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Canadian bobsledder Taylor Austin feeling support from Lethbridge at Beijing Olympics

Click to play video: 'Olympic bobsledder Taylor Austin feeling support from Lethbridge'
Olympic bobsledder Taylor Austin feeling support from Lethbridge
WATCH: As the Winter Olympics in Beijing get underway, southern Albertans will want to keep a close eye on the bobsleigh track. Danica Ferris has more on Lethbridge’s Taylor Austin, a former football player turned bobsleigh pilot. – Feb 4, 2022

Lethbridge’s Taylor Austin is set to make his Olympic debut this month, representing Canada on the bobsleigh track after more than a decade of chasing the dream.

Austin says like many Canadians, the dream was born while watching the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

“A lot of Canadian pride. A lot of Canadian athletes were very successful in those Olympics. I would say that’s when that first inspiration kind of hit me,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Town of Vulcan comes together in support of first Olympian'
Town of Vulcan comes together in support of first Olympian

The road to Austin being named to Canada’s Olympic team was as winding as the bobsleigh tracks he navigates.

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The now 32-year-old was a former running back, playing for the Calgary Colts of the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) prior to making the switch to bobsleigh.

Melissa Austin says her son always had success as a multi-sport athlete, and when he started bobsleigh, it was a clear fit.

“I think it was just a natural progression to carry forward his strength and his speed into bobsled,” she said.

“His heart and soul belongs to bobsled. It’s his passion, he basically lives and breathes the sport.”

In 2013, Austin made the Canadian national team, while also making the jump to piloting.

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Melissa says despite her son being in control as the driver of the sled, she still feels anxious when he’s flying at more than 140 kilometers an hour down the track.

“I worry about him every time I know he’s getting in that sled because the precision has to be just right,” she said. “The controls that they’re working with, they’re basically just pieces of metal attached to what I would call bungee cords.”

“There’s no seatbelts or airbags in those bobsleds to protect people.”

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Click to play video: 'Alberta athletes to watch at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing'
Alberta athletes to watch at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

Austin says he felt he had a shot at the Olympics in 2018, but soon realized he wasn’t quite ready for the world’s biggest stage.

But this season leading up to the Olympics he’s found great success, piloting his four-man team to a first overall finish in the North American Cup, and finishing second overall in the two-man event. The results propelled Austin into consideration for the Olympics, and in January he found out he was headed to Beijing.

“We actually took a few days to celebrate, talk with our families, share the joy,” he said. “But then on the back-end of that, knowing that we still have the biggest competition of our lives coming up, so that’s obviously the focus.”

Kelsey Austin says when she found out her older brother had set his sights on becoming an Olympian, it was only a matter of time before he made it happen.

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“He’s a man of few words, he doesn’t really need to talk about what he’s doing or where he’s going, he just shows up and he’s consistent,” she said. “So I wouldn’t say I was surprised to hear he was going because he had it made up in his mind already.”

She says after years of going to every one of her brother’s sporting events, to see his dream come true was emotional for the family.

“To see it, like his face actually on the Team Canada announcements, I honestly cried a little bit because it was so cool,” she said. “He’s worked so hard and he never waivered — not for a second — he knew he was going, and we knew he was going, because he believed it.”

“It’s a very proud moment,” Melissa agreed. “Especially when you know how badly someone wanted it and that that dream is coming true.”

Unfortunately the Austin family can’t travel to Beijing, with limitations on spectators at the games due to COVID-19, but Austin says he knows he’ll be able to feel the support from overseas.

“It is definitely going to be tough. I know there’s going to be no fans in the stands so that’s going to be kind of weird as well, but there’s a massive support system at home cheering for me and all of my teammates,” he said.

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“I know that the [Canadian Olympic Committee] is doing a great job and doing what they can to unite the families, and making sure there’s a support system there for the family side of it at home.”

Austin participated in the opening ceremonies on Friday but has a while to wait before his events are scheduled to start. Heats for the two-man bobsleigh begin on Feb. 14, while the four-man heats start Feb. 19.

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