BEIJING, CHINA – Canadian university athletics has a rich tradition in this country. It’s one that continues to produce elite athlete after another, creating moments Canada’s Olympic history. With the announcement of Canada’s bobsledding team, it appears that U SPORTS will yet again be front and centre at the Games.
Canada qualified the maximum amount of sleds for the four bobsleigh events, with only perennial powerhouse Germany achieving that feat. Among the athletes named to the team, there are quite a number of U SPORTS alum. Christine de Bruin, Kristen Bujnowski, Cynthia Appiah, Melissa Lotholz, Sara Villani, Mike Evelyn and Jay Dearborn have all made appearances for their universities at a varsity level.
De Bruin represented the University of Alberta in track and field, competing as a sprinter for two years and collecting two Canada West bronze medals along the way. However, with a waning interest in the sport, she told her coach her intentions to quit. De Bruin’s coach convinced her to try out for the Canadian bobsled team, and the rest was history, joining the team as a brakewoman before moving to become a pilot.
Her crewmate Bujnowski is also a track and field athlete, having represented the University of Western Ontario Mustangs in long jump and shot put, as well as a varsity rower. Bujnowski is considered one of the top brakewomen in the world and is a firm medal contender with de Bruin.
Appiah was a standout hammer and shot put athlete for the York University Lions, earning herself three silver medals at the CIS Nationals in the latter event. Having pushed for Kaillie Humphries, Appiah looks to capitalize on her opportunity as a pilot in her first Olympics after being named an alternate for Pyeongchang 2018.
Lotholz is another alum of the University of Alberta. Having been a track athlete, it was de Bruin who first introduced her to the idea of competing in bobsled. Soon enough, she found herself on the world stage. Lotholz and de Bruin finished 7th at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, a result that both of them will look to better as separate pilots this go around.
Villani’s story is an interesting one. A member of the Western Mustang’s track and field team, she claimed the heptathalon crown at the 2015 National Junior Championships, finishing sixth at the Junior Pan-American Games in 2016. With a couple gold and silver OUA medals to her name, Villani was recruited to the bobsled team after an outstanding showing at an RBC Training Ground event.
Evelyn is a member of the Chris Spring-piloted sled. He was a former hockey forward, playing five seasons in the AUS with the Dalhousie Tigers where he tallied 22 goals and 14 assists. After his hockey career wound down, Evelyn attended an RBC training ground regional final in Atlantic Canada, where he was also recruited into the Canadian bobsled program.
Dearborn has himself an athletic resume to behold. A defensive back with the Carlton Ravens in his collegiate years, he was signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League in 2019 and made 22 total appearances for them. After the CFL cancelled the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dearborn was introduced to bobsled and has never looked back. He is currently part of the Taylor Austen sled that looks to make noise in Beijing.