- Published on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 18:27 26 March 2013
- Written by Ian Esplen Ian Esplen
Chelsea Valois pairs up with Olympic champion for memorable rookie season
Saskatchewan is typically known for two things: flat, open plains of wheat fields and the province’s beloved Roughriders. But, after her strong first season on the World Cup circuit, Chelsea Valois may be adding bobsleigh to that list.
The former University of Regina track star is from the small prairie town of Zenon Park, Sask., with a population of roughly 190. She decided to try out for the sport this past summer to see if bobsleigh might be for her.
A former university track teammate, who was recruited by Bobsleigh Canada a few years earlier, perked Valois’ interest in the sport. Once she recorded good results at a local push camp, the coaches talked her into coming to Calgary for the national team tryouts.
"I told myself going into camp that no matter what, I still had a year of school left and I was going to finish school," Valois said.
A change of plans
But after her impressive performance at the camp, her plan went out the window and Valois headed to Calgary with one goal — to make it onto Olympic and world champion Kaillie Humphries’ team.
That eventually happened. But the duo’s first trip together down bobsleigh track would not go as well as the rest of their season.
"My teammates all told me that I probably wouldn’t like it. But I didn’t really listen to all of the negative things they were saying. I was like, I’m sure I can put up with it. I’m from a farm and I’ve been through a lot,” said the chuckling Valois, while recounting her horrible first run.
Aside from her head being rattled off the side of the sled repeatedly, all Valois remembers from that run was thinking that she had already dropped out of classes and quit her job.
Coming together as a team
After getting her first crash out of the way in Whistler during training a few weeks later, Humphries and Valois would set off on a record setting run. They won the first five races of the World Cup season and eight of the 11 races they would compete in— including winning the Canadian and world titles.
Humphries, who has been around the sport for about a decade, said her new teammate has a lot of potential in bobsleigh and thinks Valois' personality compliments her own extremely well.
“She allows me to focus because I’ve got confidence in her and I know that she’s going do her job well," said Humphries, the reigning Olympic and world champion in bobsleigh.
"She’s really quiet, pretty reserved and mellow, but once she opens up she has some pretty witty things to say," she added.
Humphries also said that Valois' season is probably the best first season that any athlete from any country has ever had in the sport of bobsleigh. However, Bobsleigh Canada speed and strength coach Quin Sekulich isn’t as surprised as much because of Valois’ previous success as a track athlete.
A history of athletic excellence
Before bobsleigh, Valois was a successful pentathlete, winning the 2011 Canadian Interuniversity Sport gold medal in that event, while at the University of Regina. She also won the schools President's Award – which goes to the student athlete that best combines excellence in sport with academic excellence.
“When she came into the camp, she put up push numbers that were better then the girls that we had in the program already. So right away she was the number one girl,” Sekulich said.Sekulich noted that bobsleigh is a sport that track and field athletes typically excel at because the training for both sports is similar.
He went on add that Valois’ success was somewhat predictable when you combine someone that can push as well as her with a pilot like Humphries.
Because of her success this season, the small community of Zenon Park has added a new feature to their roadside: a sign that reads “Home of bobsleigh world champion Chelsea Valois.”
And if all goes well next year, they will need to update the sign to say Olympic champion.