Road To The Olympic Games

Bobsleigh

Canada's bobsleigh teams named with a big splash

The announcement of Canada's women's and men's bobsleigh teams for the 2015-16 World Cup season in Calgary made a big splash, thanks to synchronized swimmers Karine Thomas and Jacqueline Simoneau.

Synchronized swimmers give bobsledders a few pointers

Canada's men's and women's bobsleigh teams were named in Calgary Wednesday and received some in the pool pointers from Olympic-bound synchronized swimmers Karine Thomas and Jacqueline Simoneau. (Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton image)

The announcement of Canada's women's and men's bobsleigh teams for the 2015-16 World Cup season Wednesday in Calgary made a big splash, thanks to synchronized swimmers Karine Thomas and Jacqueline Simoneau.

Thomas and Simoneau, already qualified to compete at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, helped break the ice on a new World Cup bobsleigh season with basic instructions in synchronized swimming while working on a short routine at the Talisman Centre.

The three women and eight men named to the bobsleigh team wore Canada swim caps, nose clips and came to the pool wearing specially designed Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton bathrobes.

"At first glance bobsleigh and synchronized swimming appear drastically different - at opposite sides of the spectrum, even," said Chris Le Bihan, the high-performance director of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, who added last year the team did a similar exercise with curling's Team Jennifer Jones and Team Rachel Homan.

"But, like many sports, there are incredible synergies we share with synchro – none more striking than the importance of working together as a cohesive unit. The start is critical in our sport and the crews need to communicate with each other and operate in perfect sync – much like in synchronized swimming. Our goal for this exercise is to get our athletes out of their comfort zone, working together as a team, with the ultimate goal of achieving excellence."

Two-time Olympic gold-medallist, Kaillie Humphries, will pilot Canada's lone women's sled. The 30-year-old Calgarian, who captured three bronze and one silver medal last year, will reunite with Melissa Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta. Lotholz, 23, pushed Humphries to two podium finishes during her rookie season on the World Cup last year. Quebec City's Genevieve Thibault will also join Team Humphries this year. The former varsity track athlete is the sister to Calgary Stampeder, Adam Thibault.

"The importance of cross-training with other sports, and being in the presence of fellow athletes who share a commitment to excellence should never be underestimated," said synchro swimmer Thomas, who was a member of Canada's fourth-place synchro squad at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games.

"Our two sports both require amazing synchronization and athleticism. Although they are displayed in very different ways, we have no doubt that we will all end up having helped each other through this exercise. I know this experience will be another critical tool that we can take with us on the final road to Rio."

Canada will field two veteran men's sleds piloted by Justin Kripps, of Summerland, B.C., and Calgary's Chris Spring for two-man racing this season. Kripps, a two-time Olympian and winner of two World Cup medals, will head into the World Cup as the top-ranked Canadian pilot. Chris Spring will look to climb his way back onto the international podium while in the driver's seat of Canada's second sled.

The two Canadian pilots will have a deep crew of brakemen to work with including Alex Kopacz, of London, Ont., Olympian Ben Coakwell, of Saskatoon, Calgarians Josh Kirkpatrick, Derek Plug and two-time Olympic medallist Lascelles Brown, along with Olympian Tim Randall, of Burlington, Ont.,

Kripps will also pilot the lone Canadian sled for the opening three races of the World Cup season in four-man event. 

Canada's top bobsleigh athletes will head to Altenberg, Germany for the start of the World Cup circuit, November 21-30. The World Cup will make its lone stop in Canada at the Whistler Sliding Centre, January 18-23.

With files from Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton

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