It is almost surreal to look back at what I accomplished knowing how incredibly difficult it was and how much I changed and the sport changed. When I first began competing internationally in Skeleton the national team was comprised of those people who were willing to pay their own way. If you had 6 or 7 thousand to fund the trip, off you went – three guys stuffed into a Volkswagen Rabbit, making connections and friends along the way to learn where the cheapest pensions were, and spending every spare penny on extra training runs. With our inclusion into the Olympic Games everything changed, both for the good and the bad. Teams got a lot more support from their countries and one or two coaches became the norm along with physio, massage, chiropractic care, on track video and review, and team managers. Unfortunately, this also saw the end of a lot of the inter-nation co-operation. In the beginning we all traveled and worked together because we had to survive and learn together. Some of my closest friends from the sport come out of those days of travelling with the Brits and Americans eating hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while sleeping on beds you wouldn’t wish on your dog. Today the time requirements of the sport and the technology within Skeleton have evolved so far I would simply not have been able to keep up without all of the funding partners like OTP, the COC, Sport Canada, Can Fund, B2Ten, the Canadian Government, and Bobsled Canada Skeleton.
I was probably the first person to come into the sport in Canada to say “I’m here for a reason – I want this sport to go Olympic and I want to be in position to go when it does.” In my first World Cup I finished 33rd with 2 black eyes in Altenberg, germany but I did beat about 20 guys! Somewhere along the way I installed myself as a permanent fixture in the top 10 and then the top 6 and I have stayed there ever since, even setting the track record in altenberg just a few years ago. It has been such an honor to slide against the incredible men from around the world and Canada. If it were not for the friends and the people I met, I likely would not have stayed in the sport so long. Thank-you to all of you for allowing me to test myself against you for so long, I am honored by your dedication and passion for our sport.
When I first began, Canadian Skeleton was in its infancy, but it did have the beginnings of a culture of excellence and winning thanks to Ryan Davenport. He was my bench mark for so long and he helped me by being so good and giving me a level of excellence to chase. I will never forget the first time I beat him in St. Morritz at the World championships. As I am sure there are many sliders here who remember the first time they beat me.
I know that I am a part of that continuing belief and expectation in Canada that we can and do win World cups, World Championships, and Olympic medals. We do it because we have proven it can be done and we believe it not only can be done, but will be done. It is now up to others to lead this team into its future and chase the best in the world.
Even though I was injured before the games and did not win the gold or any medal it is important that Canada still took home the gold and I can take a small bit of solace in the fact that I had a part in that happening. Jon, Mike, and I pushed each other hard over the years and this constant need to improve created the environment to make the medal happen for Canada.
To my sponsors, I cannot thank-you enough. Tiverton, AON, Totalline Transport, Encana, and Athena Resources – thank-you for believing in me and giving me an opportunity to pursue my Gold medal dream. You are leaders in your industries for a reason and Canada needs more people and companies like you to take up the reins of our nation’s athletes.
Maintaining the momentum Canada found at the Olympics in February takes effort, commitment, sacrifice, and support. Take the stress out of an athlete’s life through secure finances and I believe the results we see will be beyond what we can imagine. So much of the resources today are allocated to the technology, the travel, the medical, and so little of it is allocated to the athletes directly. Who better to know what an athlete needs than the athlete themselves? This is where people like Jane Roos at CanFund make such a huge difference in getting money into the hands of the athletes directly. A special thank-you to Can Fund for the support thru the years.
I was very fortunate to be a member of the B2Ten group and without them the past four years simply would not have been possible. To the past, present, and future donors to B2Ten, thank-you for spearheading a revolution in Canadian sport. Your efforts are so vital to the fabric of our nation. Please keep believing and leading.
The training and coaching teams that I built, and had help building around me, Andy Kupchek, Mike Steen, Damian Moroney, Scott Livingston, Amber Kunimoto, Mark Wood, Willi Schneider, and so many others from long ago thank-you for teaching me and helping me to all of my successes.
To the people who kept my body together and healthy thank-you so much., A special thank-you to Dr, Greg Uchacz at the Chiropractic Sport and Therapy Clinic here in Calgary– his dedication to me as an athlete has spanned over 10 years and there is no way I could have had the results I did without his care and attention.
Keeping my head screwed on tight was no small task and I have Richard Monet to thanks for so much of the learning I have made over my career. As a sport psychologist, mentor, and friend you are unequalled.
To BCS, thanks for putting up with me and providing an environment where excellence can prevail and medals are won.
Thank-you to the FIBT for growing our sport and giving us the venues and opportunities to test ourselves.
No one has sacrificed more than my wife, Aly, and my two kids, Thomas and Kyle, and I know how hard this journey was on you. Thank-you for helping me try. I hope someday we understand why this has all happened and our lives can continue to grow and be rich together.
In this journey thru sport, it became evident to Aly and I that we had a valuable story that needed to be shared. Thank-you to Mary Murphy for helping us write our book “The business of Marriage and Medals”. We hope to have an impact on the state of relationships from the bedroom to the boardroom throughout Canada, the USA, and maybe the world.
Through our book signings and interactions with some of Canada’s military personnel we learned that we have so much in common with the military life. Extended periods of time away, lower economic realities, passionate pursuit of one’s ideals and goals, and representing our nation with pride are but a few of the things we share in common with the military personnel. Aly and I have a place in our hearts for all the relationships out there who are struggling with the realities of life, marriage, and kids. We wrote our book to bring forward a lot of the situations and conversations that we all know we are having, but no one will talk about. We want to do our part to have a positive effect on relationships throughout North America and the maybe the world.”
One of my greatest fears has always been the effect my Skeleton life, and the subsequent travel, will have on my kids’ lives. I was deeply honored to be granted an audience with Mr. Jack Nicklaus last summer and I spent two hours talking with him about the intricacies of family and competition. I put this concern forward to Jack and he told me that as long as they always know I am there for them and will be there for them that it will all work out OK. Knowing this, from such a successful man both in sport and family was perhaps the greatest gift of learning to come from those two hours. Special thank-yous to Mr. Nicklaus and his amazing staff who in conjunction with Chris Dornan arranged this meeting.
The question now is always “now what Jeff?” I am looking at short term and long term options with a few rising to the top and catching my attention. Where ever I end I up, Skeleton has taught me that I now have a strong desire to build a world class team where my results are completely interdependent on the results of my team. I am less and less interested in individual pursuits. I have the skills to present, be in front of people, think creatively, do world class performance analysis, and I know how to win. As well, Aly and I will be speaking to sports groups, families, corporations, and the military about relationships and how we made it through very trying times.
Finally, although it is impossible to adequately thank everyone for the gifts they brought me, I would like to extend a thank-you to all of Canada for the support and love throughout the years. Canada is the greatest country in the world with the greatest people. Thanks for the honor of letting me help prove it to the world.