Barrett Martineau makes transition from skis to skeleton
Former nordic combined athlete set for season opener
A taste of what it's like to be an Olympian wasn't satisfying for Barrett Martineau. It kept him hungry.
The 24-year-old from Calgary missed representing Canada in nordic combined — ski jumping and cross-country skiing — at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
Martineau was a forerunner for men's ski jumping, which means he tested the track just before the first competitor launched at Whistler Olympic Park.
And he happened to be downtown when newly-crowned Olympic skeleton champion Jon Montgomery auctioned off his now famous pitcher of beer to the crowd.
The combination of those experiences brought Martineau out of retirement and into the head-first sliding sport of skeleton. He and the Canadian team open the World Cup season Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.
While it's common for skeleton athletes to come from other sports, cross-country skiing and ski jumping aren't generally among them. There is more crossover than you might think, said Martineau.
"Both of those sports, ski jumping and cross-country skiing, gave me a combined focus for skeleton," Martineau said. "Cross-country skiing gave me that drive to work hard and always be pushing the envelope. Ski jumping gave me that desire for the adrenaline rush."
Martineau won bronze at the world junior championship in 2012. Competing at an international level in other sports helped shorten Martineau's learning curve, said coach Ivo Pakalns.
"He came a more-ready product," Pakalns said. "I believe his career in ski jumping and nordic combined in general helped him a lot in his transition to this new sport.
"The people who have been in high-level sport before, it's easier to coach them and they know how the sport system works even in the little things."
Martineau retired after 2010, went to school and began coaching ski jumpers only to discover a gaping hole in his life.
"Going to go to school, going to go live a real life. I did that for probably five months and I was like 'this is garbage,"' Martineau said. "It was really hard to stop training. I was still crushing two-hour runs for no reason at all, but I still needed that in my life.
"I was no longer pursuing this huge dream. I felt so unfinished. I felt I needed to finish something."
Late coach's lessons stick
The desire to wear the Maple Leaf was imprinted on Martineau by his late ski jumping coach Jindro Mayer. Martineau was among a group of pre-teens Mayer coached at Canada Olympic Park.
"When we started ski jumping, there was a ton of kids," Martineau recalled. "He started up this team called Team 2010. Ten of us got selected.
"He made us suits and I'll never forget the day those suits came in. They were so sweet. They said 'Team 2010, Winter Olympic Games of Sweet Destiny" on them. He said 'this is our destiny, this is what we are working towards.'
"He said 'all you guys have the potential, the talent and the drive. You've just got to work hard, want it and you'll get there."'
When Martineau was 12, Mayer was killed in a car accident. Martineau believes Mayer's enthusiasm is what has him chasing the Olympic dream in another sport.
"He was actually from the Czech Republic, but he was totally pumped to have us believe in Canada and competing for our own country," Martineau said. "That has stuck with me."
Martineau continued to help out coaching Canada's female ski jumpers up until a year ago when he qualified for the first time to race on the World Cup circuit. His best result was 16th and he was 20th in the world championship.
"I'd like to get some top-sixes on the World Cup, definitely some top-10s and top-sixes," he said. "I'm still developing as a slider. I haven't been to all of the tracks in Europe yet."
Martineau will be joined in Altenberg by Canadian teammates Dave Greszczyszyn of Brampton, Ont., Calgary's Elisabeth Vathje and Jane Channell of North Vancouver, B.C
Martineau intends to be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Games and not as a spectator.
"I think I have a great shot at making this Games. I think I've got the talent to get there," he said. "Obviously if the stars all line up, I'll be there and more than just competing. I think it will be for results."