Top Canadian bobsleigh men look beyond CFL to fund Olympic dreams
Sam Giguere, Jean-Nicholas Carriere and Jesse Lumsden have unique drive
As I continue my journey to help athletes on their way to Sochi come up with some funds to support their dreams, my next stop is bobsleigh. It’s been well documented how many CFL players are moving to the sport. Despite being professional athletes, they still need financial support to fund their Olympic careers.
Sam Giguere is one of the only athletes still trying to balance both the CFL schedule and his dream of becoming an Olympian. Currently a wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Giguere also played in the NFL for the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts. He's a driven athlete who has also pursued an accounting degree at Sherbrooke University.
His next goal is becoming a brakeman for Canada at the Sochi Olympics.
Bobsleigh and the CFL have similar training seasons, thus the training for bobsleigh is difficult when dealing with weekly CFL prep, and overall body maintenance that in a football season usually involves injuries. However, in August when Giguere’s teammates got a break during the bye week he flew to Calgary to train with other athletes at the Ice House.
After a missed CFL season in 2011 due to injuries, Giguere sent a letter to Bobsleigh Canada letting them know his interest, and also stating his sprint times and excellence in squat cleans. He was invited to a week-long camp where he had made quite the impression.
At this time, Giguere is unsure if he’ll even make the Olympic team, but that hasn’t stopped him from the grind that is being a two-sport athlete. In fact, sometimes bobsleigh helps take his mind off football when things maybe aren’t going the best, and vice versa. But what really keeps Giguere focussed on the mental and physical grind is the inspiration he gets from family.
His wife Rose and daughter Lily-Rose are what keeps him grounded and focussed on becoming an Olympian. Growing up he loved watching bobsleigh at the Olympics and always wondered what it would be like to go down the track.
For now, the inspiration that his daughter just might see her dad become an Olympian and then possibly go on to be one herself is worth the sacrifices.
Jean-Nicholas Carriere, or “Nick” as he is called, wasn’t as fortunate as Giguere to continue his CFL football career.
A shoulder injury after just two seasons forced Carriere to retire. Carriere, who grew up just outside of Ottawa in Rockland, Ont., was often put on a pedestal. He was the hometown football star, an identity that his community identified him with, and now that he looks back, the only identity he knew.
In March of 2011, Carriere was at the lowest of the low. While working at a bank as a collection agent he was deeply depressed, wondering if he would ever get that feeling back that being an athlete gives a person. The competitiveness was gone and he didn’t fit into the world of not having big goals. “My job and my life were killing my soul,” noted Carriere.
He was in the process of starting a new Cross Fit gym when he bumped into Craig Taylor at the Ottawa Lions track club. Next thing he knew, he was sending his resume, much like Giguere to Bobsleigh Canada.
Just a year later after being at the lowest point in his life, he was in Calgary training and made Canada’s world championship team. He put on 25 pounds in 6 months, but at the same time maintained his speed. The increase in weight helps to keep the sled weight to a minimum so the athletes don’t have to push as much. It was essential for his pursuit of excellence in bobsleigh.
Bobsleigh brought the business out of sport. For the first time in a long time, Carriere felt he was doing something for himself. He also felt this overwhelming feeling of contribution and that he was having a positive influence on his life.
His inspiration is his mom Louise Carriere, who always forced him to get an education even when he was on his way to becoming a football star. Hence, he has his degree at McGill University. Louise was the first person Nick told that he was going to try and go to the Olympics. Her answer was a quick “Yep that makes sense!”
Without hesitation she saw where he had been emotionally and she was confident in his work ethic. Those four words uttered by his mom in an instant motivated him even more to medal in Sochi.
Jesse Lumsden is probably the most recognizable name of the three in our country. The running back dominated when healthy in the CFL, and followed in the giant footsteps of his father Neil, who won three Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Amazingly, it was a trip he took with his father in 1988 to the Calgary Olympics that would inspire Jesse the most, and not necessarily just his famous father’s football career. Sitting on his dad’s shoulder at those Games he remembers two things: the pin trading booth which is always a big hit at any Olympics, and the bobsleigh events.
After another injury in 2010, the Calgary Stampeders still wanted Lumsden back. He had a conversation with Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel that was candid and honest, but the decision was to leave the game and become an Olympian. Lumsden realized that he loved football, but was more passionate about representing his country.
During his tenure with the Stampeders he also became a developmental pilot in bobsleigh. He competed in 2010 Olympics with Pierre Lueders, but there were no medals, so he plans to be in Sochi as a brakeman on the two-man team, and a crewman on the four-man team.
This time a medal hopefully is in the cards.
Don’t let professional football players fool you. These athletes are still fighting for funds to support their love of sport and country.
Lumsden recently launched a new funding initiative, thanks to his good friend Glen Downs, on a fishing trip. He charges $15 for a Team Canada survival bracelet. It's 10 feet of survival chord, called the “Survive Sochi” bracelet. It takes about 15 minutes to make each one, and Lumsden got the instructions on how to make them from YouTube. His first batch of 70 bracelets was sold in two days thanks to his Twitter handle, and that of Giguere’s. Lumsden is looking for a manufacturer, but until then, he, along with some friends and his girlfriend, retired Olympic bobsleigh silver medalist Helen Upperton, put them together.
To support any of these athletes go to check out Lumsden, Giguere and Carriere's websites:
- Jesse Lumsden: www.jesselumsden28.com
- Sam Giguere: www.samgiguere.com
- Jean-Nicholas Carriere: www.myridetoslide.ca