After piloting his two-man sled to glory at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Justin Kripps turned his attention to perfecting his four-man driving.
Kripps headlines Canada’s 18-member bobsled team for the Beijing Olympic Games, and the defending two-man champion is hoping to climb the medal podium twice this time around.
“I’ve traditionally had more success in the two-man, and so I wanted to get the four-man up to speed and we’ve definitely done that and had a lot of success over the last four years. I’m really excited about the four-man in Beijing,” Kripps said from Konigssee, Germany, where the Canadian team is in a holding camp before travelling to Beijing.
Cynthia Appiah and Christine de Bruin headline the talented women’s bobsled team, announced Thursday. Olympic veterans Jane Channell of Calgary and Mirela Rahneva of Ottawa and rookie Blake Enzie of Calgary are Canada’s three skeleton athletes.
Kripps, a 35-year-old from Summerland, B.C., drove to second-place overall in both the two- and four-man on the World Cup season that recently ended.
The team was hit hard by a COVID-19 outbreak in December that saw 11 athletes in isolation. Kripps wasn’t one of them — “I managed to avoid the outbreak, thus far anyway, knock on wood,” he said.
The two years of the global pandemic, Kripps said, however, has strengthened the team in some ways heading into the Games.
“We’ve certainly, as a team, had to figure things out and get things done, even if it’s not what we’re normally used to. That ranges from having to train in garages and using resistance bands sometimes instead of weights, running in fields instead of on tracks, and just being super flexible on the road,” Kripps said.
“Sometimes last minute, we didn’t go to races, and then we were able to go to races, have to get COVID tested all the time.
“Just going with the flow and adapting to adversity under pressure definitely prepares us for the Games, because that, in my feel, is what happens in the Games. Things always come up, each Games is different, but it’s all about rolling with the punches and being able to perform at your best no matter what’s happening.”
De Bruin said success requires elite athletes to be able to adapt, but the pandemic demanded a whole other level.
“Because it was always at the front ends of our mind, we always had to be thinking about it, and it’s really just going with the flow, and so I’m always reminding myself that I just need to keep on going with the flow,” she said. “It’s not worth stressing over the little things.
“If we missed a race or whatever, it’s not the end of the world, it will be fine. That’s what I can bring into Beijing, that there are going to be mishaps and whatever else, but we’re going to be OK.”
The 32-year-old from Stony Plain, Alta., will race in both the monobob and two-woman event. She recently finished fourth in both in World Cup standings.
Appiah, who will make her Olympic debut after being an alternate four years ago, has had an excellent rookie season in monobob, finishing third overall in the World Cup standings.
She’ll race in both women’s events in Beijing as well. Melissa Lotholz from Barrhead, Alta., is Canada’s third women’s pilot for the Games.
Chris Spring of Vancouver, who will make his fourth trip to the Olympics, and Calgary’s Taylor Austin were also named to the team as pilots.
The team will look smart in Beijing, racing in sleds that feature a Royal Canadian Navy paint scheme, honouring Canadian sailors in the Second World War and the Battle of the Atlantic.
“Whether on the ice or at sea, the distinction of putting on a Canadian uniform drives commitment to the training, preparation, perseverance and teamwork required to perform under immense pressure while representing your country,” Sarah Storey, president of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, said of the new blue-white-and-red paint palette.
Canada has an excellent Olympic record in sliding sports, winning nine bobsled medals and four skeleton medals.
Bobsled is Feb. 13-20, while skeleton is Feb. 10-12 at the Yanqing Sliding Centre.
The crew members for Canada’s bobsled team are:
Women: Kristen Bujnowski, Mount Brydges, Ont.; Dawn Richardson Wilson, Edmonton; Sara Villani, Norval, Ont.
Men: Ben Coakwell, Saskatoon; Ryan Sommer, White Rock, B.C.; Cam Stones, Whitby, Ont.; Mike Evelyn, Ottawa; Sam Giguere, Sherbrooke, Que.; Cody Sorensen, Ottawa; Jay Dearborn, Yaker, Ont.; Chris Patrician, Toronto; Daniel Sunderland, Calgary.