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P.E.I.'s first gold medallist, Dave (Eli) MacEachern, reflects on 20th anniversary of Olympic win

Dave (Eli) MacEachern shows off the gold medal he won at the 1998 Nagano Olympics for the two-man bobsleigh event at Dynamic Fitness in Charlottetown on Feb. 17.
Dave (Eli) MacEachern shows off the gold medal he won at the 1998 Nagano Olympics for the two-man bobsled event. - Katie Smith

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - It’s been 20 years since the first-ever Islander to win a gold medal at the Olympics took his place at the top of the podium. 

On Feb. 15, 1998, Charlottetown’s Dave “Eli” MacEachern made his gold-medal run in the two-man bobsled event at the Nagano Olympics in Japan, where he joined forces with driver Pierre Lueders.

Not only was this P.E.I.’s first Olympic medal, it was Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal in the two-man event.

With results similar to Monday’s Olympic gold medal tie in the two-man bobsleigh in Pyeongchang, South Korea - which saw Canadians Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz share the top spot with a German team - MacEachern and Lueders tied with an Italian team for gold in 1998.

Dave (Eli) MacEachern shows off his Olympic bobsledding gold during a celebration in March 1998.
Dave (Eli) MacEachern shows off his Olympic bobsledding gold during a celebration in March 1998 in Charlottetown. BRIAN MCINNIS/THE GUARDIAN

MacEachern’s Olympic journey began in 1992 when, after having run track for only eight months, he knocked the national record-setting 400 metre hurdler off of the Olympic bobsled team when he was 24 years old.

It was then the bobsled champion was introduced to the best coaches and strength trainers in the world, and where he learned about biomechanics, which changed the way he trained and performed.

Following the Ben Johnson doping scandal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the following decade was a dark time for sport. 

At that time when it was still relatively easy for non-Canadian athletes to get away with using performance enhancing drugs, MacEachern said for Canadian athletes it was a different story.

“You couldn’t cheat if you wanted to, we were tested so much.”

“To do what I did in the era that I did it, when a lot of countries weren’t under the same scrutiny as Canada, it was pretty unique. I did three Olympics completely drug free.”

During his three Olympic appearances, the gold medalist said he was tested 72 times, passing each time.

“To do what I did in the era that I did it, when a lot of countries weren’t under the same scrutiny as Canada, it was pretty unique,” he said. “I did three Olympics completely drug free.”

Despite the fact others in his sport were cheating, MacEachern beat them all.

“From 1994 to 1998 I trained hard. I got really good at pushing a 440 lb sled — the best in the world.”

Having competed in the two-man and four-man bobsled events at the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Games, the three-time Olympian’s success in Nagano helped raise the sport’s profile, as well as funding, in Canada.

As a way to honour his contribution to the sport, MacEachern was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2011. Prior to this recognition of his achievements, he was inducted in the P.E.I. Spots Hall of Fame in 2004.

Along with his historical Olympic win, MacEachern received a silver medal in the two-man bobsleigh event at the 1996 World Championships, and has earned 28 World Cup medals and five World Cup titles throughout his career.

Since his days of competition, MacEachern has been busy building his business, Dynamic Fitness Inc., which delivers sport-specific physical conditioning programs. 

He has been a professional strength coach for many athletes, including NHL players Brad Richards and Adam McQuaid and three-time Olympic sprinter, Jared Connaughton.

Along with the fitness aspect of his life after competition, MacEachern is a motivational speaker and a television commentator on bobsled and skeleton, having spent over a decade with CBC covering Olympic and World Cup competitions.

MacEachern lives in Charlottetown with his wife, Triona Harrop. The couple has three children.

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