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The playboy bobsleigh team grabs gold - Innsbruck, 1964

Canada's sweetheart, an overlooked hockey team, the goodtime bobsleigh playboys, and the tiger from British Columbia – these are Canada's post-war Olympic gold players. In an era that predated big corporate sponsorship, these athletes were at the forefront of a dynamic, golden generation of Canadian Olympians. Humble but skilled, Canadian athletes staged upset after upset, inspiring future Olympians to try to match the golden trail they blazed.

The myth and the truth couldn't be farther apart. At the time of their gold-medal win, Peter Kirby, Douglas Anakin and John and Vic Emery are labelled rich ski bums. They're quickly dismissed as playboys who came to the Games simply to party. Rumours circulate that the team had entered the four-man bobsleigh race by fluke. Others speculate that it was pure luck and say that this has been the greatest upset in bobsleigh history.

The truth is that Vic has just graduated with a Harvard MBA, John is a plastic surgeon, Kirby is trained as a geologist and Anakin is a teacher. Far from being playboys, they are nicknamed "the intellectual sled" by their competitors. Without a track to practice on in Canada, the team perform dry-land runs in a gymnasium and run through the track in Lake Placid a few times.

They are the first Canadian team to compete in this event and they have paid their own way here. Their Italian competitors show true sportsmanship and camaraderie and mentor the upstart foursome. In their first run the Canadians set an astonishing track record and stun the crowds who expected the favoured Austrians to lead the pack. In this CBC Radio interview, Peter Kirby discusses their strategy to win.
• Between the competitive runs, Vic Emery suffered from a tetanus shot reaction. He suffered miserably through the third run and had to be hospitalized before the fourth and final run.
• In the two-man event Vic Emery and Peter Kirby were edged out of the medals with an extremely close fourth-place finish.

• In 1965 Vic Emery, Peter Kirby, Michael Young and Gerald Presley captured the world title in St. Moritz. Emery and Young also won the bronze medal in the two-man event in St. Moritz — no small feat given that Emery was suffering from a separated shoulder from an earlier crash.
• The original team of the Emery brothers, Anakin, and Kirby retired from competition in 1967.

• Canada had a difficult time competing in the bobsleigh competition as the field became more skilled and the competitive season stretched longer. Without a more sophisticated home track, Canadian athletes suffered. The bobsleigh track from the 1988 Calgary Games finally provided Canadian athletes an extra edge. At the 1998 Nagano Games, Canada's Pierre Lueders and Dave MacEachern won gold in the two-man bobsleigh.

Photo Credit: National Archives PA-207878
Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Feb. 6, 1964
Guest(s): Peter Kirby
Reporter: Don Wittman
Duration: 4:51
Photo: Reproduced with the permission of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Last updated: February 11, 2014

Page consulted on February 11, 2014

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