At least one of her teammates has dubbed her “the Batman of the Olympics,” although Batwoman would be the proper call. She dons her outfit, shows up out of nowhere and clobbers the competition. The only things missing are the cape and cowl.
“Are you some sort of super heroine?” Heather Moyse is asked.
“People call me bionic. They call me a freak,” she answered happily. “Coaches do that all the time.”
It is understandable why people would say such wonderfully nasty things about Moyse. She is, after all, a world-class rugby player, a competitive cyclist and the power that propelled bobsled pilot Kaillie Humphries to an Olympic gold medal three years ago.
Moyse not only wants to win this weekend’s opening World Cup bobsleigh and skeleton races at Canada Olympic Park (The Globe and Mail is an event sponsor), she and Humphries want to keep on winning until they reach the podium in Sochi, Russia – perhaps for a back-to-back, gold-medal showing that would be the first in the history of women’s bobsleigh.
But just returning to the sport at this level has tested the limits of Moyse’s freakish powers and left her teammates and coaches marvelling.
Moyse had to requalify to make the national team. She had to do it five weeks after helping Canada win a silver medal at the 2013 women’s rugby World Cup sevens tournament. Her task was to push a bobsled to the first timed interval inside Calgary’s Ice House and do it in no more than 5.65 seconds.
She hadn’t been in the Ice House in four years. She hadn’t pushed a sled in 21/2 years. She was still recovering from hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. She is 35.
Her first qualifying push clocked in at 5.50, her best time ever. Teammates were stunned. National team head coach Tom De La Hunty said: “She blew the doors off the testing standards.” He summed up her display as “the enigma that is Heather Moyse.”
“I have to tell you what happened [earlier this week],” De La Hunty added. “Heather pushed a 5.47 in the Ice House before going onto the track. That was her warm-up. One of her teammates, who shall remain nameless, said, ‘I hate you.’”
There are other playful taunts directed at Moyse. Her favourite is, “Oh, are you off to the gym not to work out?”
Moyse, of course, does spend time in the gym, does lift weights and does break a sweat, at least occasionally. She may not know why she is able to do the things she does, but she knows how crucial it was to have had surgery last November for an injury that may have first occurred while she played soccer at the University of Waterloo.
“I had some other issues,” Moyse said of her procedure. “Hip sockets open to the front. My [right] hip socket was rotated and opened slightly backward. The surgeon shaved off some of the hip socket and it allowed the hip to have a bigger range of motion. … I wanted to do both bobsledding and rugby and my trainer, Matt Nichol, said: ‘If anyone can do it, you can.’ I was like, ‘Done.’
“I thrive on challenges.”
There will be challenges enough in the months ahead. After Calgary, the bobsleigh and skeleton racers head to Park City, Utah, followed by Lake Placid, N.Y. There is a lot of training to be done in between and De La Hunty and his assistant coaches are bringing two extra sliders along to allow Moyse to take the rest she needs.
“Give us four, five more Heather Moyses and we’ll rule the world,” De La Hunty said, “although we’re pretty much doing that already.”
Indeed they are. Canada’s female bobsledders also won a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics, while Humphries took the 2012 and 2013 world titles without Moyse in her sled.
With the rugby star/cyclist/Olympic champ aboard, the Moyse-Humphries duo might be the closest thing to unstoppable – which begs the question: Is there anything Moyse can’t do? Bull riding? NASCAR racing? Ultramarathons?
“I was going to say cooking,” she replied.