By Michael Sun
Seyi Smith’s bobsleigh career only began a few months ago at the WinSport training facility in Calgary.
The Olympic sprinter-turned-bobsledder had been training around other Olympic athletes to stay in shape after retiring from track two years ago.
“The consistency from being around other athletes sort of brought me back into it,” he said. “Had I been going to Goodlife Fitness [or regular gyms], I probably wouldn’t have come back.”
“When I retired from track a couple of years ago, I didn’t think about it right away, but this year, I was just approached, and I said, ok, I’ll give it a shot, see what happens,” he recalled.
Smith will now represent Canada at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with an eye on gold after winning a silver medal at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup in Innsbruck, Austria, in December as part of Justin Kripps’ four-man sled.
For Smith, the transition to bobsledding “wasn’t too, too steep” because of his experience working with Quin Sekulich, his strength and conditioning coach in bobsledding and his track coach.
Smith is a brakeman and the last person to get in the bobsled.
“My job…is just trying to maintain a good velocity because I bring top end [speed] to it,” Smith said. “The best thing I can do is use my speed so when we hop in, we’re moving as fast as we can.”
Smith reflected on the ups and downs of his track career – the biggest moment being when the 4×100 metre relay team in 2012 Olympics won bronze but were disqualified with minutes because of a lane violation.
“It was happiness…finally, ‘we’ve done what we wanted to do,” he said of the moment.
“And all those injuries and stress fractures and missed teams and the money spent, it was all worth it because we’re going to be Olympic bronze medallists for life in the fastest race of all time.”
“It was pure elation up until we saw we got DQed up on the screen and then it went sideways pretty quick.”
Smith put the heartbreak into words: “When you’re disqualified, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, what the hell, why can’t we just catch a break’.”
“You go from pure elation to, not disbelief, but kind of a despair that no matter how much you get everything perfect, sometimes it still isn’t enough to achieve your goals and that’s a difficult thing to wrap your head around.”
Smith stills reflects on the moment today and what could have been. “There’s still days…
I wake up and I say to myself that I could have been an Olympic medallist,” he said.
“When you’re an Olympic medallist, you’re an Olympic medallist for life.”
“We know, there will be a time when all that will be forgotten because there’s nothing to remember, nothing to hold on to.”
However, that DQ from 2012 – along with “intrinsic motivation” – made him more motivated than before to comeback from injuries and disappointments.
“Any injury I’ve had after 2012 is needed to keep myself motivated because I remember what it felt like to keep myself motivated and that feeling is enough motivation to do anything that will get you back there.”
Despite all the close calls, including multiple stress fractures in 2013, Smith noted, “something inside of me kept me going.”
Smith said he takes that learning experience and attention to detail into his bobsled training.
“I’ve been learning every day,” he noted. “Every day I learn something new. Whether it’s holding my hands a certain way or learning how to survive a crash.”
He also pointed out the difference between the two sports.
“I think people don’t appreciate how it’s a different style of running. It’s not just track and field behind a sled,” he said. “There’s specific technical cues that you need to think about in bobsledding that you don’t need to worry about in track and it’s not an easy crossover.”
However, any bobsledding medals or glory won’t fully make up for the pain and agony of losing that bronze medal in London.
“It might soothe. It might act as a balm for the lack of burn I feel from athletics but I wouldn’t call it redemption but I’m sure it will help a little bit, but not enough.”
Fri., Feb. 23 4-man bobsled Heat 1 & 2 7:30 p.m. ET
Sat., Feb. 24 4-man bobsled Heat 3 & 4 7:30 p.m. ET