A generation of young Islanders probably knows as much about the sport of bobsled as they do about basketball or curling.
That’s because they’ve been cheering along with the rest of us for the Island’s most celebrated Olympian – bobsledder Heather Moyse – since 2006 when she made her Olympic debut in Turin, Italy.
Summerside’s super athlete came within a whisker of medaling that year. But in the next two Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, B.C., and then in Sochi, Japan, she teamed up with Kaillie Humphries to win back-to-back gold medals.
For most mortals, climbing to the pinnacle of their sport – twice – would be a fitting end to an outstanding Olympic career.
Not for Heather Moyse.
She’s 39 and in a few days, she’ll be heading to PyeongChang, South Korea to compete in her fourth Olympic Games.
But this time, it’s not just about winning a medal. In fact, she declined an invitation from Humphries early last year to try for a three-peat. What brought her back was something a great deal more altruistic.
“I’m not motivated just to go and win a third Olympic medal,” she said in an interview with The Globe and Mail last fall. “But I’m extremely motivated at the thought of potentially helping someone else win their first.”
That someone is Alysia Rissling, a rookie bobsledder who asked Moyse last summer if she’d consider returning to the team. Her guidance and expertise would be invaluable, Rissling said.
It was an opportunity to empower someone else – something she’s been doing as a motivational speaker and author since the Sochi Olympics.
Moyse was in.
“It’s interesting when the dynamic changes and the goal is you want to be the best you can be, because you want someone else to be the best they can be,” Moyse told the Globe. “That’s a pretty cool feeling.”
I caught one of her motivational talks a few years ago. She passed around her gold medals and offered inspirational stories about her Olympic journey. But I enjoyed most her life lessons about growing up in Summerside. She said her team has always included her family. Without them, she said she couldn’t have accomplished anything. Growing up, she said sports were always fun, and losses were celebrated as well as wins. “We knew we were going to DQ afterwards either way.”
She never forgot that lesson.
In a televised interview this week soon after she was confirmed as a member of Bobsleigh Canada’s team, she said she feels like part of her job is also to remind team members why they’re competing – because they love it, and to have some fun.
As she leaves to represent Canada for the fourth time at the Winter Olympics, she takes along the best wishes of 150,000 souls in her native province.
By just qualifying to get there, she’s already a winner.
But because Moyse thrives off pressure and loves a challenge, returning from South Korea with another medal around her neck is certainly a possibility.
Even if she doesn’t medal, though, she will still have met her own challenge – to empower a new generation of bobsledders and help them achieve their goals.
In her own words, “that’s pretty cool.”
- Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.