Sometimes you have all the talent to succeed, but you just need to find the right vehicle. For Melissa Lotholz, it was a bobsled.
This Saturday, Lotholz will find herself racing down the ice track at the Alpensia Sliding Centre that will host Olympic competition in less than a year.
But while the 24-year-old is pushing at the PyeongChang 2018 test event, other athletes her age will be participating in the next stop of the RBC Training Ground in Grande Prairie, Alberta as they try to find the sport that’s the right fit for them.
The brakeman, who just won her second consecutive world championship silver medal with Kaillie Humphries, is a recent convert to bobsleigh, having been scouted from the University of Alberta’s track team in 2013. Despite her quick success, the experience hasn’t been without obstacles.
“For me, the biggest challenge wasn’t the transition from sprinting to bobsleigh, but everything else that goes into being a high-performance athlete,” Lotholz told Olympic.ca. “I was a mediocre track athlete, and suddenly I found myself in the back of Kaillie’s – a two-time Olympic champion – sled. It was intimidating! I had a lot to learn in terms of what it took to compete with the best and what it was like to live on the road for months at a time. There’s a huge difference between being a student-athlete and being a high-performance athlete.”
That’s something that athletes identified through RBC Training Ground will soon find out. One might be Avalon Wasteneys, a 19-year-old rower from Campbell River, BC, who came out on top of the first Regional Final of 2017 in Vancouver. The University of Victoria student, who started out as a cross-country skier, transitioned to rowing in the summer of 2015 and now has the attention of Rowing Canada.
At every RBC Training Ground event, there are numerous coaches and recruitment coordinators from 11 different national sport federations looking for the next big talent. Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton recruitment coordinator Esther Dalle is grateful to see the next generation talent.
“These types of recruitment camps are critical to the future of bobsleigh and skeleton,” says Dalle. “I find that RBC Training Ground really helps fill a huge gap in the sports community right now. And that’s the lower pre-next gen level where there is no support.”
In its second year, RBC Training Ground aims to find this next generation of Olympic athletes in Canada. Each participant, age 14-25, competes in a series of tests, from the 40m sprint to the vertical jump test, to measure athletic ability. A winner from each of the five regions (British Columbia, Alberta, Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec) is chosen based on their results. These winners will then take their talent to become Olympic hopefuls.
“At Training Ground specifically we’re really looking for next gen athletes. So these are athletes who are potential Olympians for 2022 or 2026,” added Dalle.
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Two weeks of training down and less than one week to go till the first #WorldCup race on the new @pyeongchang2018 Olympic track! 🏁🏁 #bobsleigh #bobsled #bobtour #WorldCup #racing #pyeongchang #pyeongchang2018 #RoadToPyeongchang #Olympic #TestEvent @kailliehumphries @bobsleighcanskeleton @athletesofbobsleighcanada @IBSFsliding @teamcanada
Looking to become an Olympian herself in 2018, Lotholz offered this advice to the young athletes competing at the upcoming RBC Training Ground events.
“You never know what’s gonna happen until you give it a try! Go out and take a risk. There are lot of things out of your control in life, but if you put in what you’re capable of and take a risk, one way or another it’ll be worth it.”
After Alberta, the RBC Training Ground tour expects to reach the Atlantic region next, followed by Quebec and Ontario later this year. For a full schedule, click here.