Sledder making push for podium

Winter Olympics: Okotoks’ David Bissett part of Canada’s bobsleigh team

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am

David Bissett celebrates his bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The new Okotokian will compete in the four-man bobsleigh this weekend in Sochi.
David Bissett celebrates his bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The new Okotokian will compete in the four-man bobsleigh this weekend in Sochi.
Photo submitted

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It’s hard to get the thrill of sledding down a hill at 130 kilometres per hour out or your blood.

David Bissett, who moved to Okotoks about two years ago, came out of retirement this season in an effort to get back on the Olympic podium after winning the four-man bobsleigh bronze medal for Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“I came out of retirement for this season and I started training in April,” said the 34-year-old Bissett in an interview from Sochi. “My previous four-man team was badgering me to come back.”

It’s a reunion for three of the four members of the bronze medal team, pilot Lyndon Rush, Lascelles Brown and Bissett. The fourth member, Neville Wright, was on Canada’s fifth-place team in Vancouver.

A near year of training has Bissett back in Olympic form.

“I am confident that I got back to where I was,” Bissett said. “I started training last April, then full time in the summer and fall and have started racing in the winter.”

“Back where I was” just happens to be one of the top teams in the world.

Bissett reached the podium in Vancouver, where his bobsled reached speeds of more than 150 km-per-hour.

“Vancouver was awesome because my wife was my whole family was there,” Bissett said. “It was exciting to get a bronze, but I thought we could have done better, we were in second going into the last turn of the last run. That’s one of the reason I came back because I thought we have a shot of doing better.”

The current team got off to a slow start to the season, but was third in the last World Cup race before the Sochi Olympics.

“We have some momentum and I think if everything falls together we can get back on the podium,” he said.

That momentum will have to burn nearly as long as the Olympic flame.

Bissett won’t compete until Feb. 22 — the day before the Games close.

He said the United States, Germany and the host-country Russians are the sleds to beat, but he is confident his team can surprise people.

Bissett pushes on the right sight of the sled. The pilot, Rush, is the first one to jump in after the push – the start. Bissett sits directly behind Rush.

“You push, get in and hope the pilot doesn’t hit the wall on his way down,” Bissett said. “You don’t want to lean at all because that will cause the back of the sled to move and that will disturb the lines the pilot is trying to drive.... You want to be as still as possible.”

The push, along with the equipment and the driving, makes up a third of a successful run, he said.

“You need all three to win,” Bissett said. “It’s a fairly short sprint of running and pushing — about 30 metres – before you get in.”

It’s not a coincidence the members of Bissett’s team come from either a football or track background. Bissett was a running back and ran sprints for the U of A Golden Bears football and track team in the early 2000s. He went to his first Olympics in Turino, Italy in 2006.

“You have to be able to run fast and still be heavy,” said the 225-pound Bissett. “Usually, football players aren’t scared or intimidated to get in the sled.”

Just like football, Bissett has to wear a helmet when he competing in bobsled. His teams have flipped their sled in the past— sliding down the hill upside down.

“Oh, yeah, I have crashed maybe seven or eight times,” he said with a chuckle. “You just hang on and try to keep your head off the ice. I’ve had a mild concussion once and that was about it and I was out for a few weeks.”

He not only has a solid team in the sled, his anchor is back in Okotoks.

His wife and two children were paramount in his going to his third consecutive Winter Games.

“Jenni’s a nurse, she was working casual but she took on more hours and between her working and my in-laws, (Cam and Val Olson) helping to watch the kids, we were able to make it out financially and time-wise,” Bissett said. “We were able to make it all work out, but I could not have done it without them.”

Jenni, is a 1999 graduate of Foothills Composite and was a mainstay on the Falcons’ athletic teams.

For now, Bissett has got in some training runs, but with his event not happening until the final days of the Olympics, the waiting might be the hardest part.

“I have been following the Canadians and we are doing pretty good, Bissett said.

“I try not to go to the other events, because standing around, watching all the excitement can start to drain you. I hang around the athletes lounge and watch.”

Soon the other Canadian athletes will be watching him. Bissett’s first run is this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. MST. The second run is at 2:30 a.m. MST Sunday.


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