NEWS
02/11/2012 10:10 EST | Updated 04/12/2012 05:12 EDT

First full bobsled season a 'whirlwind' for former CFL player Jesse Lumsden

CALGARY - When the four men piled into the Canada 1 bobsled, Jesse Lumsden's cleats caught the posterior of driver Lyndon Rush's spandex suit and Rush got his foot stuck in the driving mechanism.

Canada 1 still posted the fastest start time of the Calgary World Cup on that pass down the track Saturday. That is Lumsden's, and the team's, season in a nutshell.

"A whirlwind, exciting, promising," was Lumsden's description of his first full season on the World Cup bobsled circuit.

When Lumsden announced his retirement from football last May, the CFL running back's plan was to become a bobsled driver. The Edmonton-born, Hamilton-raised athlete prepared for the sliding season with the plan that he was going to be a pilot.

Even though Lumsden spent the summer rehabbing a football knee injury, he set push records in testing last fall. Rush needed Lumsden's power on his crew.

The decision to move Lumsden back to brakeman — he finished fifth in the 2010 Olympics with Pierre Lueders — came so late Lumsden had no pre-season training with Rush.

Fast forward to Saturday when, despite a "circus load", Canada 1 was fourth after the opening run and ended up fifth after two.

"Compared to our other results this season, it's good, but it's not what we wanted," Lumsden said.

"It's that gelling. I didn't join the team until pretty much right before the season started because of the change of plans that happened. It's taken longer than we thought."

German sleds finished 1-2 with Manuel Machata winning the World Cup finale and Maximilion Arndt second. Alexandr Zubkov was third and took the season's overall crown in four-man.

Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., posted a top-10 result in just his second World Cup, piloting Canada 2 to ninth.

Rush and Lumsden were fourth in the previous night's two-man event after winning their first gold together last week in Whistler, B.C.

Rush says Lumsden on his crew is an advantage, even though his four-man team had to mesh on the fly this season.

"From a selfish point of view, it's the best decision for me," Rush said. "He's really good.

"The last time he'd pushed a four-man sled was in the Olympics. It just took him and the guys awhile in the four-man. It was easy in the two-man, which it generally is because the two-man isn't that technical. It's just the biggest, strongest, fastest guy goes and does well. The four-man is very technical and it took longer than expected."

Rush rolled the sled in Winterberg in December and finished 20th. The entire bobsled team pulled out of a World Cup in Altenberg, Germany, in January because of safety concerns. A sled piloted by Chris Spring crashed there and three of the four Canadians suffered season-ending injuries.

Then in Konigssee, Germany, later the same month, Rush's sled ran over an airhorn dropped on the track by one of the trackside fans and finished eighth.

"It was something every week," Lumsden said.

But Rush won bronze in Whistler for their first World Cup podium finish this season in four-man. Saturday's result was their second top-five finish.

Rush, Lumsden, Ottawa's Cody Sorensen and Edmonton's Neville Wright have a chance at a medal of more significance at the world championship starting Friday in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Lumsden is confident they'll get it right for the world championship.

"We're going to win. We're not going to medal. We're going to win," Lumsden declared.

"With everything that's gone on and where we are peaking, we're right where we want to be. It's a great track for us to go. Lyndon loves it. He did well there last year. The Americans will be fast. It's their home track and so will the Germans and the guys on the podium, but we have the ability to be right there with them if not in front of them.

"It's like the Super Bowl or the Grey Cup, it doesn't matter how you finish your first race, it's how you finish your last race of the season."

The Calgary World Cup yielded two medals and a pair of fourth-place finishes for the host Canadians. Kaillie Humphries of Calgary and Edmonton's Jenny Ciochetti won women's bobsled and Amy Gough of Abbotsford, B.C., tied for third in women's skeleton.

Canada won five medals, including three gold, in Whistler for a total of seven World Cup medals on their home tracks this season.

Bobsled team coach Tom De La Hunty wants a world championship medal from Humphries and Ciochetti and another from the men's team in either two- or four-man.

"I genuinely believe Kaillie can go forward and win. She's proven that in the last two races," De La Hunty said. "Lyndon also.

"The girls winning is fantastic and the manner in which they won because they were able to dominate the field. I really think they can go to Lake Placid and dominate the opposition at the world championship as well."