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Heather Moyse - Fourth at the Olympics – unfinished business

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.

I was asked to write a special blog entry about the Olympics – whatever I wanted: My goals for the upcoming 2010 Olympics; what it feels like to know the next Olympics are in my home country; what it was like to walk into the arena during the Opening Ceremonies at the last Olympic Games in Torino in 2006.

I’ve chosen to write about what it’s like to be in the shadows of the spotlight – what it’s like to place fourth and miss an Olympic medal by 0.05 seconds after four heats of sliding down a bobsleigh track.

Let me first give you a little bit of history. There is, actually, only a little bit of history, as my first time ever down a bobsleigh track was on October 11, 2005, just over four months before the Olympics. My first World Cup race was in Calgary on November 4, 2005.

There were only four races before Christmas that year and I needed to get three Olympic qualifiers within those races. I actually only raced in three of the races, which didn’t leave much room for error. But, somehow I did it. I had qualified for the Olympics in less than three months, and competed in the Olympics in less than five months!

Yes, that sounds crazy, and it was. However, I had, in some way, been training for it my whole life. Everything from always racing my siblings or parents to the car in the parking lot when I was a kid, to competing in basketball, soccer, track and field, and rugby at the high school, university, national and international levels. It all contributed to my overall development as an athlete. All I had to do was learn the ins and outs of bobsleigh and figure out how to run on ice and push a sled!

After the Olympics people often said, “Wow, that’s so amazing. You went to the Olympics!” And I would always claim, “The Olympics? I’m still amazed I went down a bobsleigh run!” To be honest, it all happened so fast that the whole season was a bit of a blur. The Olympics was just the last race in a surreal season.

I raced in the Olympics with Helen Upperton. The year before I came on the scene her best finish on the World Cup Circuit had been an eighth, but right from the beginning, in every race we did together that year we were in the medals – bronze, two silvers, and a gold medal right before the Olympics.

Her goal for that season had been to qualify for the Olympics, and suddenly we were medal hopefuls for Canada. Helen says that she wasn’t prepared for that kind of pressure and found it difficult to have four consistently good runs over the two days of competition. She had just wanted the experience to take with her in preparation for the Games in 2010.

I don’t think I was in the sport long enough to realize how difficult it is to place in the top three for a World Cup event, let alone the Olympics. We had the fastest start times all year, and we continued to push away from the pack for all four heats at the Olympics (including a start record of 5.16 seconds that still stands at that track).

After the first heat we were tied for third. After a not very good second heat we were sitting in fourth. After a not-so-good third heat we were sitting in fifth. And then after an amazing fourth heat, we moved back up to fourth, narrowly missing the bronze medal by 0.05 seconds, squeaked out by the Italians on their home track.

I don’t think it really hit me until later how close we really came to getting a medal at the Olympics. I truly believe we could have done it that year.

Now, here’s the question: what does a fourth place finish feel like? Well, a bit disheartening. A bit empty. A bit like you let people down – those who supported you along the way; your town; your province; your country; yourself. But what does it really feel like? Unfinished business.

I truly believe things happen for a reason. You may not know what that reason is right away, but it’s for some reason. Who knows, maybe if I had won a medal in the Olympics in my first year I wouldn’t have gone back to compete again. Maybe there’s a reason for me to continue competing – a reason beyond simply (not easily) winning an Olympic medal.

But, like I said, who knows? All I know is that I have just over a year to do the best I can to take care of some unfinished business.


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