Sledders soldier on after horrific crash they'll never forget
Canada is fortunate it’s not dealing with two winter sport tragedies at the moment.
As freeskiing legend Sarah Burke remains in a coma in a Salt Lake City hospital, we heard Friday for the first time from Canada’s bobsledders involved in last week’s horrific training crash that spurred the team to pull out at a World Cup in Altenberg, Germany.
“I remember laying on the ice and hearing stuff that you don’t ever want to hear or see ever in your lifetime, really,” said driver Chris Spring. “At the time, I pretty much retired in my head.”
Spring’s sled -- with crewmates Bill Thomas, Graeme Rinholm and Tim Randall -- slammed into the wooden roof after a late entry into the ever dangerous Corner 16 on the track. The aftermath sounds like something out of Apocalypse Now.
“Seeing Bill and Graeme on the ground not moving. Hearing the noises coming from them, which at first I didn’t think was human. It didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before. It sounded like things were going bad very quickly,” recalled Spring during a conference call on Friday.
“Seeing the destruction the sled was in, I didn’t think a sled could ever look like that, even if you had a half hour with a baseball bat with it. … Those noises and visuals I have are something that will stick with me a long time.”
Maybe the most remarkable thing is that all four athletes are prepared to do it again. Many reckoned they’d never slide again in the immediate aftermath. But with some reflection and now with all of them out of the hospital, they’re committed to returning to compete.
Spring was in Konigssee, Germany, on Friday with his teammates, where Olympic champ Kaillie Humphries won a silver in the women’s two-man bobsleigh World Cup event and Mellisa Hollingsworth won a bronze in the women’s skeleton.
Spring said from Germany it’s been a huge help that the team brought their sports psychologist Frank van den Berg to talk with the athletes. He said they waded through a lot of the “deep and meaningful stuff here and brought up a lot of feelings that I didn’t I think I wanted to revisit ever again.”
It’s also clear that they hope to stay together as a team.
“Chris Spring is one of the best pilots that I’ve ever had the chance to be in a sled with,” said Rinholm. “I have no hesitation jumping in behind him.”
Randall, who like Thomas is from Toronto, thought he was finished with the sport at the time of the accident, but he’s now as determined as ever.
“Going to the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid,” said. “As severe as this crash was, I’m not going to let it get in the way of my dreams.”
You can bet if Sarah Burke is fortunate enough to recover fully from her severe head injury, she’d voice similar sentiments.
That’s the way these athletes roll.
(The pic above shows L to R: Bill Thomas, Graeme Rinholm, Tim Randall, Tom de la Hunty, Chris Spring.)