Hanging on the beach in Hawaii is often how Justin Kripps spends his time during the off-season, resting his body and mind after a gruelling year of training and competition. Time slows down and the doing of nothing serves to balance out the exceptional demands of being a high-performance athlete.
But Olympic Champions tend to be in high demand, so this year, Kripps, who won bobsleigh gold for Canada in PyeongChang, found himself thrust into a herculean dash across the country, fulfilling countless speaking engagements, school visits and Olympic celebrations. So, there was no time for the beach.
It didn’t bother the even-keeled bobsleigh pilot though, in fact he relished the opportunity to share his medal with Canadians. You might think that as a three-time Olympian, Kripps would have seen his fair share of Olympic medals, but instead he always kept his distance, harbouring a superstition that you don’t touch one until you earn your own.
He remembers the first time he saw one, when Olympic medallist in track cycling, Curt Harnett, visited his elementary school, but he wouldn’t touch it. Now that he has his own in his hands, he appreciates the joy and inspiration it brings to those who see and touch it.
“It’s a super impressive prize,” he says. “To see the look on people’s faces, to see the awe in the kids’ eyes, like they’re inspired, is pretty cool.”
Cool indeed, for an athlete whose coach describes him as ‘cool as a cucumber’ and just the same now as he was before he was in such high demand. Quin Sekulich, Head Strength and Conditioning coach at CSI Calgary, has been Kripps’ coach for twelve years, through three Olympic cycles.
“The reason Justin has been successful is that he’s so consistent, and there are no major highs or lows,” says Sekulich. “On the line at the Olympics he stood there the same as he always does.” That consistency is what Kripps plans to build on as he embarks on another quadrennial.
“My attitude is the same, I learned a lot about how to be successful over the last four years,” he says. “Now I have a better idea of what needs to be done.”
Kripps is undeterred by the fact that he has met his big goal and is determined to get going on the next challenge – doing it again. “It’s a career and lifestyle that I enjoy,” he says. “But now there is a little less urgency.” Less urgency to do it again perhaps, but no less drive to try.
Back at training now, even though he didn’t make it to the beach, the routine of being back in the gym is giving Kripps the structure he craves and a reason to scale down the outside commitments that come with standing atop the Olympic podium. “It helps me keep my priorities straight,” he says with a laugh.
It’s not all business as usual though – of the 11 brakemen on the team in PyeongChang only one is returning. For Sekulich, the focus now is on finding and training new talent and helping Kripps make new gains. “He’s still progressing, he can still get better” says Sekulich. “There’s not much left to fix though, it’s just the icing on the cake, the cake is already made.”
Kripps seems destined to earn, through steady and diligent progress, a fourth trip to the Olympics. And as he begins anew to refine and finesse his craft of piloting a lightning fast bobsleigh down an icy track, he does so with a sweet gold medal in his back pocket and a keen eye on earning another.
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto