Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh got off to a Canadian record start at the national skeleton women’s team trials on Saturday in Whistler, B.C. Hawrysh made the World Cup team. (PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MCCOLM)
Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh has completed a remarkable rise up the national skeleton ranks, while Russell’s Jon Montgomery has served notice that he is indeed back on track.
Hawrysh, a 28-year-old Neelin High School graduate, will be officially introduced this week as a member of Canada’s World Cup skeleton team for the first time, while Montgomery once again will join the world’s top sliders after returning from a full year off from competition.
For Hawrysh, the accomplishment has yet to fully sink in. At this time last year, she was racing on the developmental America’s Cup tour, the fourth tier of competition behind the Europa Cup, Intercontinental Cup and the World Cup. Now, she will be racing against the best in the world, with a chance to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
"It’s definitely a big step, but I knew I could achieve that kind of change," Hawrysh said Monday from Calgary where the national team is based. "Originally when I started, I didn’t really expect to make the World Cup team for another couple of years, I was thinking in four or five years, maybe after the (2014) Olympics I might be experienced enough. But last year just showed that I was really kind of getting the hang of it ... It’s definitely surreal and it really hasn’t set in. Maybe it will set in when I am standing at the line in Lake Placid next week."
Hawrysh and Montgomery will leave Thursday for Lake Placid — the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics — to begin the World Cup tour on Nov. 8, after clinching their spots on Canada’s premier team at the national team trials in Calgary and Whistler, B.C., over the past two weekends.
Hawrysh posted back-to-back second-place finishes to clinch one of three World Cup spots, joining national team veterans Mellisa Hollingsworth — last year’s world silver medallist, who was pre-selected for the team — and Sarah Reid, who finished first at the team trials.
After her first run Saturday, Hawrysh held a slim lead of just six one-hundredths of a second over Micaela Widmer in the battle for that final place on the World Cup team and responded by blasting out of the starting block with a new Canadian record push (start) time of 4.90 seconds to clinch her spot.
"It was an awesome moment, but it also just signified that this is just the beginning, right?," Hawrysh said. "I did what I had to do for the last two weeks, so I’m pleased."
It’s been a meteoric rise up the Canadian skeleton ranks for Hawrysh, who dominated the America’s Cup developmental tour last season — taking the overall women’s title — to earn promotion to the Europa Cup where she also medalled to set the stage for this year’s team trials. She has now completely bypassed the second-tier Intercontinental Cup tour and will join the best sliders in the world next week. While the competition will be that much tougher, Hawrysh is anxious to get started and to try to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"Absolutely it’s going to be tough," said Hawrysh, who is now officially a full-fledged national team member for the first time. "Now I am competing against the best in the world, but I know what I am going up against and I am ready to take it on."
Meanwhile, Montgomery bounced back from a tough start in qualifying to clinch one of Canada’s three spots on the World Cup tour after taking 2011-12 off from competition in order to concentrate on developing a new sled.
"(The World Cup) was definitely the goal and I didn’t want to be on any other tour," said Montgomery, who won gold for Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, but still had to earn his spot on the national team this year in the team trials. "I’ve got a better chance of earning my Olympic qualifiers (for the 2014 Games) on the World Cup than I would on the subsequent tours."
The 33-year-old Montgomery bounced back from a fifth-place performance in the first of the two team trials in Calgary by finishing second in Whistler on Saturday to clinch his World Cup spot, joining first-place finisher Eric Neilsen and John Fairbairn.
"I knew what I had done wrong in Calgary, I had a mistake that cost me," Montgomery said. "So going into Whistler, its not like I wasn’t sure about what was happening. I knew I was fairly familiar with the track and had some success there in the past, so it was just go there and do my thing."
While he is still tweaking his new sled, Montgomery is anxious to get back on the World Cup tour next week.
"I’m pushing the fastest I have ever right now, the fastest pusher on the Canadian team, so my summer of training was good and paid dividends," he said.
"Now I’ve got to stay there and I’ve got to keep doing the work to keep the start times coming down and get faster moving towards Sochi."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 30, 2012