Stephanie Drost says she's caught the bug – the 27-year-old is hooked on bobsledding.
Stephanie, who studied kinesiology and business at Lakehead and was one of the first two women hired by Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, has taken holiday time coupled with a leave of absence from firefighting to compete for Team Canada Bobsleigh on the Europa Cup and World Cup circuits in Europe.
This winter she was in Altenberg, Germany, practicing as a brakeman with her pilot, Stephanie says she wants to compete at the Beijing Olympics in 2022.
"That's what I have my sights on, whether it's the next Olympics in Beijing or in 2026. I still feel very green in this sport. However, I'm learning a lot being around veteran athletes."
A typical week for Stephanie included sliding three days per week with weight training and speed training interspersed throughout, with competitions in Germany and Austria typically happening on weekends.
She's been on a whirlwind tour since trying out for the team in Calgary, Alberta, in October. After she was chosen, Stephanie trained with her new teammates for eight weeks in Whistler, British Columbia, which has the fastest bobsled track in the world. Then, in late December, she flew to Germany to participate in the Europa and world cup circuit.
Stephanie has competed in races in Altenberg, Germany, and Igls, Austria, where all Canadian teams had top 10 finishes.
With speeds up to 150 km per hour in Whistler, Stephanie recalls being nervous before her first time whipping down the track in a bobsled.
She was supposed to go down that day, but something was wrong with her sled, so she watched instead, standing near one of the corners on the track.
I'd seen bobsled on TV, but you don't see how fast they go and how loud they are. It sounded like a jet engine coming toward me – extremely loud and super fast.
That's when her nerves set in. "I remember thinking 'this will be me tomorrow.' I was excited. I wasn't scared, but definitely a little nervous. Once you get in the back and you feel yourself being hurled down the track – it doesn't sound as loud and it doesn't feel as fast as it looks. It's a rush and as soon as I got to the bottom I couldn't wait to get back in the sled and do it all over again."
Stephanie says anyone curious about a new sport or hobby should not be afraid to try it.
"Definitely go for it and don't let the odds or doubts stop you, because there were definitely times when I doubted myself or thought I might be too old to get into a new sport and compete at a high level, but persistence and dedication can get you to whatever you have your sights on.
You never know what could happen. If I told myself even two years ago that this is where I would be, I would have never believed that. Trust in yourself. We're all capable of some pretty amazing things.
Stephanie returned home to Thunder Bay in the middle of February.