Despite the fact that she once called Whistler home, Jane Channel had never spent much time in the backcountry.
The skeleton athlete was too focused on training and working full time — plus, she didn’t want to risk injury.
But she finally got her chance last Wednesday (Nov. 23), when the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton national team hopped on ATVs and rode up Sproatt Mountain to officially announce this season’s roster.
The 28-year-old North Vancouver native is set to start her second full season on the international skeleton circuit when the first International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup event of the season comes to Whistler next week (Dec. 2 and 3).
It’s a homecoming of sorts for the former Simon Fraser University track and field athlete, who moved to the resort after graduating in 2011 with her sights set on speeding down the Whistler Sliding Centre track.
The move was a long time coming for the athlete, whose interest in the sliding sport was first sparked while watching the 2003 Salt Lake City Olympic events on TV with her grandfather.
“He said, ‘those people are crazy,’ and right then, I knew it was something I wanted to try,” Channel said with a laugh.
Despite a strong, quick starting technique thanks to her background as a sprinter, she said it wasn’t easy learning a new sport on the fastest and most technical track in the world.
“There were definitely some days I didn’t want to start from the top,” she said.
But Channel’s hard work in Whistler paid off: She earned a spot on the Canadian National Development Team the following winter, in only her second year of sliding. She steadily rose up the ranks, eventually finding her way to the World Cup tour in the second half of the 2014/15 season.
Last year, she hit a career high, finishing the season third overall.
“It was kind of like a breakout, eureka moment for the whole year,” she said. “To be able to stand third on the podium holding a crystal globe was pretty cool.”
Now, Channel is looking poised for another season full of strong finishes.
Whistlerites can cheer on Channel and the rest of Canada’s Bobsleigh and Skeleton athletes when the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation World Cup takes over the Whistler Sliding Centre on Friday (Dec. 2) and Saturday (Dec. 3). For those hoping to get up close and personal with the high-speed sport, Whistler Olympic Legacies is still on the lookout for volunteers to help facilitate the races.
But for those who picture themselves flying down the track at top speeds instead, Whistler Sports Legacies is gearing up to host two open house days at the Sliding Centre on Dec. 4 and 11. Geared towards the community, with heavily discounted beginner and trial sessions for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge, the open house days aim to introduce as many new athletes as possible to the sliding sports.
For more information about volunteering at the IBSF World Cup, go to whistlersportlegacies.com.