Injury-tested Alberta bobsledder gets first crack at Olympic competition

A 28-year-old bobsleigh athlete from Stony Plain, who has battled constant injuries for the past four years, will compete in her first Olympics next month.

Christine de Bruin, 28, will drive one of Canada's bobsleighs in Pyeongchang

Christine de Bruin, left, with her teammate Cynthia Appiah. After facing a slew of injury-related issues, de Bruin will make her Olympic debut in Pyeongchang. (Christine de Bruin/Facebook)

The bobsled track hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for Christine de Bruin.

The 28-year-old bobsleigh athlete from Stony Plain has battled constant injuries for the past four years — the worst being a bulged disc in her back that affected her sciatic nerve.

That nerve, the longest in the human body, connects the spinal cord with leg and foot muscles. The pain in left leg affected her performance for three years.

"It kind of put me on the back burner a bit," de Bruin told CBC's Radio Active Monday.

Many people thought she wouldn't be able to compete nationally again but this Saturday, de Bruin is heading to her first Olympic games in Pyeongchang.

Her injury persists, but she's able to keep it under control enough to compete. Since the injury, she finished fourth in her first international competition and won three North American Cup races in a row.

Her highest placing in the World Cup was sixth.

She has wanted to compete in the Olympics ever since she watched Donovan Bailey break the world-record time in the 1996 100-metre final.

Wanting to compete in track, de Bruin joined the track and field team as a sprinter at the University of Alberta. But after two years, she realized making the national team was no longer her dream.

In a last-ditch effort, her coach asked her to try out for Canada's bobsleigh team. She made the development team as a 22-year-old and will now be part of one of the nine teams Canada is sending to the Olympics six years later.

It's a far cry from her running days, and something after years of racing, she still struggles to explain.

"You can't describe it. You really have to experience it," de Bruin said. "A lot of people say it's like going in a garbage can down a hill."

Since it's her first Olympic games, she's been asking her more experienced teammates what to expect.

Canada's success in bobsleigh is expected to continue. De Bruin is hoping to string together four consistent runs.

She'll compete in the women's two-man bobsleigh race on Feb. 20 and 21.