Tony Care - Saturday Feb. 15, 2014 17:19 ET

Canadian men's bobsled teams peaking at right time

Brakeman Jesse Lumsden tells fans not to panic

Jesse Lumsden on track in bobsled
Canadian brakeman Jesse Lumsden, left, and pilot Chris Spring expect to challenge for an Olympic podium spot in both bobsled events. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

When the bobsled season began in Calgary in late November, high expectations were placed on the Canadian men’s teams.

After all, Canada appeared loaded heading into the Olympic year, with pilots Lyndon Rush and Chris Spring, and brakemen Lascelles Brown and Jesse Lumsden.

But prior to the final World Cup event in Konigssee, Germany. in late January, Canada’s men produced only one podium finish — a bronze medal by Spring and Lumsden in the opening race in Calgary.

The drought, mercifully, ended in Konigssee, where Canada reached the podium three times.

Pilot Justin Kripps, of Summerland, B.C., and Edmonton brakeman Bryan Barnett won their first career World Cup race. In that same event, Rush and Brown finished third.

Rush took that momentum into the four-man competition and earned another bronze with Brown (Calgary), David Bissett (Edmonton) and Neville Wright (Edmonton).

Still, the three Canadian teams were expecting better results than four medals earned this season.

So what was Lumsden’s message to fans worried about the lack of success heading into Sochi?

“Don’t panic,” Lumsden, who is set to compete in the two-man competition with Spring on Sunday morning (11:15 a.m. ET), told CBC Olympics. “It’s not about panicking but it is about gathering information and making sure that the racing and the quality that you’re putting out there is going to get you ready for the Games."

Lumsden believes winning Olympic medals doesn’t necessarily stem from dominating the World Cup year.

“The season’s important but it’s all about peaking at the right time.”

Canada in good shape

To that end Canada seems to be in good shape. Aside from the two medals won by Rush on the final World Cup weekend, the Humbolt, Sask., pilot also had a fourth-place finish in the two-man event on Jan. 11 in Igls, Switzerland, missing the podium by only 0.07 seconds.

Despite their lone World Cup medal, Spring and Lumsden have been consistently pushing the world's top nations, and Kripps had a fifth-place showing one week before his landmark victory.

“I think we’re on the right path,” said Lumdsen. “With Chris in our two-man and four-man [teams] we had three other top-six finishes [in North America]. In Lake Placid [N.Y.] we were in fourth and out of a bronze by a hundredth of a second, so we’re going in the right direction.

“We just have to make sure we stay that way in Sochi. It’s important to us as the crew to make sure that we’re pushing in top form all the time and that we’re taking care of Chris. That will allow him to just navigate the track without worry or care that the rest of it is not taken care of.”

The men’s field is as deep as Lumsden can recall. 

American Steven Holcomb dominated the earlier part of the season by winning seven straight races — four in two-man and three in four-man. Once the bobsledders converged to Europe, however, several nations caught up to Holcomb.

Overall, there were 10 different teams which claimed World Cup podium finishes in the four-man competitions, and nine in the two-man events.

That’s good news for the Canadian men, who are counting on their late-season surge to carry over into Sochi.

“If you’re in the top-eleven sleds in the world then you’re challenging for an Olympic medal because that’s the rotation that we’ve seen so far this season,” said Lumdsden. “So yes, we can challenge for a medal.”

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