Injuries give Jesse Lumsden a leg up on bobsleigh track
Brakeman for Canada 2 sled remains motivated for Olympic success
You could forgive Jesse Lumsden if he's feeling sad or nostalgic these days. After all, it's CFL playoff time and his former team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, are in the mix.
Luckily for him and for Canada’s national bobsleigh team, his second career as brakeman on the Canada 2 has become a full-time gig.
"I’m not going to say that bobsleigh saved my life, but it has given me a chance to pursue my passion for competition outside football," said Lumsden, who is from Burlington, Ont. "Without bobsleigh, I don’t know what I would be doing today."
The son of Neil Lumsden, a fullback who won the Grey Cup three times, Jesse had also seemed destined to be a star football player. He had a brilliant university career at McMaster, followed by his entrance into the CFL.
He even flirted with the NFL, briefly suiting up for the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins. But bad luck and several recurring injuries cut his career short, eventually forcing him to retire in 2011.
Those times were hard.
"During that time, I doubted myself, my abilities both as an athlete and as a football player," he said.
"It took me some time to realize that I was listening to the wrong people. So many people told me 'You can’t play football, you are not good enough, you are too fragile.'
"Then I understood that I had to listen to those who loved me, like my parents and my friends," he said.
'Football hasn't really loved me back'
Lumsden’s inner circle reminded him that it was just a bit of "bad luck" with football. Despite the consoling from loved ones, Lumsden built a shell around himself.
"Since those dark days, it has become harder to get close to me," he said.
Those difficult years were also key for Lumsden’s development as a world-class athlete and person.
"I’ve always trained so hard," he said. "I loved football. I still love it. But football hasn’t really loved me back."
His passion for sport, however, remained. It motivated Lumsden to continue winning at whatever he does.
It helped him get back in shape after repeated injuries. Finally, he agreed to take part in spring bobsleigh test events for the Canadian team in 2009. He ended up making the team for Vancouver, where he finished fifth in both the two-man and four-man bobsleigh events.
"I’ve always envied the Olympic movement, the athletes who represent us all, us Canadians," said Lumsden. "The most important thing that bobsleigh gave me is the chance to represent my country, something that I never thought I could do."
Lumsden's experiences with previous injuries on the football field make him good fit for a sport where high-speed crashes are a major risk.
"I’m not afraid of potential accidents on the run. I’ve lived through that already.
"What I’m afraid of instead, is of not living up to all the efforts I've put in so far. It's the fear of botching what I’ve worked so hard for."