The winter Olympics are the farthest thing from one’s mind in the middle of a hot Okanagan summer. That is unless you spot Justin Kripps on the streets of downtown Summerland.
The two-time Canadian Olympic bobsledder, who grew up in Summerland has been home visiting friends and family.
Although he continues to train locally five days a week while he is here, it is a relaxing time for him.
“It’s one of my favourite things about the summer, coming here for at least a couple of weeks,” said Kripps. “I’m really thankful to be from such a supportive community of great people. I always get lots of congratulations when I come back. People stop me on the street and ask me how I’m doing and talk about the season.”
Kripps speaks of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as a good experience.
“We had some success and some problems, but for me at that point in my career as a driver, the goal of the season was to qualify for the Olympics,” he said. “My goal was to come inside the top ten if I qualified. That would have been an achievement in itself.”
Once he got to the Olympics and started to do really well, his goals changed.
“I took the approach that rather than be safe and come inside the top ten, we should just risk everything and go for the medals, so that is what we did,” Kripps explained. “It was obviously a long shot but I’m happy we did it.”
Unfortunately this decision resulted in a crash. Thankfully no one on the team was seriously injured.
“As far as crashes go it was pretty run of the mill,” Kripps said. “Where it gets hard for a pilot is where you need to drive less, because every steer you make slows the sled down a little bit,” he explained. “You’re sort of on the edge of being in control and being in danger all the time, because that is how you go fast. We call it letting the sled run. Controlling it the least you can without crashing. You have to be on the edge to be fast and to win medals.”
After the crash the team did another run, starting off with a massive disadvantage. They didn’t have much of a chance of getting anything other than last place.
“We came down in 10th place on that run,” Kripps said. “That is a testament to the crew still being able to push well and me being able to drive the track fast.”
Kripps is looking forward to doing a summer road race in Germany in the middle of August.
“I’ve never actually driven a summer race bobsleigh before, so it’s going to be different,” he said. “It’s the first time they have invited a North American Pilot to the competition, so it’s a bit of an honour.”
He explained that this race will be on pavement. Rather than steel runners on the bottom of the sled, that run on ice, there are a series of thick rubber wheels that look like a giant rollerblade. Speeds of more than 100 kilometres an hour are still reached with bumpers lining the course to prevent a crash into the crowds.
“I’ll take a few practise runs and then take the same attitude as in the Olympics…I’ll just go in and try and run the thing and see what happens.”
Kripps has been training since May and is looking forward to the upcoming World Cup Season. The circuit will take him to tracks in Calgary, Lake Placid, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and Russia.
“We want to come out hard and establish ourselves as a podium team the next couple of years, so we have a lot of momentum and the experience of winning when we go into the next Olympics in 2018 in South Korea,” Kripps concluded.
Kripps lives and trains in Calgary during the racing season and calls Vancouver home during the off season, but for now he’s soaking up the sunshine and enjoying his home town visit.