Olympic gold medalist Heather Moyse makes bobsled comeback
Heather Moyse spent the summer putting the finishing touches on her book. There might just be another chapter or two still to be written.
Moyse is returning to the sport of bobsled for the first time since successfully defending her Olympic title with Kaillie Humphries at the Sochi Games in 2014.
Moyse politely declined when Humphries asked last March about the possibility of reuniting for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. But Moyse says her outlook shifted when she received an email last month from Canadian bobsledder Alysia Rissling, who wondered if she’d be interested in returning to a team eager to learn from the three-time Olympic brakeman.
“I’m not motivated just to go and win a third Olympic medal,” Moyse said Tuesday from Calgary. “But I’m extremely motivated at the thought of potentially helping someone else win their first.”
Moyse, who finished fourth at the 2006 Turin Games with Helen Upperton and pushed Humphries to gold four years later in Vancouver, still needs to earn her spot on the squad.
The native of Summerside, P.E.I., has undergone hip surgery since the Sochi Games and has also dealt with a nagging back injury of late. Moyse thinks she’ll have a better gauge of her physical capabilities in a couple of weeks.
At 39, there are no guarantees. But it’s possible that Moyse’s return could provide depth, leadership and experience for a young but talented Canadian team that may qualify three sleds for Pyeongchang.
“I think the coaches know that it’s never been just about a push for me,” Moyse said. “It’s about what you can bring to the team.”
Humphries is the longtime anchor of a Canadian side that will likely include two other pilots and six or seven brakemen. The formal team announcement is expected about a week before the Nov. 9-10 World Cup opener at Lake Placid.
Rissling, who was sixth at the world championship and capped last season with a World Cup bronze on the Pyeongchang track, is one of the rising stars on the squad. She let Moyse know in the email that the young brakemen could really use her guidance and expertise if she was interested.
“She’s been there,” Rissling said. “She’s been that grounding force.”
Brakemen often work with different pilots throughout the year. Rissling, for example, worked with three different brakemen over her six races last season.
The Canadian team members all try to use the same technique with the push to allow for a smooth transition if there are lineup changes.
“That way it makes it like clockwork,” Rissling said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re paired up with. You’re still going to have the same timing.”
Moyse said the news came out before she had a chance to talk to Humphries in person, but added she received an email from her longtime teammate Tuesday to welcome her back.
Humphries, who declined an interview request but provided a statement via a team spokesman, said her initial reaction was one of surprise after hearing of Moyse’s return from a member of the coaching staff.
“Competing with Heather in 2010 and 2014 was an amazing experience,” Humphries said. “We made a great team, she is a great athlete, and we achieved success together for Canada. Heading into this season on separate teams will be a new experience, but one I have planned for.
“I didn’t know if she was coming back for the past 3 1/2 years, so in my mind this doesn’t change very much. I’m still focused on winning.”
The retired Upperton, meanwhile, has experience in the sled with both Moyse and Humphries. She said roster changes can sometimes be disruptive to a team but are quite common in an Olympic season.
Upperton said it can create a stronger brakemen pool, which can only help the team get on the podium.
“It shouldn’t be easy to make the Olympics,” Upperton said. “It should be hard. I think having really strong internal competition is super important for the success of the program.”
Moyse, who has also competed on national teams in rugby and track cycling, has won 12 World Cup medals over her career.
“It’s interesting when the dynamic changes and the goal is because you want to be the best you can be, because you want someone else to be the best they can be,” Moyse said. “That’s a pretty cool feeling.”
© 2017 The Canadian Press