Brown, Lumsden two-sport masters

Duo goes from track and football to bobsledding

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WHISTLER - Meet Shelly-Ann Brown, who in Grade 6 and growing up in Pickering, Ont., was a sprinter who couldn’t lose to future Canadian track star, Perdita Felicien.

At the University of Nebraska, she trained alongside another star hurdler, Priscilla Lopes-Shliep who gained her fame by winning Olympic bronze in Beijing.

Meet Canadian university football’s all-time leading rusher and CFL veteran, Jesse Lumsden who needs less of an introduction, but has plenty in common with Brown.

Both are officially two-sport athletes and here in Whistler as first-time Olympians hoping an explosive burst from their powerful legs will help propel their bobsleds to the podium.

“The basic raw principles of being a good pusher are intensity, strength, speed and power,” said Lumsden, who will team in the two-man bob with veteran Canadian pilot, Pierre Leuders. “There are certain sports that you train your whole life for that can run a parallel line to bobsled.

“It’s the learning curve that you have to overcome.”

Apparently, Brown and Lumsden have negotiated said curve well enough to try to prove it on a platform neither had considered while developing their athletic prowess in other sports.

As the brakeperson in the sled driven by Helen Upperton, Brown has a medal shot here, given she has hit the podium five times in World Cup events in her career. And if nothing else, some of that company she kept as a youngster added to her competitive drive.

“When we were little, in elementary school, I actually never lost (to Felicien),” Brown said Thursday. “I’m not saying I kicked her butt, but I was always a faster sprinter. Of course, we grew up and she just became amazing in hurdles and there was no beating her.”

After an All-American career at Nebraska, Brown hit the end of the road as a track athlete. But she still wanted to compete so switched sports and seasons, a transition that wasn’t without challenge.

“It’s night and day from track,” Brown said. “It’s winter. It’s cold and I hate the cold. You run and jump into this egg-shaped thing and then you put your head between your knees and it’s shaking so bad you feel like you’re in a dryer.

“So it wasn’t seamless, but it was a natural progression. The power and speed we have from sprinting translates to pushing a sled down an icy track. Who knew?”

Certainly not Lumsden, who with time to kill while rehabbing from a shoulder injury ended his CFL season with the Edmonton Eskimos was encouraged to develop an Olympic dream.

“There’s a football mentality that goes with (bobsled),” the Burlington native said. “You’ve got to be intense. You are trying to move a 400-pound sled as fast as you possibly can, frothing at the mouth, then go 150-kilometres an hour down an icy track.

“A lot of people say my power and ability to put force into the ground will increase for football. But my conditioning probably sucks because I only run for about six seconds.”

Six seconds is certainly an abbreviated effort when compared to her sprinting and hurdling days.

But Brown’s experience in track and the success of those she competed with and against provides perspective.

“It inspires you,” Brown said. “You realize that these really amazing things happen to people who you know and are just like you so why not you?

“I saw both of them do the hard work. I ran with Perdita and she was a world champion and I lifted beside Priscilla (at Nebraska) and she won a bronze medal in the Olympics. That can be me.”


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