Emotional Lumsden bound for Olympics

CFL player with busted shoulder turned into big-league bobsledder

By TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY

EDMONTON -- Jesse Lumsden was having a late dinner at the hotel in Igls, Austria Sunday night after having raced the four-man bobsled event at the historic St. Moritz, Switzerland track earlier in the day, when he was called to the telephone.

The columnist from back in Canada informed him that it was official. He'd become an Olympian.

"Oh, man, that's great to hear," said the Edmonton Eskimos running back.

"With all the changes I've seen in this sport in my short time in it, I didn't want to get my hopes up. The Swiss have been making all sorts of changes. The Americans have been moving people from one sled to the other. I've heard so many stories about all the stuff that happens with Olympic bobsled teams. I just kept my head down and tried to prove that I've become one of the best."

A few minutes before, coach Tuffy Latour was on his cell phone headed to a meeting to decide on last minute changes to Lyndon Rush's four-man team - "the start times just aren't anywhere near good enough" - on the deadline day for naming the bobsledders to the Canadian Olympic Committee.

"We've got to discuss some stuff," he said. "But not on Team Lueders."

Jesse Lumsden, who wasn't even a bobsledder at this time last year, and rookie Neville Wright, an Edmonton track star, along with veteran Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., are going to Vancouver 2010.

From the outside looking in this may have seemed like some sort of mad scientist experiment, turning a football player with a busted shoulder into a big league bobsledder over a matter of va couple of months. But Lumsden's name was on the list of Bobsleigh Canada nominations to the Canadian Olympic Committee when it was sent out Sunday night.

"He's done a fantastic job of learning each day. He's worked very hard at learning his position. He's a tremendous professional," said Latour.

"When we put him in the sled for the first time at the Canadian championships last year, we knew we had somebody special and he's proven us right every single day."

The results have been iffy. A ninth-place finish in the two-man with Lumsden pushing and a sixth in the four-man with Kripps competing with the 'flu and Lueders still battling a groin injury and committing driver errors was the story at St. Moritz.

Latour isn't concerned about them being competitive come the Olympics.

"They're back in the picture again."

Rush tied for first in the two man but finished 25th and missed the cut for the second run of the four-man, so that's another story.

But the real story is the former Hamilton Tiger-Cats football player with the injured shoulder from the first quarter of his first game as an Edmonton Eskimo making it to the Olympics with the legendary Edmonton pilot who has previously won Olympic gold and silver.

Lumsden was emotional on the phone.

"To me, this is a real honour. It's become a very important part of my life. I've had such an uphill struggle with my shoulder. This became very, very important to me. I was getting depressed," said the often injured running back.

"I dedicated everything I had to getting healthy as possible as fast as possible to give myself a chance at this and I know it's going to help me with football after this.

"But right now ... I've got goose bumps. It hasn't even been a year since I took a look at the sport. It was last February. And now I'm going to represent my country in the biggest sports event in the world.

"A year ago it was a silly idea. No, a crazy idea. Then it became possible.

And then I really started to believe it could happen.

"When they put me in Pierre's sled for the Canadian championships, I fell in love with the sport. And then when Pierre took me to run the two-man at the Europa Cup after Christmas and we won in my first ever race, that was such a great feeling."

Now he has an Olympics to get ready for with a final World Cup race in Igls.

"We're improving every week. We'll be peaking at the right time. We're confident Pierre has a few aces up his sleeve.

We want to be successful for him. He saw something in us. He gave us this chance. We're very thankful for that."

So what's it going to be like?

"I have no idea what to expect," he said. "All I know is that this is going to be very emotional for me. I know that. I'm sure it'll be one of the most emotional and powerful experiences I've ever had."

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

POLL