Coakwell is Sochi bound

Katie Brickman
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Moose Jaw native representing Canada on world stage

After only one full bobsleigh season, Ben Coakwell is headed to the Olympics.

By Katie Brickman

Coakwell, who is from Moose Jaw, is the brakeman on the four-man bobsled team for Christopher Spring that is headed to Sochi, Russia in 58 days for the Winter Olympics.

“It is a dream that a lot of kids from Canada have,” stated Coakwell. “I feel like it is an opportunity that I take seriously. It is a responsibility that you want to represent Canada the best you can and perform. I think of it like a job that has to be taken care of.”

The team also includes pilot Christopher Spring, brakeman/crewman Jesse Lumsden and crewman Cody Sorensen.  They qualified for the Olympics last year and it is now a matter of maintaining that momentum into this season with the World Cup series.

“It was my first season last year and I raced with Spring. He raced with Cody a little bit last year too,” explained Coakwell. “This is the first time as a unit that we have been together.”

The foursome currently sits fifth in the FIBT (International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation) standings with 360 points. The Spring sled is trailing two teams from Russia and single teams from the United States, Germany.

“We have two sleds that are qualified right now to go,” said Coakwell. “There is a third sled on World Cup and he is doing well. That will be the first time Canada will have three sleds at the Olympics if that sled can qualify. It is looking like it is a possibility. We are hoping for three.”

Despite a strong start for the Spring four-man team, it doesn’t have any podium finishes yet.

At the beginning of December, the team opened up with a fourth-place finish in Calgary.

With a solid performance in their home base, the Spring team was confident heading into Park City, Utah for the second stop on the World Cup tour last weekend.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of snow and the team finished in seventh place, but just six/100ths of a second shy of a silver medal.

“We pushed really well again, which is our job as the crew guys,” said Coakwell. “Snow races are a little questionable since (when) snow gets on the track, it can slow you down. We are happy with seventh, although losing by six/100ths is rough.”

Shortly after the races wrapped up in Utah, the team travelled to Lake Placid, N.Y., which is where the Times-Heraldwas able to catch up with Coakwell. This will be the third stop on the tour and the last one in North America before the series heads to Europe.

“Our team feels like every race is going to be better than the last and that’s the way we look at it,” said Coakwell. “We feel like we are just on the edge or cusp of being on the podium.”

Coakwell lives with Lumsden, a former CFL running back, in Calgary. The foursome trained together in the summer every day. Being in such close contact at home and on the road, the team has been able to develop chemistry.

“My pilot did an interview and was quoted that our team came together organically. I guess that is the best way to describe it — we are good friends away from the track and that translates positively onto the track,” Coakwell said. “Everyone keeps each other in check. We train every day and we have some competitions — we have our bench-offs and our squat-offs, which keeps everyone physically fit. You can’t let off the gas at any point or you fall behind.”

For this team, the ultimate goal wasn’t just qualifying for the Olympics, but performing well on the biggest stage.

“The goal that we have set is to have the fastest push and we are confident in each other that we can do that,” said Coakwell. “With our team, we are a team in every sense of the word. We feel pretty confident heading into Sochi.”

The Spring team will compete in Lake Placid this weekend before getting a Christmas break. They will race in Winterberg, Germany from Dec. 31 to Jan. 5. From there they go to St. Mortiz, Switzerland; Igls, Austria then to Konigssee, Germany before heading to Sochi.  

Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman

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