Largest Canadian team ever will slide to PyeongChang with a focus on winning medals
CALGARY (January 24, 2018) — The largest Canadian contingent of bobsleigh and skeleton athletes ever to qualify for an Olympic Winter Games will head to PyeongChang 2018 on a mission for medals.
Fresh off winning five Crystal Globes on the World Cup circuit this year, including the World Cup title in both women’s, two-man, and men’s combined bobsleigh events, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton officially nominated six skeleton and 18 bobsleigh athletes who will compete for Canada at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. It is the first time in history that Canada has qualified a maximum number of women’s and men’s sleds for all skeleton and bobsleigh races.
“This is a deep team of athletes led by an experienced group of veterans who have delivered under the most intense pressure on multiple tracks around the world,” said Chris Le Bihan, high-performance director, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, noting that 19 of the 24 athletes have previously won medals at either the Olympic Games, World Championships or on the World Cup.
“These athletes know what it takes to win and will head to Korea with one goal: put the maple leaf on the Olympic podium at the sliding venue.”
Six Canadians will make their Olympic debuts in skeleton. Three of the world’s best women skeleton athletes – who have all taken their turns placing third in the overall World Cup standings over the last three years – will be in Canadian colours. Elisabeth Vathje (Calgary), who has slid onto the podium four times this year, will lead the Canucks. She will be joined by Mirela Rahneva (Ottawa) and Jane Channell (North Vancouver). Rahneva finished fifth overall this season and won a bronze medal in Innsbruck, while Channell climbed onto the podium for the third time in her career at a World Cup in Whistler.
Dave Greszczyszyn (Brampton, ON) will lead a trio of Canadian men to their first Games. The 38-year-old captured his first World Cup podium this season. He will be joined by Barrett Martineau (Calgary) and Kevin Boyer (Sherwood Park, AB).
“At the beginning of the year we created a team charter where our goal was to qualify three sleds on both the men’s and women’s side. We have all worked so hard individually, but even moreso as a team, and together we achieved our goal,” said Jane Channell. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but I can’t think of anything better than to have the opportunity to walk into the stadium with my five other rookie Olympic teammates beside me. We will all be proudly wearing the maple leaf not only for ourselves, but for anyone and everyone who believes in us and has helped us on our journeys.”
There will be no shortage of fire power in each of the three men’s and women’s bobsleighs who combined to win 16 World Cup medals this year.
Kaillie Humphries (Calgary) will lead a trio of female pilots to PyeongChang while searching for her third straight Olympic title. Days removed from winning her fourth overall World Cup crown, the 32-year-old Humphries has 48 World Cup and four World Championship medals.
Alysia Rissling (Edmonton), a World Cup medallist at the test event in PyeongChang, and Christine de Bruin (Stony Plain, AB) will look to make their marks in their first Games.
The three pilots will have a pool of explosive brakemen including: two-time Olympic gold medallist Heather Moyse (Summerside, PEI), two-time Olympic hurdler, Phylicia George (Markham, ON); and two-time World Championship silver medallist Melissa Lotholz (Barrhead, AB). Toronto’s Cynthia Appiah and Kristen Bujnowski (Mount Brydges, ON) will head to the Games as alternates.
All three Canadian male pilots also have a shot at stepping onto the Olympic podium. Justin Kripps (Summerland, BC) will carry a lot of momentum into his third Olympic Games, second as a pilot, having won the overall World Cup title in both the two-man and combined (two and four-man) standings. Kripps also won two medals in four-man action this season.
Chris Spring (Priddis, AB) will make his third trip to the Games as a pilot. The third-place finisher in the overall World Cup two-man standings captured two medals in both the two- and four-man races this year. Nick Poloniato (Hamilton, ON) will make his Olympic debut. The second-year member of Canada’s World Cup squad had two top-five finishes this season, along with a fifth-place finish at last year’s World Championships in the two-man race.
A highly-motivated crew of nine brakemen from across the country will provide the horsepower for the three Canadian sleds. Two-time Olympic medallist Lascelles Brown (Calgary) will be joined by Jesse Lumsden (Burlington, ON), Neville Wright (Edmonton), Bryan Barnett (Edmonton), and Ben Coakwell (Moose Jaw) in another Olympic appearance. Olympic sprinter Seyi Smith (Ottawa), will make his first start at an Olympic Winter Games. Alex Kopacz (London, ON), Cam Stones (Whitby, ON), and Josh Kirkpatrick (London, ON) earned Olympic spots for the first time in their career. CFL receiver Sam Giguere (Sherbrooke, QC) and Joey Nemet (Hamilton, ON) were named alterates for the men’s sleds.
“I’m extremely proud to be representing Canada in my third Olympics,” said Justin Kripps. “It’s exciting to be heading in to Pyeongchang with a lot of momentum from an amazing World Cup season with what is probably the deepest Canadian team ever.”
“Canada will be heading to PyeongChang with a very strong team full of medal contenders,” added Isabelle Charest, Team Canada’s PyeongChang 2018 Chef de Mission. “These athletes have proven their excellence repeatedly. There is no doubt in my mind that our bobsleigh and skeleton athletes will put on a great show for all our fans.”
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to congratulate the bobsleigh and skeleton athletes named to Team Canada for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games,” said the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.
“Canadian athletes are hungry for medals, and I know our bobsleigh and skeleton athletes have a big appetite! They all have the potential to win gold and show the world that Team Canada is the team to beat.”
Canada has a rich history in the sports of bobsleigh and skeleton at the Olympic Winter Games. The country’s first Olympic bobsleigh medal was a gold, won by Vic Emery’s four-man crew at Innsbruck 1964. The feat established a tradition of excellence on the Olympic track. Canadian bobsleigh athletes added to their medal haul at Nagano 1998 (gold – two-man) and Turin 2006 (silver – two-man) before finishing one-two in the women’s races and winning bronze in the men’s four-man at Vancouver 2010. Canada also won women’s gold in 2014.
Canada’s skeleton athletes won men’s gold and silver, along with women’s bronze at Turin 2006. Canada also won men’s gold at Vancouver 2010.
The PyeongChang 2018 bobsleigh and skeleton events will take place at the Olympic Sliding Centre, February 15-25
Motivated by a longstanding relationship between Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton and the Canadian Armed Forces, the designs on the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic sleds were inspired by the paint scheme on the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Demo Hornet. Click hereto learn more.
The list of athletes and coaches nominated to the bobsleigh team are:
|Bryan Barnett||Edmonton, AB|
|Lascelles Brown||Calgary, AB|
|Ben Coakwell||Moose Jaw, SK|
|Christine de Bruin||Stony Plain, ON|
|Phylicia George||Markam, ON|
|Kaillie Humphries||Calgary, AB|
|Josh Kirkpatrick||London, ON|
|Alex Kopacz||London, ON|
|Justin Kripps||Summerland, BC|
|Melissa Lotholz||Barrhead, AB|
|Jesse Lumsden||Burlington, ON|
|Heather Moyse||Summerside, PEI|
|Nick Poloniato||Hamilton, ON|
|Seyi Smith||Ottawa, ON|
|Chris Spring||Priddis, AB|
|Cam Stones||Whitby, ON|
|Alysia Rissling||Edmonton, AB|
|Morgan Alexander||Coach||Calgary, AB|
|Stephan Bosch||Coach||Penzberg, GER|
|Todd Hays||Head Coach||Del Rio, USA|
|Graham Richardson||Coach||Bourne, GBR|
|Lyndon Rush||Coach||Humboldt, SK|
The list of athletes and coaches nominated to the skeleton team are:
|Kevin Boyer||Men’s Skeleton||Sherwood Park, AB|
|Jane Channell||Women’s Skeleton||North Vancouver, BC|
|Dave Greszczyszyn||Men’s Skeleton||Brampton, ON|
|Barrett Martineau||Men’s Skeleton||Calgary, AB|
|Mirela Rahneva||Women’s Skeleton||Ottawa, ON|
|Elisabeth Vathje||Women’s Skeleton||Calgary, AB|
|Ivo Pakalns||Head Coach||Sigulda, LAT|
|Greg Rafter||Coach||Calgary, AB|
Prior to being named to Team Canada, all nominations are subject to approval by the COC’s Team Selection Committee following its receipt of nominations by all National Sport Federations in late January 2018.
Story and Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee