Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Calgary firefighter coaches Canada’s Skeleton Team in Sochi
Many Calgary firefighters work or volunteer during off-duty hours, but only one spends his time coaching Canada’s Olympians to hurdle down an icy track, head-first.
Calgary Senior Firefighter Duff Gibson is in Sochi for the Olympic Winter Games this month as the Head Coach for Canada’s Skeleton Team. Skeleton is a fast winter sliding sport in which an individual person rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down.
Going for gold
“In the women’s competition we are going for gold, and in the men’s, many are saying it is really a race for third place given how dominant the top two men in the world are,” says Gibson.
Gibson has been a firefighter since 2000. In his sporting career, he’s competed in two Winter Olympic Games – in the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 and in Torino in 2006 where he won Olympic gold.
“I really appreciate all of the support from the Calgary Fire Department,” says Gibson. “When I was an athlete I had a colleague cover two shifts for me and he refused to let me pay him back. I received so many emails and congratulations. It all means so much.”
Second generation Olympian
In Torino, Gibson won Canada’s first-ever Olympic gold in skeleton and became the oldest Winter Olympic champion at age 39.
Prior to the Games, he had to deal with the loss of his father. Andy Gibson had been an athlete himself, competing for Canada in the sport of judo in the ‘60s.
Gibson retired as an athlete after those Games. He continued firefighting and kept involved with his sport. In 2006, he joined Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton as a coach and during the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games he was a sports commentator with CTV. Following the Vancouver Games, he was named the Head Coach for Canada’s Skeleton Team.
He has taken a leave of absence from firefighting to coach the team for the last year. Hopes are high for more than one Olympic medal for Canada’s skeleton team.
Follow the action on social media:
Canada’s Olympic Skeleton Team includes Mellisa Hollingsworth, Sarah Reid, Eric Neilson and John Fairbairn. The men are set to race on February 14 and 15, and the women compete on February 13 and 14, two runs each day. You can follow @duffgibson and @SkeletonCAN on Twitter for the latest updates.