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Hurtling downhill to the top of your game


By J. Hogan

My friend Ian lives near Phoenix, Ariz. He’s a successful guy, providing personal speed and strength training for professional athletes.

Ian got to that lofty level through drive and focus… and by not letting a particularly odd and unattractive (to him) opportunity slip past. Originally from Guyana, Ian’s family moved about as far from that tropical setting as one can imagine when he was a teen: Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada.

For the unfamiliar, Edmonton is 800 miles north of the U.S. border. In the depths of winter, one can spit and hear the “tink” at their spittle shatters on the ground. From his early years, Ian had been strong and fast, and his teachers in Canada saw that. He excelled at sports and his coaches were glad to have him.

One observer noted that Ian’s strong legs could probably be used to push a bobsled quite well, and he was asked to give the sport a try. He was immediately great at it… and he immediately hated it. No matter how smooth, exciting and neat bobsledding may look on TV when the Winter Olympics kick off Feb. 4, know that the sport is brutal.

The ride down is a jarring, high G-force, bone-rattling journey. If the sled dumps, the crew has to adjust their bodies up off the ice as they hurtle down the channel to avoid having their clothing, then flesh, torn off by the friction.

If a spilled rider finds themselves on their stomach, they must jam their hard knee and elbow pads down to create hard points for lift. If they’re on their back, they use their heels and helmet until they slow to halt.

Ian hated the terrifying ride.

He hated it the first time, hated it even as he was informed his speed and strength could make him one of the best and provide a doorway toward success for him and agreed to try to stick it out.

He was still hating that speedy, sloping, shifting ride as it took him all the way to the 1998 Nagano Olympics as a member of the Canadian Olympic Team.

Even though he found no joy in the work, he found joy in the prospect of meeting and working with some of the best athletes in the world, and could see how he could turn that into a career.

He’s done just that. Many of the athletes he’s had as clients are names you’d likely know, dear reader, as they’ve spanned the heights of professional sports stardom.

After that first time he hurtled down a mountain in a bobsled, Ian was under no illusion that he was a fan of doing so… he only knew that opportunity was knocking and he would ride that sled as far as it took him.

I have more to share about Ian, but that can wait for my next column…

Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church.

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