Lori enjoys Slide With an Olympian 

four-time olympic Bobsledder looks to help boost Whistler track with presence

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - SPEED DEMON Four-time Olympic bobsledder Chris Lori.
  • photo by Dan Falloon
  • SPEED DEMON Four-time Olympic bobsledder Chris Lori.

Chris Lori knows a thing or two about danger.

The four-time Olympic bobsledder, and first non-European to drive to the title in 1990, nearly didn't get the chance to do any of it.

In 1987, in his career's infancy, Lori and his teammates suffered a horrific crash at a now-closed track in Cervinia, Italy. Lori suffered a broken nose, broken clavicle, two broken ribs, friction burns on his arms and severe cuts to his face and neck.

When aiming to qualify for his first Olympic Games later that year, Lori fractured his clavicle again, but still managed to win the Canadian title and punch his ticket to the 1988 Calgary Games.

Two years after that, with the world title on the line, Lori and crew didn't bristle a bit at Cervinia's slot as the second-last race on the schedule. Instead, they made history.

"When we crashed in Cervinia, we later went back and set the track record," he said. "Teams that were beating us all year long, we beat them by four-hundredths of a second because they were scared.

"That spoke a lot about our tenacity."

Lori, now 52, looked back at the win as a "pivotal moment" not only for himself and his team, but for the sport in our country as a whole.

While hair-raising incidents have declined after serious injuries and even death before and during Lori's career, he feels the pendulum is swinging too far to the other side, giving an advantage to sliders who he feels may not be a well-rounded athlete of not only physical ability, but bravery and wits.

The Whistler Sliding Centre implemented safety recommendations in 2012 in the wake of the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training run on the eve of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, but Lori feels the most recent Olympic track, the Sanki Sliding Centre used in 2014, went too far. The track had three uphill sections aimed to slow sliders' speeds.

"You still need to have a bit of a danger element because then it distinguishes between those who are of a more psychological (mindset) than the ones who are just there to start fast without any fear. There has to be a little bit of an edge, and this track has that edge," he said. "Because of the accident that happened here, the Sochi track was extremely safe. Then it becomes a sport where when the athletes are standing at the top, there's no real potential for reservation to push as hard as you possibly can.

"Here, you'll get that. There will be scared crewmen and scared drivers who can't compete here. That allows the tougher ones to take the medals."

Lori, a former North Shore resident who moved to Singapore in 2010 to support his career as a foreign exchange trader, spoke after a week of taking part in the Whistler Sliding Centre's Slide With an Olympian program, which also featured Helen Upperton, Chris Spring, Justin Kripps and Lyndon Rush. The program gave members of the public the rush of sliding down a track with some of the most experienced drivers on the planet.

"In our sport, it's a small community. It's a family, and I've known (WSC director) Tracy (Seitz) for decades," he said. "It's been so long, you keep the relationships going."

As for a relationship with the people he's training, Lori noted it's a normal interaction for him, though the participants themselves get pretty pumped.

"A lot of people say, surprisingly, 'This is my first time ever meeting an Olympian,'" he said. "For us, it's just what we do. It's a by-product of what we do. Just to have the opportunity to connect with people, to share these stories. It just so happens that what we do happens to be an Olympic sport."

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