Comp grad provides muscle to luge team

Olympics: Former wrestler in Sochi to help squad

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 06:00 am

Jeremiah Barnert, here getting out of a team van, is the strength and conditioning coach for the Canadian luge team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Jeremiah Barnert, here getting out of a team van, is the strength and conditioning coach for the Canadian luge team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
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The power pushing Canadian lugers down the track in Sochi will be partially supplied by a former Foothills Falcons provincial wrestling champion.

Jeremiah Barnert, a 2002 Comp grad, is the strength and conditioning coach for the Canadian luge team. He is on the final countdown as the lugers prepare for the biggest event of their lives on Feb. 8 — the Winter Olympics.

The heavy lifting is done for the lugers.

“Right now we are just working on regeneration and recovery,” Barnert said in an interview from Germany. “We’re slowing down in our preparation and not so much time in the weightroom, we’re just fine-tuning things.

“I will try to ensure they are at the peak for competition.”

This is Barnert’s second trip to the Olympics, he was an assistant coach for the lugers at the 2010 Games in Vancouver before being named the head coach of conditioning.

As well, he did work with Summer Olympians for 2012 in London, but did not make the trip across the pond.

The training regime is always tailored for the athlete and the sport he or she performs.

For lugers, it means training to get out of the gates quickly.

The most important part of a luge run is the start. Once on the sled, the luger grabs a handle on each side of him or her and then pushes back — folding themselves practically in half.

Then they explode out of the start by pulling hard on the handles.

Once out of the gate, they perform three or four paddles —pushing on the ground for more velocity — before lying on their back for a ride that can reach up to 140km per hour.

So, a luger needs a mean upper torso.

“There is a lot of upper body work — pull ups, bench presses — and a lot of Olympic lifting like squats and deadlifts,” Barnert said.

He’s cautiously optimistic the work will lead to Canada winning its first Olympic medal since the sport was introduced at the ’64 Games in Austria.

“I think we could surprise a lot of people,” Barnert said. “Alex Gough, she has won 17 World Cup medals and she has a good chance of winning a medal. We also have lugers who have had top five World Cup finishes who could break through at the Olympics.”

He said Canada also could slide in for a medal in the team relay event.

Regardless of the Olympic stakes involved, Barnert has to treat the Games as just another day at the track.

“I am definitely excited for the Games but I have been in this environment of working with elite athletes for so long that I know I have to keep my emotions in check,” he said. “Just because it is the Olympic Games we don’t want to change what we have done in the past.”

Part of keeping those emotions in check, is not getting wrapped up in the headlines of possible terrorist attacks at the Olympics.

“It has crossed my mind, but no, I’m not worrying about it,” Barnert said. “There is going to be a lot of security at Sochi and Russia won’t let anything happen at these Games.”

Barnert got his taste for physical conditioning while wrestling for the Foothills Falcons in the early 2000s, under the guidance of his dad Mark.

Jeremiah went on to earn his kinesiology degree at the University of Calgary. Last summer, he earned his master’s degree in exercise science at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

Not only did Barnert work to make the lugers as strong as possible, he and his family made sure they are well fed.

The Barnerts’ Pin-to-Point Gelbvieh grass-fed cattle outfit just outside of Okotoks donated $4,500 worth of beef to the luge team.

The campaign not only provided the athletes healthy Alberta beef, it also gave the lugers international exposure.

“It worked well, but we weren’t able to get a major sponsor,” Barnert said. “Maybe that will happen after our success at the Olympics.”

For more on the Canadian luge team go to


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