Bobs, and Betties, sought for sledding

ALISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

In my dreams, I imagine myself trying out for bobsleigh this weekend. Anyone else in?

Such tempting thoughts of making an athletic comeback never really go away. Oh wait. I'm a 39-year-old mom, 10 years removed from elite sport. Besides the fact that I run slowly and am a chicken driver, think how exciting it would be to be identified as a new recruit with "potential!"

That's why -- in the wake of a massively successful Vancouver Olympics -- Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton is on a mission this month to seek out powerful new competitors.

They're particularly keen on older athletes with experience in football, rugby, volleyball, basketball or track and field. Those selected could make the 2014 team for the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"People are definitely very interested," said Amanda Stepenko, national development co-ordinator for Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. "They watched the sport and fell in love with it; it looks like something a little different."

In Vancouver, Canada won three Olympic bobsleigh medals -- gold and silver in women's two-man, and bronze in men's four man. In skeleton, Jon Montgomery won Olympic gold and then famously paraded through Whistler hoisting a pitcher of beer.

Now that's glamour.

Three months later, interest from people wanting to learn to slide has spiked.

"At the Alberta Bobsleigh level, normally they schedule one driving school for the fall and now they have three or four planned," Stepenko said.

Stepenko, a former national team bobsleigh pilot -- and before that, a volleyball player -- retired this year and is now working for the national sport organization. She's in charge of getting the word out for the testing camps in Ottawa May 16, Windsor May 28, Toronto May 29, and London and Halifax May 30, as well as summer camps in Calgary and throughout B.C.

An evil cackle escapes her when asked if there's more to this than just speed, size and strength. What about actually going down the track at 140 km/h? Is that perhaps not for everyone?

"That is the truth, actually," Stepenko said, laughing. "I love the speed of the sport, driving the bobsled is an amazing experience. It's nothing that I've found anywhere else. I've made some amazing friends and been to fantastic places, and coming from a team sport, I found I was able to replicate that with my brakeman and develop a bond and a trust. That's something I loved and I'll treasure forever."

Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton helpfully provides some standards to shoot for. For example, in the 30-metre sprint, Olympic silver medallist Shelley-Ann Brown holds the national team mark at 3.89 seconds. For the men, Lascelles Brown, a double Olympic medallist, is the fastest at 3.47. The "entry level" times are 3.90 to 4.10 for men and 4.30 to 4.45 for women.

How about weights? Power cleans, those highly technical lifts that were my nemesis in rowing, are an indicator of explosiveness.

Guys, can you clean 100 to 115 kg for a one-rep max? That's entry level. Women start at 70 kg. Mind you, Olympic silver medallist Helen Upperton hoists 112 kg.

I see there's only one test in which I'd have a chance: Front squats. A one rep max of 120 to 140 kg is the guys' entry level. For women it's 80 kg. All right -- good female athletes squat their own body weight, at least. But wow: Records are 225 kg for Brown and 134 kg for Kaillie Humphries -- hence her gold in Vancouver.

All you need are strength, speed and a dream.

And a whole lot of courage.

To register for a camp, reach Stepenko at amanda_stepenko@hotmail.com.

ALISON_KORN@HOTMAIL.COM


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