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RMOW invites Emery to Games

1964 gold medalist hopes to see Canadians winning at Whistler Sliding Centre

When Canada's bobsleigh team slid across the finish line to win Olympic gold in Innsbruck, Austria in 1964 they shocked the world and made Canadian history.

Now one of the members of that team, Dr. John Emery, 77, is coming to witness another piece of Canadian history: the first Olympic performance on home turf at the new Whistler Sliding Centre for the 2010 Games.

But the road to watch the event for the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame members has been long and complicated. Initially all of the team, Emery along with brother Victor, Doug Anakin and Peter Kirby, tried to pursue accreditation through Olympic officials.

"We have drawn a blank on the 2010 tickets," John Emery, a California-based plastic surgeon said in an earlier interview.

"We would have thought that previous athletes might have had some opportunities for tickets."

But this week John Emery has been offered tickets by the Resort Municipality of Whistler to come and see the four-man bobsled event on Feb. 26.

"We are just so excited about coming up and seeing the event," he said last week.

"I'm really going to be looking at the equipment they use these days as it has changed so much.

"When we started out we were like the Jamaican bobsled team, who came along later."

The team, which won at a time when Canada had no training facilities, no official organization and no home track to practice on, were given Games VIP passes by previous Olympic organizing committees for the 1988 Calgary and 1976 Montreal Games.

They had hoped for the same treatment in 2010.

"I think it was very shortsighted," said Emery. "We kind of pioneered the sport for Canada and we are still the only gold medal bobsled team.

"It would be fun for the old warriors to meet the new younger bucks coming along. It is an inspiration for younger people who want to get involved in the sport. They see the excitement that lingers on into older life."

The organizing committee for the 2010 Winter Games, VANOC, does not provide tickets to past Olympians - they have to get tickets through the lottery like everyone else. The Canadian Olympic Committee, likewise, does not provide tickets to past Games participants.

Said Whistler Councillor Chris Quinlan: "After learning of Mr. Emery's predicament and his story - I mean, what a fantastic story... to win gold - I thought we had to do something here.

"So we arranged for some tickets for himself and (some guests) through Whistler. His story is about how it has impacted the rest of his life and that is a story our community, which has a large number of athletes, needs to know about."

In 1964 the Canadian bobsled team was not at first taken seriously, even by the Canadian Olympic Committee.

"They were making waves that they thought the Canadian bobsledders were just taking up rooms at the Olympic Village because they didn't expect us to do well," said Emery.

When Canada 1 and the team broke an Olympic record on the first heat people began to take notice. But as fate would have it the ride for the team turned out to be anything but smooth. First the rear axel of the sled was damaged on the famous course, which includes the Hexenkessel or witches cauldron.

Added to that Vic Emery, who graduated with a Harvard MBA while sledding, had a shocking reaction to a tetanus shot and had to be treated in hospital.

As the final run drew closer the Italian bobsleigh team helped fix Canada 1 and against all odds Canada took home the gold medal, pulling off the greatest upset in bobsledding history.

Now, said Emery, he is hoping to witness another bobsled gold medal in 2010.

"I've been hearing about them and they have been doing really well," he said.

"I'm really hoping I see Canada win some medals."



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