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Chris Stewart – Swiss Para Bobsleigh pilot

The 2017/2018 Para Bobsleigh Season is here and we are off to a great start on our continued journey to make Para Bobsleigh an official Paralympic Discipline. After finishing 4th, 7th, 1st and 3rd, Switzerland now shares the 2nd place spot in the World Cup rankings with 402 points. For myself, the only pilot currently starting for Switzerland, it is my second season. This means higher expectations from the competition, but also a great deal to learn and experience, much for the first time.


This season we race in Calgary (CAN), Lake Placid (USA), Igls (AUT), Oberhof (GER), St Moritz and finally in Lillehammer (NOR) for the World Championships.


Calgary and Lake Placid were both new tracks to me, as Igls will also be. There was a lot of anticipation and nerves going into the first week of training and competition in Canada, kicking off on November 19th. It was both intimidating and exciting to slide again after the summer break, and a real homecoming to see all the other athletes, coaches, officials and friends of Para Bobsleigh. We had 15 athletes competing from 7 Nations; Austria, Canada, Great Britain, Latvia, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States.


Calgary is technically not the most challenging track, but it has an infamous Corner, number 8, which can flip you and a slower lower section which can kill your speed and time. In training I was finishing in the top 6, a person goal. We had two races, one on the 23rd and another on the 24th. Race one it rained and we had changing ice conditions, but I managed to complete two very satisfactory runs, the second better than the first, and finished 4th earning a medal (Top 6 in Sliding are recognised). Race two there were two crashes just ahead of me, one quite dramatic which affected everyone in the Start House. With less than ideal concentration, I took a poor line in the Kreisel on my first run placing me in 9th! Fortunately I pulled myself together and nailed the second, moving up to finish in 7th. Finished with Calgary, I was now back in Bobsledding mode and ready for Lake Placid.


Lake Placid in upstate New York, near the Canadian boarder, was host to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games. The track is legendary and is sometimes called "The Beast" due to a high level of technicality, change in speed and a high risk for crashing.


For every pilot it would be there first time sliding in Lake Placid in a Paramonobob and only a few athletes had ever been there. It was to be a test of learning and pure driving. Fortunately for me and for Switzerland I got it from nearly the first run. The coaching was superb and for those who listened, learned and paid especially close attention to the track walks (where we "walk" down inside the track with coaches), the race was yours to win. After nearly every day of training I was sitting in either 1st or 2nd place. Corie Mapp of GB was gaining fast, however, and we had a very tight race on Race Day. After the first run I was sitting in second, Corie first. Only because I absolutely smashed my second run, about as perfect as possible, did I win. My first ever World Cup victory. It was sweet! Day 2, race 2, the excitement got the better of me and I crashed on the super challenging Corner 18 placing myself in 6th after one run. The time was not too bad, however, as I was sliding about 50 meters on two runners before the sled went over. Corie Mapp lead, followed by Lonnie Bissonnette of Canada and Annija Krumina of Latvia (winner of the 2nd Calgary World Cup the week before). Run two was another story. Back in the game I posted the 2nd best time overall and rescued a tie for third place, the Bronze Medal, together with Annija. We all celebrated our victories and our relief to have the North American Tour finished and having done so well.


Next stop, Igls to defend our top three ranking in the World Cup Series.


Chris Stewart


Ausgabe: 12/2017