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Driven athlete chasing Olympic dreams ... at 150 km/h

'Caelan's love for bobsleigh makes her want to strive to compete alongside the world's best,' says Team Canada bobsleigh pilot

Pursuing an Olympic dream takes not only physical skill but also a lot of mental fortitude, perseverance and financial sacrifices.

Just ask Caelan Brown, 20, who just completed her first year with the Canadian women’s national bobsleigh team.

Now she has her sights set on the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.

"There are a lot of strong girls in the program, but I will do my very best and see where that gets me,” Brown said.

The Orillia-born Ontarian is the brake woman with pilot Mackenzie Stewart, of British Columbia, in the two-woman bobsleigh.

The team’s best result of the four-event season was a silver medal on their home turf at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

"Whistler is the fastest track in the world," said Brown, a former AA rep hockey goalie who attended the Hill Academy in Vaughan.

She estimates their top speed on that track to be 147 km/h.

The final race of the season was the North American Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., March 9 and 10.

Stewart and Brown faced hurdles and came in eighth place, sandwiched between fellow Canadian teams that finished seventh and ninth.

For the North American Cup, Stewart and Brown couldn't afford to ship a sled to Lake Placid, so they rented an older one from the Australian team.

"We had to rent a sled out there that was miles behind the field in terms of technology," said Stewart, so "we didn't do as well as we hoped."

While both Brown and Stewart get funding from the federal government, it doesn't come close to covering their expenses.

"It's difficult. I get a bit of government funding, but it doesn't cover even half my season," said Brown.

Being a rookie on the team, Brown said she was lucky to get funding at all.

"The team does not cover travel, lodging or food. The athlete also has to purchase their own sliding equipment and clothing. Some pilots buy their own sled and the athletes have to buy parts," she said.

There are also not enough sleds for all the teams, and "it's quite expensive to buy a sled," she said.

The team also only has one mechanic, and that person travels with the World Cup athletes, leaving the North American Cup athletes to do their own mechanical work.

"We are going to Home Depot and buying stuff. It's not super glamorous," said Brown.

Athletes also have to pay for their own health care including physiotherapy and massages. There's also a team fee and training camp fees.

To help herself, Brown started a GoFundMe page and welcomes donations. She is also looking for a business sponsor. She can be contacted through her Instagram page.

Bobsledding is not the easiest sport to get into as there are only three tracks in North America: Whistler, Lake Placid and Salt Lake City.

When Brown finished playing hockey, she missed competitive sport. She remembered that as a seven-year-old, in 2010, she'd met bobsleigh gold-medal winner Heather Moyse (who won with pilot Kaillie Humphries).

She decided to go to Whistler, take bobsledding training camps and contact Moyse for mentoring.

“I reached out to her when I got started in bobsleigh and we had a talk this year when I made the national team. She was super helpful and super sweet,” she said.

Brown was accepted onto the team in October and first-year pilot Stewart asked her to be her brake woman. They spent all fall training in the gym and on the sliding surface before embarking on the season.

"It was really interesting. There was a lot to take in," said Brown.

She then explained the bobsledding experience.

“My job is to push really hard with her at the beginning, and then she loads and then I load and she drives all the way down and I’m just along for the ride,” she said.

“During the run, while I’m looking down, I’m looking at the brakes, but I can see through the hole and see the ice going by. If we go over a logo, I can see the colour of the logo.

“It’s a very weird feeling. You feel sideways when you are on the wall.

"After the finish line, she yells, 'Brakes.' I pull the brakes and look up.

“I really enjoy the speed and I really like being on a team.”

Stewart said Brown was eager to learn the sport and was part of all the learning opportunities.

"Caelan's love for bobsleigh makes her want to strive to compete alongside the world's best," said Stewart.

"She knows that showing up and doing your part makes the team better and gives Canada a better shot at competing for medals in 2026."

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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