"The Dream Has To Be Bigger Than The Pain" -- Chris Lori
“The dream has to be bigger than the pain.”
Few know this better than former Canadian bobsleigh ace Chris Lori, who still bears a scar on his face from the horrific crash he suffered in 1987 in Cervinia, Italy.
Lori shared his vast insights and experience about last week's crash involving Chris Spring's Canada 2 sled in training for a World Cup in Altenberg, Germany, which caused the stunning withdrawal of the Canadian bobsleigh team from the race after three athletes were seriously injured – Spring, Bill Thomas and Graeme Rinholm.
Turns out two of their teammates, Tim Randall, who escaped serious injury, and Derek Plug, who is normally in the sled are staying in Germany to accompany their teammates home. As Canadian skeleton coach and Olympic champion Duff Gibson tweeted: “Unbelievably classy move by Derek and Tim. THAT is a team. Honored to be a part of the same organization.”
(The pic above shows L to R: Bill Thomas, Graeme Rinholm, Tim Randall, Tom de la Hunty, Chris Spring.)
We caught up via email with Lori, now a registered commodity trading advisor and fund manager who is currently travelling in Indonesia.
Here's the interview:
Were you surprised by the move? What do you think of it?
Chris Lori: “I'm not surprised by the move of Tom Delahunty. He bears a lot of responsibility over the livelihood of his athletes and has to act in the interest of their safety. You have to consider the consequences if a similar incident were to happen. I think it was a prudent decision by Tom. It is possible that another sled could have the same fate, which would have compounding effects. The combination of such high speed and the massive pressure at the entrance of corner 16, will see any crash out of corner 15 push the sled straight to the lip of 16, as indicated by all the scuff marks on the lip of 16. I suspect the sled hit a weak spot on the lip. "Freak" accidents are common in the sport. It is natural for the athletes to want to compete and it would have been difficult to comply with the coaches decision. This is a time when the drivers have to be strong leaders. The time when the crew become concerned for their safety. Chris is relatively inexperienced and would have to make adjustments with the 4man on such a difficult track. When the other competitors witness the fallout of an incident that causes harm to the athletes, anxiety may build up and the drivers have to show strong leadership to optimize performance.”
De La Hunty said he was concerned about the athletes welfare because of the conditions, but also wanted to send a message to the FIBT re the issue of athlete safety. Do you believe that's been needed?
Chris Lori: “Safety consciousness in the sport of bobsleigh has been a long road. In the 80's and early 90's, if there was a potential issue that was raised, we would continue to slide whether the matter was attended to, or not. There are countless stories of avoidable severe injury that did not draw action. The athletes won't take a stand, because (most of them) want to race. There is also the pressure to perform put on the athletes by their own federations. There is always the next athlete in line who is ready to step in if someone goes home. So, the responsibility to initiate change is on the leaders of the organizations. There are territorial issues, as well. Altenburg, for example; the Germans won't take a stand, because they're comfortable there. It 's not their problem the others are too scared. It is also important that the sport maintains its disposition as a physically and mentally challenging sport that may result in the death of an athlete (as do many sports), otherwise, it's just another sport. If the danger is obvious and high probability risk to the athletes, the system should be prepared to take action. Once Bob Storey was elected president of FIBT, safety issues became more respected.”
Do you think the move will gain the Canadians respect or ridicule from their peers?
Chris Lori: “I don't have enough details on the circumstances, but if Tom felt the action taken to prevent a similar incident was insufficient and careless, then the others would have respect for the stand he has taken. Tom is a passionate leader and has a lot of experience and respect in within the group. It was Tom Delahunty who took a stand against the Swiss illegal axels at the 96' Worlds. If not for Tom, they would have gotten away with it and kept their medals, unlike the incident of the illegal German and Austrian sleds at the 92' Olympic games who kept theirs.”
Can you recall one of the upper level teams ever pulling out en masse from a World Cup before?
Chris Lori: “Yes, there were several years that teams pulled out of World Cup races in Cervinia and Altenberg.”
You went through that horrific crash in Cervinia, how does an athlete build themselves back up again after such a devastaing accident?
Chris Lori: “Chris Spring is still at the early stages of development as a driver. He has a deep desire to succeed and will certainly move passed this incident. A driver simply views a crash as a frustrating error and feel badly they subject their team to injury and disappointment. After any crash, harmful or not, the driver just wants to get back in the sled and overcome the challenge. Chris will view this as an isolated incident that will not affect his tenacity as an athlete for future challenges. It is rare a driver will leave the sport, because they are fearful.
“The dream has to be bigger than the pain.”