Olympic champ Moyse pulled back into push­ing bob­sleigh

The Observer (Sarnia) - - SPORTS - DAN BARNES dbarnes@post­media.com Twitter.com/sports­dan­barnes

For years, Heather Moyse pushed.

Well past the ex­pec­ta­tions of oth­ers and her own lim­its. To World Cup podi­ums. To a pair of Olympic gold medals. To the pin­na­cle, again and again.

And then, one of Canada’s most decorated bob­sled­ders walked, gold medals a-jan­gling. There were pos­si­bil­i­ties to re­al­ize, peo­ple to em­power. She be­came a sought-af­ter mo­ti­va­tional speaker, em­braced the roles of men­tor, am­bas­sador and hu­man­i­tar­ian. She’ll add pub­lished au­thor to the re­sume, with Re­defin­ing Re­al­is­tic out in Novem­ber.

And now, more than three years re­moved from her last race in Sochi, and in the wake of all those new and di­verse ac­tions, there has been an equal, op­po­site and wholly un­ex­pected re­ac­tion. The push has pulled her back. Though she hasn’t sprinted since 2014, has in fact rarely ven­tured in­side a gym, re­cently turned 39, and has been deal­ing with a cranky back since June, Moyse has been lured to Cal­gary, to the na­tional bob­sleigh team.

“I’m ex­cited. I love the chal­lenge of see­ing if I can phys­i­cally do it again,” she said.

The sur­round­ings will be fa­mil­iar, but the job much dif­fer­ent. She said she won’t be re­turn­ing to her cus­tom­ary spot in Kail­lie Humphries’ sled, de­spite an in­vi­ta­tion last year to re­unite with Humphries.

“I’m pretty sure she understands I’m just not mo­ti­vated to do the same thing again,” Moyse said Satur­day.

The come­back at­tempt was trig­gered in­stead by an early Au­gust email from sec­ond-year pilot Alysia Rissling, who wanted help nav­i­gat­ing the men­tal and phys­i­cal mine­field of an Olympic sea­son. The query pro­vided an in­trigu­ing link be­tween Moyse’s old pas­sion for bob­sleigh and her new com­mit­ment to em­pow­er­ing oth­ers.

“At first I was just like, ‘well, I’m kind of done. I love what I do now.’ My busi­ness is all around em­pow­er­ing other peo­ple and help­ing other peo­ple achieve their goals. But when I started say­ing it out loud, I was like ‘com­ing back and help­ing (Rissling) or other de­vel­op­ment driv­ers or whomever on the team, that is em­pow­er­ing other peo­ple, that is com­ing back and in­vest­ing in the next gen­er­a­tion, and push­ing fu­ture ath­letes.’

“I’m not mo­ti­vated to go back and just try and win an­other Olympic medal, but I am mo­ti­vated by the idea of help­ing some­one else win their first.”

The two met Satur­day night in Cal­gary for the first time, though their re­la­tion­ship has been build­ing over the phone. The men­tor­ship be­gins in earnest Tues­day morn­ing, when Moyse em­barks upon the del­i­cate task of re­join­ing a na­tional team full of ath­letes who have been grind­ing it out for a qua­dren­nial. She is fully aware of the sen­si­tiv­i­ties, and is hop­ing for the best.

“It’s not easy, but I need to fo­cus on the pos­i­tives and the fact that I am truly here to help,” said Moyse.

Canada is all but guar­an­teed two women’s sleds in PyeongChang, but the goal is three. There will be jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion, pres­sure to per­form, and the brake­men are largely neo­phytes. Moyse can pro­vide lead­er­ship.

“Right now, be­sides Kail­lie who has to fo­cus on her own com­pe­ti­tion, there are no other women who have been to an Olympic Games be­fore,” said Moyse. “The whole Olympic sea­son is just such a dif­fer­ent sea­son — the pres­sures, un­for­tu­nately the dra­mas — it’s just an in­tense sea­son. Hav­ing some­one who has kind of suc­cess­fully man­aged that a num­ber of times is some­thing that (Rissling) and the coaches think is a valu­able as­set.”

Rissling, 28, has no doubt Moyse can help the team.

“For my role as a leader and pilot, that’s where I’m lack­ing, the ex­pe­ri­ence. I am un­able to an­tic­i­pate what the level of pres­sure is go­ing to feel like when we get to the Games. That’s where Heather can prob­a­bly step in, be the assertive body and the calm­ing fac­tor and guide us through.”

Pro­vided she earns a place in a sled, of course. Noth­ing is guar­an­teed, par­tic­u­larly with just five months to go from es­sen­tially zero train­ing to an icy hill in PyeongChang.

“It’s a very daunt­ing idea,” said Moyse.

A nor­mal hu­man might not even bother lac­ing up the shoes, but Moyse isn’t nor­mal. They called her Freak, an en­dear­ing term in­dica­tive of un­canny ath­letic abil­ity.

But her back has been out of align­ment since June. What about that, she asked team ther­a­pists.

“They just said ‘when you are in align­ment, the ex­plo­sive­ness in your mus­cles is un­de­ni­able. And re­gard­less of you not train­ing, your mus­cle tissue is dif­fer­ent than any other ath­lete I have ever come across.’ ... It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around that, and around how he has no doubt that I could come back and do this.”

About two weeks ago she stopped re­sist­ing and let the pull bring her all the way back. Now she’ll do what she did for all those years. Push.


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