Local teen looks to slippery slope as her shot at success

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Bailey Stonham. Photo: Chris Wightman.

By Eden Suh

By 5 a.m. most teens are far from waking up, while others have managed to crack an eye open to check their phones, but for one local high school student, that’s when her training day starts.

These days, 16-year-old Bailey Stonham gets up before dawn to head to the gym. She’s preparing for the upcoming Canadian Luge Championships.

Stonham – who the Ontario Luge Association and Calabogie Luge Club have proudly highlighted as a rapid rising talent – has made it far in her luge career despite only hopping on a sled for the first time two years ago. She was drawn to luge at first when she was skiing at Calabogie.

“I signed up for an hour lesson and then I ended up spending the entire day out there and I picked it up right away and spent the day learning luge. It was almost like extreme tobogganing to me, it was just amazing,” Stonham said, her passion for the sport clear as she remarks her breath-taking first-time experience with luge.

Having previously competed in ski racing, Stonham foresaw an end to her skiing career when she became infatuated with luge, seeing the sport as her next big opportunity.

“I love the adrenaline and speed that you got (from luge), it’s unlike just going down the track,” she said as she compared her experience in both sledding and skiing.

While she eyes the Canadians championships in Whistler in February as her next major competition, Stonham has her heart set on someday making it to the Olympic Games.

In the meantime, progressing towards that goal means that the national development team athlete has to stick to a rigorous training schedule.

Right now, her gym sessions look like a week split between upper body and lower body resistance training.

“I’m just focused on getting stronger and just building up my own volume and being able to get through the tracks,” she said.

Upper body strength is key at the start of a luge run, when an athlete pushes themselves forward to gain momentum, Stonham explained. Once she’s gained speed and is lying on the sled, tension switches to her calves, which is why she has to maintain an overall balanced training regime.

This workout split is not quite the average routine for a 16-year-old. Stonham, however, has been involved in sports since she was a young child, taking no notice to any sore muscles when she first embarked on her sledding.

“When I first started I always had a passion for sports so I’ve always been athletic so I have an athletic body type,” she said, as she noted that its been an advantage in her sporting career.

Before she started competing in luge, the first competitive sport Stonham ever competed in was cheerleading at the age of six. After tearing her Achilles she ended up switching over from cheerleading to skiing because it didn’t put as much pressure on the tendon.

“I just stuck my foot in the boot and I was off down the hill. They weren’t really using your Achilles that much,” she said.

Aside from winter sports, Stonham also participates in obstacle course running. She came in 2nd place in both the 3k and 5k in 2017 in her division in the Obstacle Course Running World Championships.

With all of her sport transitions, Stonham says her parents have been crucial to her development as an athlete.

“They’ve been very supportive whenever I’m at a race or competition, they always pushed me and like, made sure I’m doing my best. They always like helping me achieve my full potential,” Stonham said.

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