Chances are there will be no second or third opportunity for Lyndon Rush at the Olympics.
The Sylvan Lake bobsled pilot has built his entire career with competing at the Vancouver/Whistler Games as the final destination.
There will be no holding back.
“I go into every race hoping to win,” said Rush. “It’s a tough business racing against the best in the world, but I’ve got a good team, I’ve got good equipment and I have a lot of experience on that track compared to everyone else. I think we have a good shot at winning the gold medal. We’re going to do the best we can do and no regrets.”
Rush, 29, is just entering the prime of his athletic life, but bobsledding for him was never designed to be a long-term career. The dedicated family man has other concerns.
“I knew we had just won the bid for the Vancouver Games when I started bobsleigh, and my wife and I decided that we’d do this bobsled thing until Vancouver and see how it goes and I either make the Games or not. Low and behold, here I am,“ said Rush, who is married to Krysta and has two daughters — Olivia, who’s three years old, and AmeIia, who’s seven months.
“If I was a betting man, I would say I will probably be done this year, but I don’t know for sure. My first priority is to be a husband and a father so it is a challenge. We are gone on the World Cup circuit all winter and away from the family. I love racing, but I really hate how much we’re gone.”
Rush has been in bobsledding a very short time, not taking a trip down a track until after graduating from the University of Saskatchewan in 2003.
But in that short time, he has climbed to the top of the mountain and claimed the title of Canada 1 pilot before this season — bumping the legendary Pierre Leuders to the No. 2 sled.
“You train for years and years for all of the races. The Olympics are a big race, but I don’t think about that I’ve been training to do just this one race,” said Rush. “I train every weekend and the hard work I put in during the summer time, it pays off for you all year long.”
The start for Rush wasn’t very glamorous, however.
Competing on the America’s Cup circuit in the 2004-05 season, lacking in national team funding, he was on his own for transportation from event to event. This meant throwing his two-man bobsled in the back of his dad’s half-ton and driving out to Lake Placid, N.Y., for one competition. On this trip, his regular brake man couldn’t compete, so his brother Nathan had to fill in in a pinch.
Despite four days of practice together in Calgary before they left, they crashed in a training run at Lake Placid and Nathan — being four inches taller than Lyndon — took the worst of it, taking the skin off his shoulder and destroying his older brother Mitch’s motorcycle helmet.
However, the two managed to regroup and put in the best result of any Canadian sled.
The competition helped propel Lyndon onto the Europa Cup circuit the following season and on Jan. 20, 2007, he made his World Cup debut, finishing 22nd in both the two-man and four-man races.
Rush qualified for full-time status on the World Cup circuit in 2007-08 and improved throughout the year picking up a few Top 10 finishes, including eighth in Lake Placid.
Stuck with an aging sled, last year was a struggle for him. He did manage to grab fourth place on the new Olympic course in Whistler, and that gave him fuel to sell people on helping purchase new sleds.
With the help of local businessmen and a group called B2Ten, he purchased a two-man sled for $80,000 and a four-man sled for $100,000. They made an immediate difference.
First Rush earned the Canada 1 designation. Then he went out and won his first four-man World Cup event of the season in Park City, Utah, with Lascelles Brown, Chris Le Bihan and David Bisset in the sled. Later, he grabbed a two-man title in St. Moritz, Switzerland, with Brown as the brakeman.
“The first win in the four-man was a little bit unexpected, because of the start order . . . we didn’t have a very good draw,” said Rush. “I wasn’t expecting to come out and win the first race, I thought we’d have to work our way up a bit, so I didn’t think we had a chance to win. So when we came down and we won that race, it was pretty exciting. It was fun. It was gratifying because a lot of the work had paid off.”
Rush was a natural athlete growing up, playing hockey and football in Saskatoon and then in high school in Humboldt, Sask., but his need for speed predate’s his desire to play sports.
As a kid, he asked his father what was the fastest thing. His dad Jerry told him it was a jet plane, so Lyndon wanted to be a jet pilot.
Now he travels at speeds upwards of 150 km/h while going down an ice track.
“It is just fun. The first time going down, I got to the bottom and I was like ‘Woo! That was really neat, that was like the best go cart ride I’ve ever been on,’” said Rush. I just really enjoy racing and finding the best line and being faster. I just really enjoy the competition of it.”
However, everyone is going close to the same speed and races are often decided by hundredths of a second.
In Rush’s final race of this World Cup season, he finished a disappointing seventh place, even though he was just 16-hundredths of a second behind the first-place sled.
“We could have won the race, but I made some mistakes and I knew where the time went,” said Rush, who finished sixth overall for the World Cup season. “This one corner I knew by the way we came out that we had lost momentum and I knew the time was going to be down. I was pretty surprised with where we still were.”
Rush was recruited into the sport by Matt Hindle, a development co-ordinator for the Canadian national program at the time, after staring at linebacker for the U of S Huskies football team for five years.
Until then, he had never given serious thought of going to the Olympics.
“I’m 29 years old and I’m still playing. I always played every sport growing up, and going to the Olympics is the pinnacle of being an athlete. It’s an honour and I’m looking forward to it,” said Rush. “When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a hockey player and dreamed of playing for Team Canada, but never did I dream of being a bobsledder, that came along as a fluke.”
While Vancouver will likely be his final event, it will be a moment that he hopes lives on forever, especially with his family in attendance.
“They can’t come out and watch me race because it is always so far away,” said Rush. “What I really hope is that it will be fun for them. I really hope that they enjoy it, that it will be a good memory for them. I think it will be neat having your dad in the Olympics.”