Canadian Women’s Bobsled aims for gold at Beijing 2022

Written By Guest User, Posted on December 9, 2019

Twenty-seven-year-old bobsledder Melissa Lotholz is an up and coming Canadian bobsledder from Barrhead Alberta, a town in the middle of the province with only slightly more than four thousand residents. 

Lotholz gave an interview with The New Telegraph where she told the story about how she got into bobsledding and the meteoric rise she experienced in entering the sport. Miss Lotholz was not a lifelong bobsled competitor but actually made an early entrance into the sport at twenty-one, whereas most enter in their mid to late twenties.

“Out of high school I did a kind of a jack of all trades thing, so I did a little bit of everything like volleyball, basketball, track and field, badminton every so often, and I did a couple years of figure skating in elementary school. [Eventually] I got recruited to run at the University of Alberta on their track and field team. And it was there when I first kind of got introduced this word of bobsled. My training partner, then Christine De Bruin, she ended up switching over to the sport. Our track coach at UVA was connected to the strength and conditioning coach for bobsled Canada. And as Christine was finishing up her career the coach suggested that she try it so I got to watch her go through the whole process of trying out and she went on the development team to Europe and compete on those circuits and then she switched into driving.”

Events started to speed up once Lotholz took her first official steps into the sport where she quickly gained attention for her prowess.

“I decided in 2011, I got that I wanted to try bobsled one day and try out for the team and see what would happen. And I guess having [Christine’s] insight, I kind of knew what it would take. So I’m going to attempt to go do a testing campaign in 2013. But by that point in time, I already knew what kind of numbers I should be hitting in order to be eligible for the team and that kind of stuff. I did a testing campaign 2013 and it went super well. I actually ended up doing an interview which is kind of crazy looking back. It was talking about Olympic hopefuls for 2018. And lo and behold I did end up going to the 2018 games. But first, in 2014, the following year, I decided that it was time to make a switch and see what it took, and see if I can make it and in a complete whirlwind I found myself in the top sled sliding with Kaillie Humphries competing in my first World Cup with her not even 10 months after she won her second Olympic Games. So it was a little crazy.”

Miss Lotholz is right in that many bobsledders are not like other athletes and haven’t been at it their entire lives, but having transitioned in at the age of 21 when most don’t start till later, and quickly making it onto a team with some of the most prolific athletes in the sport is quite the achievement. She attributes a lot of her success to the overlap between track and field and bobsled which gave her the right combination of speed and strength needed for the sport.

Lotholz snaps a selfie beside a bobsled track.

Lotholz snaps a selfie beside a bobsled track.

Even when competing on the world stage at the Olympics in 2018 still as a rookie Lotholz, and her friend Christine De Bruin sled was still able to come 7th, despite being the third Canadian sled and not expected to place especially high. 

In light of the departure of gold medalist Kaillie Humphries from the Canadian to the American bobsled team, it would seem that Canada is still in good hands with athletes like Miss Lotholz still around. Not only is she looking forward to the 2022 Winter Olympics, but she is taking on new roles to push her skills even further.

“The big thing moving towards the 2022 Olympics, I made the decision that I would switch my position from being a brakeman to being a driver. And that was for a couple of reasons, one being I wanted a new challenge in the sport…following the 2018 games, I signed myself up for a driving school. And since then I’ve kind of spent the majority of my time in the front seat of the sled learning how to drive the tracks” 

Despite all the pressure of strength training, eating right, and practicing on the track, Lotholz has made it an important part of her life as an athlete to stay relaxed and take an easy-going approach to the sport.

Lotholz said, “In this Olympic cycle in general, I’m also being much more intentional about making sure to prioritize other things in my life? What does it look like to prioritize rest? Because obviously, if you’re not rested [properly], you can’t train right. It’s one of those things that you can’t tangibly measure in sport, but make a difference, like surround yourself with family and community and those kinds of things…[so] this last summer I decided to make the change and move back to Edmonton to train and be closer to friends and family. The family being only an hour away in Barrhead versus four hours away when I was living in Calgary makes a big difference [for me].”

Canadians can be confident that in the future Miss Lotholz can take the helm of Canadian women’s bobsledding and be an inspiration to younger athletes to get into the sport, but also adopt her dedication to balancing both competition and family. With just under three years to train, there is little doubt she can push her 7th place debut to a higher tier, and maybe even to a gold medal.

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