Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Slack undaunted by bobsled challenge

Published:Monday | November 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Salcia Slack ... throwing the shot put at this year's JAAA National Championships. - File

Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer

Salcia Slack received an award for bravery for her head-on approach to bobsledding when the Jamaican heptathlete completed her first week-long training-session in Park City, Utah, in early November.

In a sport where the sled can achieve speeds of up to 200kph (90mph), Slack was undaunted.

Slack, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II heptathlon record holder, consistently pushed the envelope in Utah when others were held back by fear of the unknown.

"It was a good experience for me. I am a brake woman and to have that position you have to trust your driver and believe she will take you to the finish. I was just sitting in the back of the sled and just praying, wasn't scared at any point. I just wanted to do our best. They awarded me at the bobsled driving school for courage."

Kaymarie Jones is Slack's driver and the two are aiming to be among the first female bobsledders who will represent Jamaica at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018. Slack is also hoping to represent Jamaica at the Summer Games in Brazil in 2016.

She was approached by Todd Hayes - an American coach who will prepare Jamaica's teams for 2018.

Training in Earnest

"I started practising on November 2, so we got one week of training from the second to the eighth. For the first three days, everyone started at Curve Six (a turn near the middle of the course) and was pushed off by the trainers, and we got two runs on each day," Slack revealed.

On the fourth day, she said, when the other teams had moved to the start of the run, she and Jones opted to spend more time on Curve Six.

"Not because we weren't good, but because we wanted to get another feel from Curve Six, seeing that this was our first time getting so close to a sled."

Once that was over, Slack said she was ready for anything.

"In my life I see nothing as being challenging," she said. "For day four, the rope they use to let us down to Curve One, something was wrong with it after the USA lashes went, and they put us back inside the warm house to sit down saying they are going to get another rope. I laughed and said to the lady, 'I will go down without the rope'. She looked at me and said, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' and I said, 'I am 100 per cent sure.' She asked me four times and then she asked my driver, and she said, 'Well, if Salcia says so we will do it', and we went down from the start for our first time successfully. I find nothing challenging."

Slack, who represented Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games this past August, said she was eager to do things for herself, believing that the hands-on experience will help her learn faster. As such, instead of having the trainers push them while they were in the sled, she opted to push her driver and then jump in and go along for the ride. She was proud of what she accomplished.

"I was the happiest that as a first-timer we were able to push from the top with a start time of 5.66 seconds while the gold, silver, and bronze medallists from Sochi pushed like 5.39 seconds, so I am pretty sure I will be able to be that fast. I was also happy that we had a time on the scoreboard was like 9.9 seconds away from the winner, but, am happy," she said.

Slack attends her next training session in December in New York and said even though it is physically demanding, she is motivated to be even better.

"When I go bobsledding in the mornings, I do track practice in the evening, and even though I feel tired I push myself to do it. My little manager Vendray (her son), is always there to remind me, 'Mommy, don't fall asleep because you have to go to the track'. He is my extra push to go to track training in the evenings."