Big Cam was one of the first people we reached out to when launching The Brakeman brand. We're pleased he wasn't upset that it took us so long to feature him. He's had a great journey, he's a fantastic guy and we hope you love what he had to say...
Thumbs up if you love Canada
TBM: Hi buddy! Thanks so much for giving your time to the platform, let's crack on. Tell us about your route into bobsleigh...
CS: Well I was a rugby player for about 8 years before bobsleigh. I was playing rugby at university and I also played for Canada at U17 and U20 age group - U17 actually with your very own Sam Blanchet - plus playing for the Ontario provincial team too.
I was at the point where I was leaving uni and deciding whether or not to carry on at the bank I was working at. I saw bobsled were doing recruitment drives and I’d seen Jesse Lumsden and Tim Randall (former Canadian Olympians) training at my school and - this is a true story - I thought Lumsden had the biggest legs I had ever seen. It’s kind of a running joke in the team now because we say he has toothpicks but at the time I was like, ‘yeh I want sweet legs like that’. So anyway I had a meeting with a recruiter from my bank who was supposed to help show me the next steps of my career but they never showed for the interview. So I was like, ‘fuck this’, I’m gonna go try that bobsled thing. One thing led to another as they do in bobsleigh and in the winter I was invited down to push at an America’s Cup in Lake Placid.
I’d never seen a bobsled, as no-one does when they start out, I knew nothing about this sport but it was freezing cold and as for the run I expected an icy smooth water slide. Then on the second run down we crashed at corner 2, I didn’t know you could kick out and I got smashed head and shoulder all the way down! It makes me laugh, I don’t think anyone enjoys bobsleigh when they first do it but I got back up that next day and thought, ‘this isn’t so bad’ and pretty much something I’d enjoy sticking with. So I ended up going through more testing combines and ended up moving to Calgary.
Get that man in a catalogue
TBM: It’s interesting your comment on crashing so early in your career. I actually think it’s bad for the people who haven’t crashed, you have the anticipation of crashing which is so much worse. Once you’ve crashed and you realise, ‘ok, that was miserable but I’m alive and all’s fine’, you’re pretty much good to go from a fear perspective.
CS: For sure. Plus, obviously it’s Placid, you know, even now I don’t think there’s a run where I don’t feel completely shattered at the end of it, even if we don’t crash. The first one was pretty rough but I thought I could handle it and, come to think of it, I actually didn’t even know we’d crashed because it was so early. I was like, there’s no way this is a crash but then I thought, ‘yeh that’s my shoulder I can smell!’. That was back in 2015 now.
Slowing down Krippsy
TBM: So you progressed pretty quickly then from 2015, 3 years later and you’re at the Olympics!
CS: Luckily I guess! I dunno man I guess I just felt with bobsleigh that I went full throttle with it. With rugby I didn’t have that same drive. There was some solid success and I played a good level but the 'Canadian rugby player' centralises in B.C. (British Columbia), and I was always more focused on getting school done to be honest.
Then with bobsleigh it became clear to me that if I wanted a shot at going to an Olympics I needed to be fully into it. I was also at a stage of my life where uni was done and I could leave my job at the bank and still have something to fall back on if bobsled didn’t work out. I guess I didn’t have that luxury at the time I was playing rugby. If rugby had fallen through I wouldn’t have had the fall-back of my degree.
Fun in the leaders box
TBM: Was there anything else that really attracted you to bobsleigh? For me, I just love off-season training.
CS: Well I always loved the rugby off-season but I was getting fucked up every week. Every other week I’d be breaking my nose, head blowing up plus I needed surgeries for my shoulder. So I suppose I was either going to get my shoulder surgeries, keep playing rugby and working at the bank, or I was going to cancel it all and go try bobsled.
But yeh with bobsled I love that I can push my training limits pretty much all year round. I just love seeing that physical ladder you can climb and not knowing where the ceiling is, it’s cool.
The boys have had some great World Cup success in recent seasons
TBM: Initial training thoughts ahead of Beijing?
CS: Well Bobsleigh Canada de-centralised a year or two ago so no-one is expected to be in Calgary until around September these days but my team is all based here. Myself, Kripps (Olympic gold medal winning pilot), Ryan (Sommer) and Ben (Coakwell) are all here and as soon as the ice-house opens we’re all ready to get in there and get our push training on track.
It's all for these moments
TBM: What about selections for you guys? How would someone break into your team right now?
CS: Right now competition for spots would have to be pushed from teams coming up. Unfortunately we haven’t had enough World Cup pilots proving themselves in the past couple seasons, which hopefully will change.
I’m hoping our team gets a chance to continue improving on our results. We’re on a good trajectory. We’ve had the same team now since Pyeongchang and, well you know, if a team meshes well it counts for so much. If you shove three guys on a sled who are weapons on paper it doesn’t always work. Team cohesion counts for a lot.
There’s a big gap to close on the top pushing teams around the world right now but if we can do that then I could see it being difficult for coaches to move people off the team. Then again if someone were to come push and really threaten a spot then the important thing is the team winning and it doesn’t really matter who’s on it.
Tall order to get into this squad right now
TBM: Exactly, it’s on you to make sure you cover all your bases, train hard and earn your spot regardless right? It's always fun hearing the rumours of returning athletes too.
CS: Yeah definitely, it’s the same with any nation I guess. You get rumours on who’s coming back, who’s training, so and so is lifting this etc etc. It’s tempting, especially in your early days in the sport, to pay attention to those rumours but you learn it’s pointless to fixate on other people. It doesn’t affect you and shouldn’t impact you when you’re just doing your best anyway.
But hey, if someone comes out and blows me out the water then fair enough, like, good shake that’s too bad for me! Yeah it doesn’t change my approach, I keep training my hardest and hopefully it’s enough.
That's the face you make when you know you've beaten Brad Hall
TBM: Tell us more about your debut Olympic experience in 2018...
CS: In the years before Pyeongchang pilots made teams and coaches would switch it up if they really thought they needed to speed up the push, but it was far more relaxed.
Olympic year literally every week we had different push combinations and it was very tense and very stressful. We had 14 guys who could’ve qualified for those 9 spots and at that time I was lower on the totem pole.
We needed to qualify Nick Poloniato (Canadian pilot) so Canada could have 3 sleds at the Games so that added to the stress. Once we achieved that though, they announced the teams and it was myself, Polo, Josh (Kirkpatrick) and Ben (Coakwell). So yeah Ben and I have been together now for a good 4 years. We had such a great time as a team unit.
We were 'Canada 3' so there were no external expectations apart from our own and how we wanted to perform. In the end we felt 12th place with some really solid pushing was a good return for us. It was a great experience for us all. Ben had done the 2014 Sochi Games so was a really good mentor for helping keep us on track and knowing when to enjoy the experience and when to refocus on bobsleigh.
You know what it’s like man, there’s crazy shit going on, loads of cool free stuff and a lot of temptation but when it comes back to it, really you go back in that bobsleigh bubble and it’s like any other World Cup race. That’s how we tried to approach it anyway. It makes no difference whether it’s an Olympics, a World Cup or even training, you’re at the top of a mountain about to slide down it.
We’re going to aim to keep that perspective going into Beijing. We weren’t medal hopes for Pyeongchang and now we are. Olympic Games the second time around should be great and I’m really looking forward to it.
This may not even be Cam
TBM: Thanks for your time Cam! Now it’s time for everyone’s favourite interview element - would you rather...
Ok I actually think this one is really boring but let’s see, would you rather have maple syrup stuck to your fingers forever or have a maple candy stuck in your back teeth forever?
CS: On my fingers. You know, sometimes you don't have grip on your fingers when you’re at the grocery store and you need to open a bag or something and you can't get that friction? Well if you were constantly sticky...
TBM: You're good to go
CS: Sure, plus when I’m finished bobsledding and I’m a pro flag-football player I'll be sticky-handed and ready for action.
Follow Cam's journey to Beijing via his socials:
Follow Bobsleigh Canada And Skeleton here