There were several similarities between football and bobsled that drew former CFL running back Jesse Lumsden to the ice from the gridiron.
For one, he still gets to crank the intensity to the max.
“I push pretty angry. I ran pretty angry too though, but I have fun doing it,” Lumsden said. “It’s kind of an oxymoron but I don’t know, it makes sense to me. I’m grinding teeth and snorting and foaming at the mouth when I’m pushing.
“Like when I had the opportunity to hit somebody in front of me, I loved it. I loved that feeling of catching somebody on their heels and just going straight through them.”
Lumsden spent parts of six seasons in the Canadian Football League before retiring in 2011 after a few injury-plagued campaigns. His transition to the winter sports scene has been a smooth one.
The 6-foot-2, 223-pound brakeman from Burlington, Ont., first gave bobsled a try in 2009. He had aspirations of becoming a pilot but coaches told him his skills were best suited for the back of the sled.
He took the news in stride and soon became one of the sport’s elite pushers. Lumsden qualified for the 2010 Olympic team in the two-man and four-man sleds, finishing fifth in both events.
The 31-year-old Calgary resident has blossomed over the last few seasons, winning silver at the world championship last year and taking the World Cup title last season with pilot Lyndon Rush of Humboldt, Sask.
The strong Canadian team tinkered with its lineup this season, with Lumsden now in the two-man sled with Calgary’s Chris Spring. They won bronze at the season opener last month in Calgary and nearly reached the podium in the four-man event as well with a fourth-place result.
With the season approaching the halfway point, Lumsden and Spring are third overall in the standings.
“We’re on the right path of where we need to be going,” Lumsden said Thursday at a promotional event at a downtown mall. “Obviously the end of the road is Sochi and things are progressing nicely.”
The camaraderie that Lumsden experienced during his football days is much the same on the bobsled team. There is a great chemistry on the squad and a real sense of unity.
Lumsden and Spring have been teaming with Ottawa’s Cody Sorensen and Saskatoon’s Ben Coakwell in the four-man sled. The other two-man sleds include Rush with Calgary’s Lascelles Brown and the duo of Edmonton’s Bryan Barnett and Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C.
The women’s team is led by the powerhouse pairing of reigning Olympic champions Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., and Kaillie Humphries of Calgary, who won gold at the season opener.
Spring was born in Australia and became a Canadian citizen earlier this year. The third-place result at Canada Olympic Park was significant because it was his first World Cup medal with Lumsden.
“He’s athletic so he contributes on the push as well,” Lumsden said of his teammate. “He just has a presence about him that’s very positive. It’s confidence. It’s not a cockiness but it’s a solid confidence that makes you feel good.”
Lumsden spent seven hours a day training in the off-season and has the chiselled physique to prove it. He generates his explosiveness from a rock-solid lower body and blasts out of the start area with a vengeance.
He showed off that power last month in Calgary when he won the WinSport World Push Challenge to kick off the new season.
Lumsden was formally named to the Olympic team this week. He learned a lot from the Vancouver experience but didn’t feel a lot of pressure because he was so green.
Things will be different when the Sochi Games begin Feb. 7. Lumsden is confident that he’ll be ready.
“There’s more on the line this time around because I have invested my four years into it,” he said. “This is my passion. This is what I love to do.”