Chance encounter led to opportunity to represent Canada
College of the Rockies People: Their Courage, Curiosity, and Contributions
College of the Rockies alumna, Stefanie Schoenberger, completed two years of University Studies: Science courses before transferring to university to earn her Bachelor of Science in Biology degree. After achieving her BSc, she began her career as an aquatic biologist before a chance encounter at her local gym led her to take part in a new passion — bobsleigh.
“Another individual working out at the gym, who was involved with the sport, approached me and said I looked like I would be good at bobsleigh,” she said. “I went home and researched it and immediately signed up for a “Discover Bobsleigh” program at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Once I slid down the track the first time, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.”
Schoenberger took part in recruitment camps through the summer of 2018 and was invited to be a part of the Canadian Bobsleigh Development team in October of that year. In 2019, she has once again qualified to compete on the team for the 2019/20 season.
“The Canadian bobsleigh team is divided into two levels,” she explained. “The Development team typically consists of people newer to the sport, who qualified during recruitment camps, and who are developing the skills to compete on the National team in the future.”
Anyone who has watched bobsleigh in the Olympics is likely familiar with Schoenberger’s role of brakeman, the team member who starts the race by pushing the sled as fast as possible before jumping in behind the pilot. The brakeman role requires a combination of speed and strength, along with a certain gracefulness in order to order to avoid pulling the sleigh back or slowing it down when jumping in.
“There’s a lot more to the sport than you see on TV during the Olympics,” Schoenberger said. “Each minute spent sliding on the track is backed by hours of preparation beforehand. Maintenance of the sleds, polishing runners for racing, and even just warming up take much more time than people realize.”
All of that work has paid off. In Schoenberger’s first season, the Development team earned many medals on the North America Cup circuit. They finished each race in the top six, and often ended up with top three finishes. Schoenberger, and her pilot Cynthia Appiah, took third prize medals at the Lake Placid North American Cup race in December 2018. They also earned two fourth place and one fifth place finish.
During the off-season, Schoenberger returns to her work as an aquatic biologist while continuing to train to prepare for the next season of competition. She will be married in July 2020, making next summer an especially busy one for her. Despite the hectic pace, she is grateful to have bobsleigh as a part of her life.
“The whole sport is a rush from top to bottom,” she said. “I love the anticipation of the run at the top of the track and the adrenaline as you slide through the corners.”
Being a part of the Canadian Development team has also given Schoenberger the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“Ever since I was young, I always dreamed of competing with the maple leaf on my back. I feel so honoured and excited to be able to represent Canada again this year,” she said. “I’ve got a long way to go, but I would love the opportunity to represent my country at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China as well. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Lead image: Stefanie Schoenberger and Cynthia Appiah, with their bronze medals at the Lake Placid North American Cup. Photos submitted
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