Saskatchewan in Sochi: Zenon Park’s Chelsea Valois to compete in bobsleigh
A fraction of a second means everything to an Olympic bobsled athletes like Chelsea Valois.
The first 50 metres of her run will be the only way for her to accelerate the sled she shares with teammate Jenny Ciochetti. Every turn down the track will only slow them down.
The 26-year-old from Zenon Park is the youngest of six children. While she never anticipated competing at the Olympics in bobsleigh, she always had her sights set on the games.
"It's always been her dream to go to the Olympics so she got her dream," her father Richard said.
A star athlete on the University of Regina track team, Chelsea surprisingly made the jump to bobsleigh in the summer of 2012.
"She went for a tryout there one summer and they really liked her strength and pushing ability so they gave her an offering that if she wanted to come join the bobsled team, she would probably be with Kaillie Humphries on the number 1 team. It took off like that and when they went on their World Cup tour, they done real good. They were on the podium all the time, every race,” Richard said.
"She didn't enjoy her first ride down and she was saying, 'Oh, why did I quit my university for this?' But then after that, they adjusted the sleigh and it was better. She likes everything athletic and anything to do with sports,” her mother Carol said.
Chelsea’s rookie season with the Canadian bobsleigh team this past year turned out to be a phenomenal success. Together with Humphries as her pilot, they won the world championship and overall World Cup titles. They stayed on the podium in their four remaining races and landed a bronze medal on the 2014 Olympic track at the Sanki Sliding Centre.
Humphries will be joining her old teammate Heather Moyse who will be looking to defend their Olympic title from Vancouver 2010.
Richard and Carol admitted they were taken back when Chelsea said wanted to pursue bobsleigh before nearly finishing her actuarial science degree.
"We were kind of surprised. We didn't know anything about bobsledding and stuff like that but then we quickly learned about it. So yeah, we encouraged her to go ahead and try it out,” Richard said.
Although Chelsea’s parents recently spoke with her on the phone from Europe, the last time they were together was Christmas. Despite Zenon Park’s support for Chelsea and her Olympic quest, Carol said her visit was not focused on the games.
"Not particularly, no. We were just enjoying her company. We don't see her all that often. She is a pretty busy girl," Carol said, adding Zenon Park has a billboard congratulating Chelsea.
Due to health reasons, Richard and Carol will not be travelling to Sochi to watch their daughter.
"We are sitting on the edge of our seats here waiting. It would be nice if we could go but unfortunately it's not going to happen," Carol said.
Chelsea’s siblings Trevor, Marc and Michelle are making the trip to cheer her on.
While Richard and Carol may be on the edge of their seat waiting for the games to start, they said Chelsea is great at controlling her nerves.
"She's pretty cool. She is just taking it in her stride. She's happy but she doesn't let her excitement show,” Carol said.
Chelsea still lives in Zenon Park but in order to train, she stays with her cousin in Calgary.
"It's a full-time job, I know that. She doesn't have much time for anything else but training," Carol said laughing.
Her parents had a chance to see her compete in Calgary and said the experience was “interesting.”
"I told her she couldn't do the skeleton but pretty much, you know, she hasn't had any major accidents so I guess--- and we haven't seen anything major happen. No we are not very worried,” Carol said.
Chelsea’s mind is undoubtedly focused on bringing home gold from Sochi but her parents see more bobsleigh in her future.
"They've asked her to maybe try driving and going to driving school but she hasn't decided yet what she wants to do. She also has four classes left on her actuarial science degree that she has promised me that she would finish,” Carol said.
"We would like for her to maybe take next year off and get her degree and if he wants to go back to bobsledding and stuff. It is up to her but I know Chelsea, she would like to go back to bobsledding one day," Richard said, adding he could see her setting her sights on the next Olympics.
Richard and Carol said neither the family nor Chelsea are superstitious about the races.
"We are just waiting to see what time her races come on and we just put the timer on the TV and when it comes on, we are sitting right in front of the TV," Richard said.
Chelsea will compete Feb. 18 and 19 in Sochi.
Follow on Twitter: @karinyeske