February 22, 2006
Winning 'tin' tickles Canuck sledders
PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

CESANA PARIOL, Italy -- Helen Upperton steered her bobsled across the finish line yesterday, then turned it directly toward Vancouver.

"In 2010 we're going to be ready for some serious business," the pilot of Canada-1 said.

While some say fourth place is the worst place to be at the Olympics, don't tell that to Upperton.

The 26-year-old from Calgary missed out on a bronze medal by .05 seconds in her first trip to the Olympics. That's .05 seconds through four runs; not bad for someone just off her second full season on the World Cup circuit.

As new as Canada is to the women's sled game -- other countries have been at it for six, seven years -- a "tin medal," as it's known, doesn't leave that bad a taste in your mouth.

Upperton and her sliding partner, Heather Moyse of P.E.I., actually finished ahead of the Germany-2 sled, and that's saying something.

The order of finish: Germany-1, USA-1 and Italy-1. Again, nothing to be ashamed of there.

Sure, the Canadians got some hopes up with their No. 2 ranking on the World Cup tour this season. But the Olympics are another animal, entirely.

'Couple of dogs'

"We had our fingers crossed, and five-hundredths is so close," Upperton said. "I kind of didn't want to look."

When she did peek, the view wasn't so bad: a solid final run had moved her up from fifth.

"My best result last season was a ninth, so this year has been amazing," she said. "And I'm glad I could end the season on that run. That's a bit more like it. I had a couple of dogs, the second and third heats, but it was good."

You could say the addition of Moyse has been good, too. A rugby player who'll compete for the national team in the World Cup later this year, Moyse helped Canada-1 post the four best start times at the Games.

Nothing like trying to move a rugby scrum to get you ready to push a bobsled.

Recruited by Bobsleigh Canada specifically with Vancouver in mind, Moyse admits her dream growing up had nothing to do with the Olympics. And certainly not with sliding down an icy track, squished into a two-person sled.

"The Olympics was ... something you watch on TV," Moyse said, under-handing a compliment like it was a rugby ball. "You're like, 'OK, cheer for Canada.'

"But rugby was my sport. For me, coming to the Olympics was all surreal. It probably won't hit me until I get home."

As for the sport, Moyse has warmed to it, to the point where she plans to stick with it. At least, after taking a year off to complete a master's degree at the University of Toronto -- and compete in rugby's World Cup, of course.

"When you have a pilot like Helen, it's exciting to think of the possibilities," Moyse, 27, said.