OTTAWA — Four months after she pushed Kaillie Humphries to bobsled bronze at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Phylicia George has rebuilt her body into a lean sprinting machine.
George will race the 100 and 200 metres at this week’s Canadian track and field championships, and sitting trackside on Thursday, she was noticeably leaner than the well-muscled woman who stood on the bobsled medal podium in South Korea.
The metamorphosis back to track athlete, she said, took a bit longer than expected.
“The transition hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be, if I’m being 100 per cent honest,” George said. “First, losing the weight. I’m probably only now where I should be. Also because you put muscle on, you don’t just drop muscle out of nowhere. So, that was hard.”
George is a two-time summer Olympian in the 100-metre hurdles — she was sixth in 2012 and eighth in 2016. When Humphries came calling for a bobsled brakeman, George had to bulk up. A two-man bobsled, including crew, weighs 750 pounds after all.
George had to put on 10 pounds, and added an inch of muscle to each thigh, five inches around her hips, and three inches on her biceps.
To push a rumbling bobsled, she also had to learn to run lower, with more contact with the ground. Think of a linebacker pushing a tackling sled.
“When I first got out there I was kind of just running like a track athlete,” George said. “And then when I came back to the track, i was running like a bobsleigh athlete, I had spent so much time on the ground.
“So it’s just kind of been getting back my reactivity off the ground, shorter ground contact times.”
While George has shed the extra inches from bobsled, she hasn’t lost her strength, and said by later this month or next month it will show on the track.
“I’m definitely stronger, I’m still lifting as heavy in the weight room with a smaller body mass, so I think it’s just rewiring a little bit and once that happens, we’ll kind of see it all together,” she said.
Humphries, who won gold with Heather Moyse at both the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, has told George she’d love to have her back in her sled for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
“I think it would be fun,” George said. “But these next two years are going to be dedicated to track, so world championships (2019) and Tokyo Olympics (2020). I just feel like I have unfinished business on the track. I think it would be really cool to win a medal to add to my winter medal, so that’s going to be the focus.”
Track and field athletes often cross over to bobsled, and the Canadian men’s team in Pyeongchang included former sprinters Bryan Barnett, Neville Wright, and Seyi Smith.