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Local bobsledder Talia Melun qualifies for 2024 Youth Olympics

Whistlerite Melun and teammate Isaak Ulmer have both secured their spots in South Korea

Talia Melun and Isaak Ulmer have each taken a large leap forward in their burgeoning bobsled careers by qualifying for the 2024 Winter Youth Olympics. 

Both are leaving their mark on the Omega Youth Series abroad. Melun’s best-ever finish was fourth on Nov. 10 in Pyeongchang, while Ulmer has a fourth-place effort of his own from March 15 in Lake Placid, N.Y. 

“I have been working towards this goal since I first started, pretty much … but I never thought I'd actually reach it,” Melun said. “It took a lot of training, a lot of money and a lot of time, and I didn't really think that I would be able to qualify, so it's really, really amazing that I got to.” 

Ulmer is likewise thrilled about the opportunity. “It's probably one of the highlights of my career so far,” he said. “I'm really proud to do all this work and have it pay off.” 

The teens have the privilege of being coached by Chris Spring, a four-time Olympian and eight-time IBSF World Cup medallist. Having retired at 39 years of age back in September, Spring now gives back to his favourite sport by mentoring new generations.

“This is the first time I've been a part of it as a coach, and it's really special,” said the veteran slider. “It's a goal that [Talia and Isaak] both set out to achieve—to qualify for these Games—and to have achieved it in the timeframe that they did, with the results that they have, it makes me really proud. I'm really excited to be coaching them at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games as well.” 


Melun is a homegrown talent, having lived in Whistler her whole life. The 15-year-old and her big brother Noah were exposed to sliding sports from an early age because their dad Phillippe works at the Whistler Sliding Centre (WSC). Both kids found their way into the local bobsled pipeline, although Noah recently stepped away from competing. 

The sibling rivalry was inevitable, but it’s had a healthy impact on both. 

“I always wanted to be better than Noah,” Melun said. “I always wanted to beat him in some way. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I didn't. But I think it was definitely pushing the both of us a lot.

“Our relationship is still great. I still talk to him about all the other athletes and what's going on, and we are still sliding together in Whistler. He just has other opportunities that don't really allow him to slide as much.” 

As one of several athletes who benefit from having a world-class track in their backyard, Melun has felt the love from all her coaches and the staff who know her personally—and of course her dad. It’s a tightly-knit crew up at the WSC, and she wouldn’t be the same without it. 

She’s also grateful for her travelling support system, like Spring and Ulmer. 

“Chris is such a good coach,” Melun said. “So supportive, super nice, but also a lot of fun. I could not ask for a better coach to be coming with us on all of these trips into the Olympics. Isaak is super supportive too. You can ask him any questions about anything. He's a perfect teammate, and it's been really great competing alongside and travelling with him.” 

You against yourself

If you ask a sliding athlete what they love most about their sport, chances are they’ll talk about the speed, the rush, and the adrenaline. Not to say Ulmer doesn’t enjoy those things, but a different element came to mind when he described his love of bobsled. 

“I really like the feeling of driving down the track, and I like how I have control of what I'm doing,” he explained. “It's not full control—you can sometimes go out of control and crash—but you can influence yourself. Also, you're kind of competing against yourself, and there's just the time you get. You can't influence the other person when they're going down the track.” 

Ulmer was raised in Calgary, Alta. He found bobsled through a school program that took him to the Ice House, a WinSport facility that gives athletes the opportunity to master launching their sleds. Ulmer was also influenced by his father, Lyndon, who spent time at Calgary’s Olympic sliding track until it closed in 2019. 

Unlike Melun, Ulmer has only driven the WSC a handful of times. Initially he found the world’s fastest ice to be difficult and off-putting, but since has warmed up to the challenge. He also credits Spring with helping him adapt to a variety of venues. 

“We joke around playing games, but he's also really knowledgeable,” Ulmer commented. “When we went to Lillehammer [in Norway], he’s never driven that track before, but with all the experience that he has, he can look at the track and decipher what needs to be done.” 

And as someone who appreciates the art of driving a perfect line, the 17-year-old praised Melun’s demeanour and competence. 

“She's probably one of the most calm drivers I've met, and she's really skilled,” he said. “She doesn’t stress about anything … and if you have questions while driving, she knows [the answers] somehow even though it could be our first day on the track.” 

With the 2024 Youth Olympics scheduled for Jan. 19 to Feb. 1, Melun and Ulmer are raring to put their best foot forward, but fundraising continues to be an issue. Melun's crowdfunding platform can be found here  and Ulmer's here.