NEWS
10/28/2011 05:51 EDT | Updated 12/28/2011 05:12 EST

Former CFL running back Jesse Lumsden to push, not drive bobsled this winter

CALGARY - Jesse Lumsden has stepped back from his goal of becoming an bobsled pilot into a more familiar role.

Lumsden, a former CFL running back, will serve as brakeman for Olympic bronze medallist Lyndon Rush on the World Cup circuit this winter.

The 29-year-old Lumsden was a brakeman for driver Pierre Lueders at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. They were fifth in the two-man event and seventh in the four-man race.

When Lumsden announced his retirement from football in May, his stated goal was to become Canada's best pilot and win a medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. His plan was to be a driver on the developmental bobsled circuit this season.

The combination of mediocre results in driving and outstanding results in push testing led both he and the team to conclude Canada would benefit from him moving back in the sled.

"I'm going to do what's best for the team and contribute in every way I can," Lumsden said Friday from Whistler.

"They felt me being a crewman will help the program. Helping the program will help with funding and results and money coming into the program and potential for third sleds down the road. All in all, it's a good situation."

Lumsden, who was born in Edmonton and grew up in Hamilton, hasn't given up on his dream of becoming a pilot.

When the national team returns to Canada during breaks in the international schedule, Lumsden intends to keep honing his driving skills. He compares the change in his bobsled plans to a football team asking a player to move into a different position.

"In the CFL and the NFL, real good, athletic players are asked and have the ability to change positions and that's above and beyond what I'm doing because I actually started as a brakeman," Lumsden said.

"You're being asked by your team to contribute in another way and it's flattering. I'm completely happy and excited about it because I'm going to be on the World Cup and pushing on the World Cup."

Rush is currently Canada's top pilot after driving the country to a bronze medal in the four-man event in Whistler. Rush's sleds finished on the World Cup podium four times last season.

Lumsden joins Ottawa's Cody Sorenson, Edmonton's Neville Wright and alternate Justin Wilkinson of Calgary on Rush's four-man crew this winter. Rush will decide over the course of the season who will be his brakeman in two-man races.

The Humboldt, Sask., native understands Lumsden's wish to become a driver because he's felt that desire himself. But Lumsden's potential as a brakeman in his sled is tantalizing.

"In the testing camp that we had this fall, he broke all the records for Bobsleigh Canada for pushing a sled by yourself," Rush said. "He's a guy I've always wished to have on my team. He's a good team leader kind of guy."

Lumsden was considered Canada's top running back when healthy, but he'd played little football in the two years prior to his retirement because of injuries.

The six-foot-three, 228-pound running back won the 2004 Hec Crighton Trophy with McMaster as the top player in Canadian university football.

He was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and had a tryout in 2005 with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.

After playing 19 games with Hamilton, Lumsden signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2009 and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his first game.

He was a late addition to Calgary's practice roster in 2010 and tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his third game. Lumsden underwent reconstructive surgery on his knee Nov. 15, 2010.

So Lumsden was surprised in the off-season to have personal best pushes in all three brakeman positions on the four-man sled.

"I really didn't expect that because most of my off-season was rehabbing and it wasn't training," Lumsden said. "I wasn't in a rush to get back on the football field, so I think it was a good situation."

The Canadian team was between training camps Friday. They'd spent two weeks at the Olympic sliding track in Whistler and were about to depart for another camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the 2012 world championships will be held in February.

Canada will race a total of seven sleds on the World Cup and developmental American and Europa Cup circuits this season.

With her brakeman Heather Moyse trying her hand at track cycling, Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries of Calgary is trying out two replacements in Emily Baadsvik of Smithers, B.C., and Montreal's Marquise Brisebois.

Humphries, 26, and Moyse won Olympic gold in 2010. Helen Upperton of Calgary and Shelley-Ann Brown of Pickering, Ont., took silver to make it a 1-2 finish for the host country.

Upperton, who has won 19 career World Cup medals, is putting all her efforts this season into winning the world championship medal that has eluded her. The 31-year-old pilot will ease into her season on the America's Cup circuit with brakemen Heather Hughes of Edmonton and Toronto's Diane Kelly.

The World Cup season opens Nov. 28 in Igls, Austria. Canada has back-to-back stops Jan. 30 to Feb. 5 in Whistler and Feb. 6-12 in Calgary. The Canadian events will serve as warmups for the world championship.

Calgary's Chris Spring will pilot the four-man Canada 2 sled with crew Tim Randall of Toronto, Calgary's Derek Plug, Saskatoon's Graeme Rinholm and Bill Thomas of Queensville, Ont.

Lumsden and teammate Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., competed in an episode of Mantracker, which aired in August. Lumsden beat show host Terry Grant to the finish line, but Kripps got stuck in mud and "caught" by Grant.

Kripps, a second-year driver, will pilot a four-man sled on the Europa Cup circuit along with Luke Demetre of New Glasgow, N.S., Chris Korol of Hamilton, Ont., James McNaughton of Newmarket, Ont., and Patrick Szpak of Windsor, Ont.

Edmonton's Jenny Ciochetti and Heather Patterson of Guelph, Ont., are the two female pilots racing Europa Cup events. They'll draw from a pool of brakeman including Calgary's Kate O'Brien, Michelle Long of Thompson, Man., Toronto's Alison Young, Susan Sobey, of Searletown, P.E.I., and Christine Bushie of Spruce Grove, Alta.