Bobsleigher has Olympics in his sights

Last updated 02:55 10/01/2009
PHIL REID/Dominion Post
COOL RUNNINGS: Kiwi bobsleigh hopeful Carl Condliffe says he has to work on his speed to keep up with his teammates.

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Wellington PE teacher Carl Condliffe always dreamed of competing in an Olympics, he just didn't think it would be in a bobsleigh.

Growing up as a sports-mad kid, high jump, then basketball were his passions. He was talented enough to excel at junior levels but never quite made the breakthrough on to the elite senior stage.

Condliffe, 27, is now a 1.83-metre, 103kg powerhouse.

Last year he had all but packed in the Olympic dream to focus on his career at Wellington High School and a new hobby bodybuilding, when a newspaper ad in April caught his eye.

"I was reading the paper and saw an advert for Talent ID that Sparc and the Academy of Sport were doing, looking for big, fast, powerful athletes," Condliffe explains, matter-of-factly.

"I still had a lot of power from my background in high jumping so I thought, `Oh yeah, I can give it a go.' I'd put on a lot of size which is ideal for bobsleigh so I went along to the trial at Newtown Park and did the tests and made the selection."

So in a bizarre twist, Condliffe now stands a decent chance of cementing a place in New Zealand's ambitious bobsleigh team, which is aiming to qualify for this year's world championships then next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

There are "seven or eight" vying for the three crew spots, given that the driver of the four-man team is assured of his place.

Condliffe is up against the likes of former Olympic sprinters Chris Donaldson and Mark Keddell, with their explosive ability perfect for the winter sport.

So Condliffe has been running around with a resistance parachute on, trying to keep up.

"We've got quite a quick team and that's one of my weakest points, my speed, so that's what I've been trying to work on."

Another serious hurdle for Condliffe is the not-so-minor fact Wellington has no ice and he missed out on valuable overseas training trips last year because of a fractured metatarsal.

"I've been out for the last eight months and missed all of the ice experience towards the end of last year. They went to Calgary and a few other places to compete, so I missed out on all of that."

Not to worry if the Jamaican team could do it in Cool Runnings then why not Condliffe?

He at least has the next four days training on ice in Dunedin before the New Zealand team departs on Wednesday for St Moritz in Switzerland.

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The team, coached by German bobsleigh guru Gerd Grimme, will train and compete in the Europa Cup, with Condliffe hoping to "show what I've got basically impress enough people and put myself in a good position for selection for world champs later on in the year and hopefully the Olympics next year.

You've got skintight Lycra and you're bolting along the ice trying to get in this 200kg sled, I think it's going to be one helluva experience."

Far from thinking he is crazy, family and friends have been supportive of his plunge into bobsleigh, in which between four and five G forces can be reached on some corners, Condliffe says.

"They thought it was a good challenge and people that know me know that getting to the Olympics is something that I've dreamt of from a young age.

As long as I can remember, it's been a goal of mine and I couldn't do it in my other two sports, as hard as I tried and now this opportunity's come up so I just want to make the most of it and give it a shot."

 

- The Dominion Post

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