The last time Lyndon Rush was driving a bobsleigh he nearly conquered the world.
After sweeping the two- and four-man golds at the Canadian championships this past weekend in Calgary, the Sylvan Lake resident has a four-year plan of domination leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics ahead of him.
“I think we can have a good year, I think we can win some races, but I’d like to do it consistently. I’d like to win an overall championship,” said Rush, 30. “I follow motor sports a lot and in motor sports it’s all about the overall championships. Bobsleigh’s a little bit different because everybody get’s geared up for the Olympics and the world championships — so one big race a year. But I feel a little bit more pride in being consistent throughout the year.”
Rush referenced Eckville’s Mellissa Hollingsworth who last year won an overall title and dominated all season but then struggled at the Olympics.
“People on the outside thought she had a bad year (because of the Olympics) but really, if I was her, I would be thrilled with my season,” he said. “A weakness of mine is my consistency. I think it is a real challenge to be good every weekend and to figure out how to do it, that’s my goal.”
Rush was on a gold medal pace in the final run of the two man bobsleigh at the Vancouver Olympics this February, but then crashed on turn 13 of the treacherous Whistler track. In the four-man competition he won the bronze, but was one-one hundredth of a second out of a silver medal.
While double-gold is a nice start to the season, he was just happy to be back in an actual competition.
“It’s fun to get back into the sled, you realize once again that the sport is really fun,” said Rush. “During the summer you work hard on your training, but it’s all weight lifting and running and stuff like that. But when you get to get back in there and do the sport that you love to do, it’s pretty fun to just get in there and give ‘er.”
He also notes they still have a ways to go.
“The Canadian Championships is good to get the competitive juices flowing and to see how good you’re doing. We did OK. Without (Pierre Leuders) around it’s a little different competitions wise with the young guys we are racing against aren’t as experienced, so we were just racing against the clock to see how we could do.
“In the two-man the race went really well. In the four-man we made some mistakes and we’re still working on it. The four-man is a little tougher to get right, it takes more practice because there is more guys involved and it’s not surprising we weren’t perfect right away. But hopefully by the time we get to our first race on the world cup circuit we’ll be polished and ready to rock and roll.”
Rush also faces the new challenge of becoming the face of the Canadian men’s bobsleigh team as the legendary Leuders called it a career this spring. Last season Rush surprised the bobsleigh world when he beat Leuders at the Canadian Championships to take over as the Canada 1 pilot. This year with a rebuilding program he was expected to dominate at Canadians. He’s also expected to expand on the success he had on the world cup tour last year when he won four-man gold in Park City, Utah; four-man bronze in Cesana, Italy; and two-man gold in St. Moritz, Swi.
But he’s not letting that pressure get to him.
“I don’t think it really changes that much,” said Rush. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy having Pierre around for the last few years — he was real good to gauge myself against and aspire to. But it still comes down to just going fast down the track. I don’t feel any pressure or anything like that. I’m still just trying to get my team to be as fast as they can be. It just comes down to hard work. When you’re in the race and you trust your preparation, if you’ve prepared right usually things should fall together and you have a good performance.”
This year Rush will have a little more than usual to monitor in his own sled with a few new faces in the mix.
Powerhouse breakman Lascelles Brown left the team this year opening up a spot for Neville Wright — who was previously part of Leuders’ team — on both the two-man and four-man sleds. Also new to the group is Cody Sorensen who has spent the last three years on the development team, but this season will be his first on the world cup circuit.
“(Cody’s) only 23 or 24. I’m really excited about him because he’s eager and he has a lot of upside,” said Rush. “Neville is going to be filling Lascelles Brown’s shoes. So he’s our stud.”
Rounding out the team was going to be Dave Bissett but an injury has forced him to the sideline for a few months.
Luckily for Rush he was able to talk long time teammate Chris LeBihan back into one more season of storming down tracks all over Europe and North America.
“(LeBihan’s) kinda done a Brett Favre — he retired and then Bissett got injured . . . and so I called up LeBihan and asked him if he would come back out of retirement and he agreed to it, so I got him back. I’m pumped that I was able to get him to come back out because we had a gap there with Dave going down. His wife luckily let him do it.”
Team Rush is leaving for their first stop on the World Cup tour at Whistler this Friday, although the actual race dates are Nov. 22-28. They will then be back in Calgary the first weekend of December for the second World Cup event.