Local Club: Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club
By Ethan Diamandas
They say you’re not a real bobsledder until you’ve crashed and gone again — which Cody Sorensen understands as well as anyone.
During the 2014 Games in Sochi, Sorensen, along with teammates Justin Kripps, Jesse Lumsden and Ben Coakwell, put their hands together in a circle, shouted a chant, flipped their visors down, and geared up for their run.
As a pusher, the then 27-year-old Sorensen dropped his head and pumped his legs with all his might before hopping into his spot at the back of the sled. The crew got off to a great start in its second of four runs, weaving through the track as fast as 140 km/h, until disaster struck about a minute and a half later.
The sled lost an edge and flipped on its side, muddying Canada’s gold medal dreams, but more alarmingly dragging the four men through the rest of the track.
For 15 seconds, Sorensen’s sled was overturned, with each racer’s head scraping on the ice until they crossed the finish line. Sorensen suffered a concussion and was unable to race again at the Sochi Games.
For nearly a decade, that’s where it stood — Sorensen’s last Olympic memory was him pinned under hundreds of pounds of pressure while helplessly whizzing around the course. But that memory is part of the reason why he decided to come back.
“Having your last run be upside down and then not ever having even seen a bobsled again for almost seven years was I think the thing that haunted me the most,” Sorensen told the Sports Pages in a phone call from the Bavarian Alps.
At age 35 and now working in mergers and acquisitions for Welch Capital Partners in Ottawa, Sorensen’s return to the Olympics seemed unlikely until Chris Spring — who was Sorensen’s pilot for the bulk of his earlier run with the Canadian program — coaxed him back into the mix on the promise that his team could compete for a medal.
“I think a big part of me deciding to come back this year, after eight years [away], was not just to be a tourist out here on the circuit and [instead] try to put together a plan and the pieces to be successful at the Olympics,” noted the Glebe Collegiate Institute grad.
First, the crew needed a sled, which was no easy task considering a new one can cost between 80,000 and 100,000 euros – and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic created supply shortages.
Eventually Sorensen’s team, which includes Spring, Sam Giguère, and fellow Ottawa native Mike Evelyn, purchased a sled formerly piloted to Olympic gold by Germany’s Francesco Friedrich at PyeongChang 2018.
Obtaining the German sled was a critical step, since, in a sport like bobsled, good equipment can shave valuable time off a run.
“There’s what I think of as a trifecta,” Sorensen explained. “You need an awesome push, you need a good drive, and you need good equipment if you want to be in the mix.”
With an excellent sled ready to use, the former Guelph University Gryphons hurdler started to shape his body into Olympic form. This past summer, Sorensen took advantage of his work-from-home setup, ducking out between virtual meetings to push his weight set in his backyard or fire up the high-speed treadmill.
There was certainly some rust to shake off, but Sorensen said he wasn’t fazed by the significant gap between his refreshed training and his last bobsled event.
“I kind of felt like I had nothing to lose,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a fairly good career going. I’d taken the time to put in the effort to get that other part of my life kind of ramped up.
“So coming back to bobsled, if it went sideways or I didn’t make the team, I don’t think I would have been too disappointed.”
When the World Cup circuit began in October 2021, Sorensen’s team felt strong, but also had some bumps along the way, including a crash in Germany. The four-man team drummed up a bond as the season chugged along though, and when formal Olympic announcements were made, it was no surprise that Sorensen’s squad was selected.
Team cohesion is synonymous with success in four-man bobsled, Sorensen said, and the group has done everything they could to support each other through isolation periods, COVID outbreaks, and training sessions.
So, when Sorensen arrives in Beijing, he’ll be competing for his teammates, among many others, including his co-workers and bosses at Welch, who’ve given him time off work and chipped in financially to his Olympic bid. But he’s also seeking some redemption for himself.
“I think to kind of prove to myself that you could have the career and still try to make a go at the Olympics was a personal goal to go after,” signalled the graduate of Queen’s University’s MBA program.
Despite his devastating crash in 2014, Sorensen said there’s less weight on his shoulders this time around.
“I actually don’t feel the pressure as much,” indicated the member of Spring’s 12th-ranked four-man crew. “Maybe that will change once we are standing at the top of the run in Beijing, but right now, at least in the last couple days, I just feel excited and happy to represent Canada once again.”
It’ll be a different track dynamic with fewer spectators, but when it’s time to go and Sorensen’s legs start pumping again, he’ll be pushing for more than just a Canadian gold medal. Sorensen will be fighting for a slice of redemption – and a way to show himself and those around him that he still has what it takes.
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