matter what happened after we were incredibly proud of our performance.
At the moment we were in first but there were still 5 sleds to come! Turns out we would get a lot of camera time as we got to hang out in the leader’s box for three more runs.
Olympic silver medalist Elana Meyers-Taylor was next but she couldn’t keep up to Christine’s smoker of a run and slipped behind us. Next Anna Koehler from Germany fell behind our time moving us up to at least a place 4th position. The Olympic champion, Mariama Jamaka was next on the track – she threw down a great run and over took us – leaving us in 2nd position for the time being with two more sleds to go. Second was where we would stay as we watched our teammates Alysia Rissling and Bianca Ribi and Mica McNeil from Great Britain fell back.
We finished the race in second place - it was the first time Christine or I had ever been on the World Cup podium! Prior to this day Christine’s best finish was 6th and mine was 7th so the result was diffidently a highlight of both of our careers so far.
The ugly truth
Following the race my teammates and I did a heavy lower body lift. We do our most difficult lift of the week directly following the race to allow for the most possible recovery time between the workout and the race. After the lift I received some therapy on a few areas that we hurting after the race.
Now – at last – I spent some time on my phone – it was blowing up with congratulatory messages from friends and family. I also received an email from the our team’s media director who wanted quotes from Christine and I about the race for a number of Canadian media sources. I excitedly answered the questions.
The next morning my name was mentioned in a number of media articles. But that was the start and end of it. I must not be very interesting I guess. Christine was quoted a number of times but none of what I had to say was even mentioned. To add insult to injury the headline photo was not even of Christine and I – it was of Christine and Canadian breakman competing at the Games. Ugh. That’s bobsleigh for you. Breakman are often unimportant and interchangeable. Here is one of the articles if you are interested.
So I guess I will take this opportunity to answer the questions that were sent to me but were never used:
How does it feel to win your first career medal - a silver to boot So exciting and unexpected! A great start to our World Cup Season. We hope to keep the momentum going!
Did you expect this or could you see it coming - what were thoughts heading into the race
We didn't go into the race with any expectations. We just wanted to push well and be consistent and if we did that we would be happy with what ever result.
When did you start sliding together has it been instant chemistry Christine and I teamed up twice last year for world cup races (Whistler and Igls) and once for an NAC (Park City) race. I think push timing came very quickly for us and we are both very supportive of each other on and off the ice so we have made a great team so far! We also lived together during the past off season and I got to see how hard she works and how dedicated she is to the sport. It’s really hard not to respect and admire her as an athlete and friend.
Buj - talk to me about the start and how it went today from your perspective I think we both technically executed very well. We had competitive start times and start velocities - there is always lots to work on but really happy with two consistent, strong pushes.
Both let me know how the Olympic experience has motivated you or helped you get to the next level
Supporting from the sidelines at the Olympics was a great experience. It also motivated to do everything I can to not be in that position again.
Thanks for following my journey!