Chris Spring's summer in Whistler led him to think a little bit about the future.
The Canadian bobsleigh pilot, who was officially named to the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton squad for another year on Nov. 23, hopes to officially settle here long-term after spending a summer exploring.
"Whistler is a place I want to call home for a long time and maybe the rest of my life. I'm in a different and great headspace when I'm there. I really enjoy my downtime whether I'm just at the lake or going for a hike," he said.
For now, though, Whistler will be the place where Spring made his Olympic debut, representing Australia in 2010 before gaining his Canadian citizenship in 2013. And it's the site of his first World Cup win, which he achieved in thrilling fashion in January. With the first race of the 2016-17 FIBT World Cup season coming to the Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 2 and 3, he's got his eyes on repeating the feat.
"Confidence is a huge thing in our sport. If we're confident in our equipment, if we're confident in the driving ability and the athletes behind us, then we can do magical things down the track," he said. "Coming back to Whistler, I'm definitely very comfortable on that track and I'm confident we can come in, take a win in the two-man and the four-man and keep that momentum going throughout the season."
The 32-year-old, originally from Darwin, Australia, explained the summer also gave him the opportunity to reconsider his preparation techniques as he acknowledged his body isn't recovering in the same way it did in previous years.
"The body's in pretty good shape. I'm getting a bit older, so my body hasn't bounced back as good as it used to. I've had to take a little bit of extra caution over the past few months making sure that I arrive to the first World Cup healthy and it seems to me right now that my body is doing pretty well," he said. "I'm really listening to my body. Although I was listening, I didn't always take the action that it said I needed to before that maybe I should have."
Spring is also exploring his own self-treatment, he said, so he's not totally reliant on therapists.
On the skeleton side, Jane Channell of North Vancouver was also named to the team as part of a full complement of racers on the women's team. She'll be joined by Elisabeth Vathje and rookie Mirela Rahneva. The men's team will be comprised of veterans Barrett Martineau and Dave Greszczyszyn and rookie Kevin Boyer.
"I'm really excited. We have, I think, a really strong team and we're fielding a full team, too," Channell said. "I'm excited to see how we do as a whole because I think we'll all be able to work together and in turn, we'll have a better, more productive year."
Channell, 28, was third overall on the circuit last season, taking a second-place finish in Park City, Utah as her best result. After connecting with a sports psychologist in the offseason, she'll hope to make all those numbers smaller as she strives for consistency.
"I was working on my mental game. I know last year, that was one of my biggest weaknesses is that I was my own worst enemy," she said. "(After) finding someone that really helps me, I'm really looking forward to seeing how I apply things that I've learned into the season."
Beginning the season in Whistler is important to Channell for a couple of reasons, as strong early results help set competitors up in prime positions in future races and also because the sting of just missing out on the podium at her home track still lingers.
"I want to start with some momentum at the first race. Being in Whistler, I'm hoping to grow. I had a fourth-place finish last year and I'm hoping and looking to improve off that this year," she said.
As for bobsleigh, Spring will be joined on the World Cup circuit by veteran pilot Justin Kripps, while Nick Poloniato broke through to earn a full-time sled on the tour.
The brakemen on this year's team will be: Jesse Lumsden, Neville Wright, Alex Kopacz, Ben Coakwell, Josh Kirkpatrick, Derek Plug, Dan Sunderland, Lascelles Brown, Tim Randall, Cam Stones, Sam Giguere and Keenan MacDougall.
As for the women, legend Kaillie Humphries will represent Canada on the circuit. However, Alysia Rissling and Christine De Bruin will get a taste of the tour at the World Cup opener at Whistler Sliding Centre.
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