While spending his summers back home on Vancouver Island, Cyrus Gray, a bobsledder on Canada’s National Team, built a dry-land training sled to perfect his technique. (Photo provided by Cyrus Gray)

Island athlete goes from hoop dreams to icy track

Cyrus Gray hopes to punch his ticket to Olympics in bobsleigh

From basketball to bobsleigh, Cyrus Gray had a dream, he was going to play sports at a professional level — and nothing was going to stop him.

Gray started playing basketball when he was in Grade 10 at Cowichan Secondary School and that’s where he decided playing sports professionally was what he wanted to do.

“I always got excited playing basketball, I’d rather be on the court than going to class,” said the 24-year-old.

Graduating in 2013, Gray tried to keep the momentum going by studying sports performance at Camosun College. After a year of playing for the Camosun Chargers as a point guard he realized his goals were getting further away from him, taking a step back he decided college ball wasn’t for him.

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Spending the next few years working and playing pick-up basketball games here and there, Gray couldn’t shake the feeling that he was meant for something more, remembering a vow he made to himself when he was young to play sports at a higher level.

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It wasn’t until 2017 when he heard about RBC Training Ground, a talent identification and athlete funding program designed to find athletes with Olympic potential and provide them with high-performance sport resources they need to achieve their podium dreams, that Gray saw his chance.

RBC’s Training Grounds put Gray along with hundreds of other athletes through a number of high-performance tests such as strength testing, sprints, vertical jumps and the shuttle run, or in other words the dreaded beep test from high school gym class.

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#rbctrainingground @cbcolympics #40metersprint

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Gray made it through the first round and found himself surrounded by B.C.’s top 100 athletes heading to Vancouver for even more testing. It was there that Gray found bobsleigh, or bobsleigh found him.

Despite not knowing much about the sport, when asked if he would go to Whistler and give it a try, Gray jumped at the opportunity.

“[The coaches] were just like, ‘You look fast and strong, come try it’ and so I went. It was a pretty scary,” Gray recalls.

Speeding down an ice-covered track, reaching speeds of up to 150 km/hour without being able to see might not be for the faint of heart but Gray says the first time he went down the track is an experience he won’t forget.

“I almost threw up my first time. I was so dizzy because you’re going so fast and your body isn’t used to that much pressure and G-force. It’s definitely a different experience.”

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Gray says the skills used in basketball don’t transfer to bobsleigh, as young track athletes or weightlifters are usually better suited for the sport.

“It’s a completely different sport, you have to relearn everything — a whole new set of skills,” he says, remembering how he even had to relearn to run the correct way.

READ ALSO: Moose creates uber Canadian Olympic moment

Gray made it to the national team after doing a session with the development team and has been training for the 2022 Olympics for about a year.

With winter training based in Calgary, Gray is spending his summer at home on Vancouver Island, working hard and training most days at PISE — even building a dry-land sleigh to perfect his technique.

“We basically train like Olympic lifters in the weight room and like track athletes on the track, expcept it’s twice as tough because we’re heavier and we have to be faster,” he says.

Gray says the most difficult part of the sport is staying mentally focused throughout training.

“We lift everyday, we slide everyday … if your mind can handle it, your body can handle it.”

Being the only bobsledder on the Island, Gray wants to encourage other young athletes to continue pursuing their dreams. He says through hard work and determination anything is possible.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes to achieve your goals. It will happen if you keep at it — especially on days that you don’t want to train or do that extra rep — days like those bring out the best in you and prove just how strong you actually are.”

When asked if he thinks he has a good chance of making it to the Olympics, Gray answers calmly and confidentially. “We have a very good chance of going.”

Gray is hoping to find sponsors that will help him make his dreams a reality, but also wants to see the sport gain some attention on the Island.

“I’m the only bobsledder on the Island so a lot of people don’t know anything about it and I want that to change,” he says, adding that it’s not as scary as it looks.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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