Barrhead native competes for spot on Canada’s top sled
Tuesday, Oct 03, 2017 06:00 am
The start of the World Cup Bobsleigh season is just around the corner and when it starts, Barrhead native Melissa Lotholz is hoping to take her spot on Canada’s top sled, piloted by Kaillie Humphries, as breakman, something she has done in some form for the last three seasons.
And so far it is looking good.
Currently, Lotholz just finished push camp testing at the national team’s base at Canada Olympic Park (COP) working in the Ice House, an indoor facility that allows bobsledders to practice their push starts on actual ice year-round.
Push camp is comparable to a NHL training camp, where athletes prepare for the upcoming season and coaches get to evaluate their talent to see who they would like to pair with whom.
“For the first time I have been pushing in the forties, which is where most of your elite breakmen are,” she said, estimating there are about seven or eight brakeman at that level.
The forties Lotholz is referring to is tenths and hundredths of a second, meaning her time was in the 5.40 second range.
The record for Calgary icehouse is 5.39 seconds by Aja Evans, an American breakman who along with pilot Jamie Greubel won the Olympic bronze medal in 2014. She is the only woman to have ever pushed in the 30s. The Canadian icehouse record is 5.41.
“I pushed a 5.47, the same as Cynthia Appiah so we are neck and neck. We both constantly push each other which helps us get better and it is exciting to be a part of, but it is definitely nerve-racking,” she said.
Last season, Lotholz and Appiah split time with Humphries, but by the time the World Championships rolled around, Lotholz had secured the position.
Lotholz believes the most likely scenario is that when the World Cup circuit starts in earnest in November, it is most likely that she and Appiah will be splitting the duties with Humphries.
However, there is a wildcard that could change the situation. About three weeks ago 39-year-old Heather Moyse announced she was coming out of retirement to compete for a spot on Canada’s World Cup or development teams. Moyse was Humphries brakeman at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics where they won gold.
She did not attend the push camp due to injury, but it is expected she will have a chance to test in late October or early November prior to the World Cup season.
When the Leader caught up to Lotholz, she was at Canada Olympic Park in between training on the actual track.
“We just started sliding [with ice] a couple days ago [Sept. 26] and it just about doubled the hours we spend at COP when you consider we are still doing our dry-land training,” she said.
Sliding days, Lotholz explained start in the COP workshop where athletes prepare the bobsled for the day, changing and waxing its runners. After that is completed they then have to wait for a transport to take the team up to the top of the course. After about an hour of warmup athletes are able to slide down the track.
On an average day, athletes do three runs at the end of which athletes take off and polish the sled’s runners.
“At the end of the week there is a selection race, just with Canadian sleds, to evaluate where the pilots are,” she said, adding next week the team will continue their sliding in Whistler.
At the end of October the entire Canadian team go to Toronto where it is expected they will name this year’s World Cup team. Olympic team selection will take place sometime in January.
“We [Canada] are trying to qualify three sleds for the Olympics and anything can happen between now and February,” she said. “All you can do as an athlete, like in farming, is trust that all your hard work is going to result in a bumper crop.”
To follow Lotholz on her jouney go to www.melissalotholz.ca. She is also on Twitter.