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Heather Moyse-Sliding down the track on my bum at 100 km/hr

Heather won the Canadian Bobsleigh Championships in 2005, finished 2nd overall in the World Cup Circuit. Her bobsleigh season culminated in a 4th place finish at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Well, let me look on the bright side – a crash gives me something interesting to write about in my blog! I just wish it hadn’t been me, or that it hadn’t happened during a race when we were doing so well.

Let me start by explaining a bit about bobsleigh crashes in general. Depending on how high up the track you crash, the better or worse the outcome will be in terms of your injuries. The higher up you crash, the longer you have to ride down the track on your head. But, the farther down the track you crash, the faster you are going, which means more friction. You can't win, really.

Usually the pilot is able to see as they’re about to crash, so they're able to tuck underneath the cowling (the hood/shell) of the bobsleigh. Although they can sometimes be knocked around a bit in there, they tend to be protected from direct contact with the ice.

The brakemen, however, have their backs exposed to the elements and are often sliding down the track on their backs/shoulders with a 150 kg sled pinning them against the ice. Sometimes the sleds will barrel-roll down the track, which looks terrible, but sometimes saves the brakemen from getting a friction burn on their backs from sliding down on the same area of their skin.

Bad timing for a crash

This, unfortunately, is all part of the sport of bobsleigh. I am extremely fortunate to have only crashed three times in my career so far (knock on wood) – once a season. So, the good news is that I should have filled my quota for this season. The bad news is that this time it was in a race during the second heat when my pilot, Kaillie Humphries, and I were sitting in 2nd place after the first heat! Yikes!

I’ve never crashed in a race before, and, come to think of it, I’ve never ejected, or kicked out of, the back of the sled before either. This time I did.

Some bobsledders believe that it is always bad to kick out after a crash because you can get injured, while others think you should always kick out because there’s less chance of getting burned if you kick out (depending on how far you have to go down the track). But normally everyone agrees that during a race one should never kick out because the sled automatically gets disqualified. The sled must cross the finish line (on all four runners or upside down) with everything it started the race with in tact.

So, why did I decide to eject during the race? Well, St. Moritz is the oldest and only natural track in the world. That means that it is built every year from scratch with snow, making the ice very different, and meaning burns happen a lot faster. When we crashed during the race, we were just coming out of 'horseshoe corner' (almost halfway down a very long track).

G-forces sucked me out of the sled

I stayed in the sled for the next corner to see if we would pop back up on our runners, but we didn’t, and I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to hold on for the rest of the way down if I’d wanted to, so when I felt the G-forces trying to suck me out of the sled on the next corner I simply let go and slid out the back – mind you, sliding out the back also means sliding down the track on my bum at about 100 km/hr until I slowed to a stop.

Needless to say, I was a little pink but no burn blisters, so all was good! I actually slid my gloved hands under my bum cheeks to protect it, and still have a bit of dulled sensation on my finger tips (although they’re much better). It all could have been much worse.

Everyone agreed that I did the right thing by kicking out even though it was a race – I would have been mangled and eaten up on that track. I think the worst part about the whole crash was just that we had been doing so well! Kaillie and I had placed 5th in the race the day before – the make-up race from the cancelled one in Cesana, Italy before Christmas. And sitting in 2nd going into the last heat….

Oh well… I guess that’s why we all love sport! There are no guarantees! It keeps us on our toes!

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