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Smith eyes off Olympic debut at 2018 Games

9 June 2017

BOBSLEIGH: When Hayden Smith first tried his hand at Bobsleigh in 2014, he immediately regretted it, thinking to himself “what have I done?”

“The only way I can describe that first run would be like being in a frozen washing machine on spin cycle going >100kph,” Smith said. 

I just remember getting to the bottom of the track after my first run and thinking ‘oh no, I just quit my job to do this.’”

The 25-year-old marched back to the top of the track for another go and “liked it a whole lot more the second time round.”

The self-proclaimed “huge” Taylor Swift fan came from a rugby and sprinting background, before trying his hand at the sport of Bobsleigh.

“After competing in a 100m race back in 2014 another coach told me that I was probably on the ‘too heavy’ side of being a successful sprinter and recommended that I give bobsleigh a try,” Smith said.

But this new sport did take some getting used to for the Sydney-sider. 

“It isn't a comfortable ride in the back, there are a lot of bumps and unfamiliar pressures; nothing can really prepare you for your first run.”

Three years on from his first time, Smith now has nothing but passion for twisting down narrow, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sled.

“I love the speed and the adrenaline but also the camaraderie that you get from a close-knit team that lives and trains together all season.”

Smith forms part of the Australian Team alongside pilot, Lucas Mata and three fellow brakemen; David Mari, Lachlan Reidy and Gareth Nichols. He lists his career highlights as a 6th place in the 2-man race at the 2016 North American Cup in Park City, Utah, as well as a 5th place finish in the 4-man.

“We had a great crew down there that worked together really well and that showed in our results. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come next season!”

For the Australian men’s bobsleigh team, the road to PyeongChang starts in August 2017 when they will head to Calgary to complete a training block using the Ice House, the first fully enclosed refrigerated building designed for year-round training in bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton.

“We will start sliding on the tracks once there is ice in October and will have races from November to January,” said Smith who knows those success in those three months is a key component to their Olympic qualification campaign.

“To qualify as a team we will have eight races from November to January where we accumulate points which add to our IBSF ranking.”

The Aussies will be hoping for a ranking that is high enough to earn quota spots in both the 2-man and 4-man formats.

“Once we have the quota spot it’s a matter of selecting the best team of 4 to go and compete,” said Smith who missed the opportunity to see the Olympic course at the test event last season due to an ankle injury.

“I watched the team race from back home and it looks to be a great facility with a pretty challenging track.”

Smith said the goal for the 2018 Olympics will be to finish in the top 15 of a field of 30 crews. 

“Our goal is to start times that are in the top half of the field.

“Obviously, we are challenged with the equipment we use compared to other well-funded nations but it’s not really an excuse.

“Hopefully we can get a good start then have our pilot weave some magic.”

Off the ice, Smith works as a Risk Assurance Analyst for Lion (a dairy and drinks company) in Sydney, and owns a swimwear company called ‘Banana Hammock Aus’ that helps fund his sporting endeavours. 

Ashleigh Knight

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