Last night I was glued to the Olympic women’s bobsleigh races as Upperton and Brown won silver, and Humphries and Moyse won gold. The two teams made history as the first Canadian women to win Olympic medals in women’s bobsleigh. I cheered for them all as they stood on the podium, and especially Helen Upperton.
Helen’s sister Louise used to work for us, and one day she brought her “little sister” into the office to help out for a few weeks. Helen typed some of my research and interviews about success and we discussed them as she did office chores. She loved athletics, but was still trying to figure out what to do with her life. After she left, Louise kept telling us what she was up to, and one day exclaimed, “Helen is going to try bobsled racing.” She had stumbled into it when a friend suggested it, not even realizing that women participated in the sport. She discovered she loved it, but it has been a long haul with many disappointments. In the last Olympics she came fourth and missed getting a medal by 5 one-hundredths of a second. Imagine! Here’s part of an email Helen sent out at the time, four years ago:
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2006
Subject: Sigh!!!! It’s over…
Well, It’s done. It came and went in a whirlwind of emotion, adrenaline, excitement, fear, disappointment, joy…basically everything you could imagine. At first I was so happy. We just came 4th at the Olympic games. This is so amazing. And then it started to dawn on me…I missed a medal by 5 one-hundredths of a second…I couldn’t believe it. I was so sad. I stood and watched the other teams get their flowers and stand on the podium, and thought that it was almost me. So close… Sigh.
Well, Hels, now it is you. You persisted through the downtimes, worked hard, practiced like crazy, stood on the podium and made history. Wow! A big congratulations!