Bobsleigh Canada seeks new talent

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:20 PM ET

TORONTO - If you are sick of reality shows here’s one you might appreciate.

“So You Think You Can Bobsleigh” held open auditions at York University on Saturday, though these contestants didn’t go home with any prizes. In fact, they each paid $20 for the use of the gym.

There was one caveat: If you made the grade, Bobsleigh Canada was offering to fly you out to its summer training camp in Calgary.

That, as near as I can tell, is the big tamale. Because if you end up cracking the lineup of the Canadian development squad, you pretty much have to quit your day job and move to Alberta.

Marquise Brisebois might want to think twice about that.

She’s a Montreal cop, who despite a hacking cough, drove six hours to get to York U., for a one-in-a-thousand chance to compete for Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

She’s already one of Quebec’s better ringette players, plays senior fastball and finished third at the 2009 Red Bull Crashed Ice challenge in Quebec City.

She also scored the highest among four other women in fitness-and-strength testing at Saturday’s national tryouts for bobsled and skeleton at York.

But Brisbois, 27, isn’t getting any younger in Olympic terms. And a cop’s salary isn’t anything to sneeze at.

Olympic athletes are lucky to make minimum wage.

“We’ll see if I can handle both,” Brisbois said. “Daniele Sauvageau is a Montreal police officer, too, and she was able to take a few years off to coach Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team.”

Marcus Mitchell scored well in men’s testing, not surprising since he plays rugby for the University of Western Ontario. He just graduated, and before looking for full-time employment, the 23-year-old Ancaster resident thought he would give bobsleigh a whirl.

“Bobsled wasn’t even on my radar until some of my older teammates started talking to me about it,” Mitchell explained. “They said I have a pretty good combination of strength and speed and that I’d probably be good at bobsled. It’s interesting. Hopefully, it goes well for me.”

While there’s no guarantee either Brisbois or Mitchell will advance beyond the second stage of bobsleigh and skeleton tryouts, former national team bobsled pilot Amanda Stepenko knows someone will.

Canadian bobsledders went medal crazy at the recent 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, winning gold and silver in women’s two-man bobsled. Golden girl Heather Moyse of P.E.I. was discovered at a tryout camp similar to Saturday’s event. So were Lyndon Rush and David Bissel, bronze medallists in the men’s four-man bobsled in Vancouver.

“You never know who you can find,” said Stepenko, who managed Saturday’s program. “Heather Moyse came out to a camp like this in September 2005, by October she was on the World Cup team and by February 2006 she was at the Olympics (in Turin).”

Stepenko, who also held tryouts in Windsor and Halifax this week, expects to take about five from the York workouts to Calgary.

“You can kind of tell from someone’s running and lifting if they’ll be a good bobsledder, but we really need to get them into the ice house in Calgary, pushing a sled, to see if their speed and power will translate into pushing the bobsled,” she said.

If Brisbois and Mitchell pass that second test, they’ll be back in Calgary next October, facing tougher competition and some hard decisions.

“It’s a hard goal because any national team makes you move to where ever they are located,” Stepenko said. “It’s a tough mix. It’s a tough choice, that’s why we kind of go for the 18-23 year-olds who still have some flexibility as far as a career goes.

“But for a lot of athletes, it’s an amazing possibility, to join the national bobsleigh team and travel around the world and make this your career for a while.”


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