By Martin Cleary
The bio for Ottawa bobsleigh brakeman Mike Evelyn is an interesting read and concludes with this quote:
“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than halfway up one you don’t.”
Evelyn, 29, is living out those sage words this season and watching his Canadian national team and international World Cup peers from afar.
As much as he would like to be pushing a two- or four-man sled at sliding centres around the world, he would feel like he was halfway up the ladder experiencing pain and wondering if he was doing the right thing.
Instead, Evelyn is at the bottom of his athletic ladder, so to speak, and has withdrawn from the 2022-23 competitive season, after competing in his first Winter Olympic Games in February.
“I’ve had a sore back for a while, probably from hockey, and this is a good year to recoup,” Evelyn said this week during a short break from his full-time job as an electrical engineer with Cheetah Networks. “We talked about coming back for the second half, but the decision was there would be no season. I needed rest and rehab.”
A former hockey player who ended his career after a five-year stint at Dalhousie University, Evelyn made the transition to bobsleigh when he was recruited by Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton officials at the RBC Training Ground Atlantic final in 2018. After a testing session in Calgary, he joined the national team program in early 2019.
Skating on ice as a hockey player, where the legs go side to side, is far different than running on ice in spiked track shoes as a bobsleigh brakeman. The transition from a contact, power sport to an all-out, straight-ahead power sport has been a pain in the butt, in a manner of speaking, for Evelyn. In hockey, he primarily used his quad and calf muscles, but he realizes he also has to bring his glutes and hamstrings into the game as well for bobsleigh.
“It’s a fatty deposit. I have a clinical fat butt in one spot,” Evelyn said jokingly about the odd-shaped lump at the bottom of his spine. “I don’t require surgery.”
Instead, Evelyn has been working with a physiotherapist to resolve the issue and has been following a rest-rehab-exercise program.
Evelyn has been able to manage the pain, but just getting around in the spring was difficult.
“Sometimes, there were less flair ups and sometimes there were bad flair ups. For two months in the spring, I couldn’t do a thing. I looked like the leaning Tower of Pisa,” he explained.
After having an MRI in late summer and having a medical consultation in October, he decided to hit the pause button on his young career in bobsleigh. He hasn’t trained or participated in any camps with the national team this season.
The year after an Olympic Games is often the time high-performance athletes alter their direction, after several years of a big buildup. For Evelyn, this is a time to correct a medical problem to allow him to potentially have a long career.
“It’s hard. There are good and bad things (about being away from bobsleigh),” Evelyn said. “You think about the good and forget about the bad. It’s tough.
“This is the first time I’ve been a full-time software engineer. It’s a fun change.”
Depending on how his recovery goes, Evelyn hopes to return to the World Cup circuit for the 2023-24 season. He kept in touch with the Canadian team last weekend, when he drove to Lake Placid, New York, to watch his teammates in action.
“It was cool to be there,” added Evelyn, who had the chance to see his good friend and training partner Pat Norton of Ottawa make his debut as a World Cup pilot in the two- and four-man races.
Evelyn added Norton will be one of his groomsmen, when he gets married to Erin O’Higgins in late July. O’Higgins has been a successful competitive road runner for almost 20 years and is training for the 2023 Boston Marathon.
Evelyn had two top-10 results at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics with driver Chris Spring. They were seventh in the two-man competition over four races. In the four-man race, Spring, Evelyn, Sam Giguere and Ottawa’s Cody Sorensen placed ninth.
Entering the Olympics, Evelyn had 11 World Cup starts last season, including two fourth-place results in the two-man and one eighth-place finish in the four-man.
At the 2019 world championships in Altenberg, Germany, his Canadian sleds were ninth in the two-man competition and 10th in the four-man.
OTTAWA AWARDED 2024 CANADIAN U-18 CURLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 2024 Canadian under-18 curling championships will be staged in Ottawa as competition will be shared by the R.A. Curling Centre of Excellence and the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.
Curling Canada made the announcement Thursday.
The national championships will feature 21 boys and 21 girls’ teams and will be played Feb. 5-10, 2024.
“It’s a privilege to welcome Canada’s top under-18 curling youth to the R.A. Centre’s Curling Centre of Excellence in partnership with the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club,” said Tosha Rhodenizer, the event chair and R.A. chief executive officer, in a press release.
“Our R.A. community is excited to (play host) to the best young curlers from across Canada. It is an honour to have been selected by Curling Curling to (play host) to one of Canada’s national championships and we look forward to cheering on these young athletes.”
In September, 2022, the new R.A. Curling Centre of Excellence played host to the FISU World University Games qualifier.
The Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club was the site of the 2021 Everest Canadian curling club championship, the 2015 and 2014 national mixed doubles championships and the 2010 Canadian seniors championship.
Ottawa will stage the 2023 BKT Tires and OK Tire world men’s curling championship April 1-9 at TD Place.
High Achievers: Stay Safe Edition will return on Jan. 9, 2023. Happy holidays to all!
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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