Aussies compete in NorAm Cup
From the Land Down Under to the mountaintops of Park City, the Australian Bobsled Team had a long way to travel for Thursday’s bobsled competition at the Utah Olympic Park.
And, with little-to-no financial support from their home country, the journey for the Aussie athletes was even tougher.
But, when all was said and done, some good results were turned in by 2014 Olympian Heath Spence and his Australian teammates. Spence piloted his bobsled to a fourth-place finish with brakeman Lachlan Reidy, while Lucas Mata piloted his sled to sixth with brakeman Gareth Nichols.
Though they finished just off the podium, Spence said he saw a lot of positives on Thursday as well.
"[The results] were probably pretty representative of how we started," he said. "Rookie brakeman, not a great offseason of training — I’m pretty happy with fourth. I’d like to win, but given the disadvantages we gave ourselves at the start and our equipment, it’s pretty good."
Spence said he always enjoys competing in Park City, where his career was launched.
"This is where I learned how to drive," he said. "I did the first Park City bob school back in October 2009. Then I did the driving school and then went back as a brakeman and then came back and did the school again in 2010 and competed all the way up to the Sochi Olympics and now we’re back again. So yeah, we’ve been coming here at least once a year for the last five years."
But, with the tough travel and money issues facing them, one might wonder why Spence continues to compete.
"For the speed and the love and thrill of the sport," he said. "The local guys at the tracks know who we are and they help us out a lot. If they weren’t here and didn’t remember us and tell us, ‘Hey, we’re cheering for you guys,’ it would be really, really hard."
When the four-man competitions start on Saturday morning, Spence and his crew will be taking their first steps toward the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"When it comes to the four-man, it’ll be our first race of the season, so it’ll be a very, very green crew," he said. "Any result is going to be a good result. It’s going to be a learning experience for them, working in a competition sort of environment. Lucas, who was my brakeman in the 2014 Olympic in Sochi, he’s learning how to drive now, so the goal will be two two-mans and two four-mans in 2018 in Pyeongchang."
Check out the Australian bobsledders on Saturday and Sunday for the four-man competitions. Both days’ events begin at 10 a.m. at the Utah Olympic Park.
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The event raised nearly $9,400 to support local charities involved with cancer and cancer research