Athletes chosen for top teams
Some people love it and some people hate it, according to 33-year-old Cliff Iwaasa.
Iwaasa is a Calgary bobsledder who loves the rush of the sport. But rifling down an ice trench in an aerodynamic capsule isn’t for everyone.
“Just recently a younger girl trained for bobsledding all summer, she did the off-season training and was in perfect condition. Last week she tried the actual sport for the first time at Canada Olympic Park (COP) and realized it wasn’t for her. Only a certain type of person loves the thrill,” says Iwaasa.
Iwaasa says he saw a flyer on a bulletin board in 2007 and decided to give it a try. After the proper training and dedication he made the Alberta team in his first year.
Iwaasa and two of his friends, Ryan Taal, 24, and Derek Plug, 22, will be competing in selection races at COP from Oct. 14 – 16. The three of them have been bobsledding for about four years now on separate teams.
Selections races draw out the top men and women bobsledders from across Canada. It is crucial for athletes to participate this weekend in order to be placed on competitive teams.
Athletes will be placed into three different categories after the races. The top athletes are selected to the World Cup team and then it follows in a descending tier: Europe Cup team, American Cup team and then Alberta team.
It is important to make one of these teams because it will give the athlete greater training and other opportunities — they will work with world-class trainers, receive the chance to travel and compete for their country. For the World Cup athletes, they have the incredible chance of making the Olympic team.
Plug is one of the youngest prospects this year for making the World Cup team.
“My favorite part of the selection races is that it surprises me all the time that I can compete at this caliber of bobsledding. It’s amazing to see what you can do if you set your mind to something,” he says.
Bobsleigh Canada will choose anywhere from two to four teams to compete at each level on the men’s side, while the women will only select one or two teams for each tier. There are nine male teams and six female teams competing this weekend.
Taal, a University of Calgary student, admits he is still learning but has high hopes to some day compete at an Olympic level.
“To have an opportunity to talk to these guys who have raced in the Olympics is my favorite part of the selection races,” he says. “Canada has some of the top bobsledders in the world and for me to have to opportunity to be around that environment is amazing.”
Even though the selection races are stressful for the athletes, all three men can agree it’s fun and challenging.
Iwaasa says,” We may all be at different levels of skill through the selection races but it is neat to pick up on other people’s strengths and weakness.”