TORONTO - Olympic champion Heather Moyse doesn't want to rush preparations in her latest bobsled comeback bid. However, she has limited time to get into peak form with the Winter Games just over three months away.
"There is a balance between pushing things but also staying really patient and disciplined so that I don't tear something," Moyse said.
Always up for a challenge, the Summerside, P.E.I., native announced in mid-September that she planned a return this season.
But Moyse isn't coming back to go for a third straight Olympic gold medal with Kaillie Humphries. Her goal this time is to help someone else on the inexperienced national women's team reach the Olympic podium for the first time.
To do so, she needs to carefully build up her training plan since it has been well over three years since her last competition. Moyse also had to undergo another hip surgery since her victory at the 2014 Games in Sochi, and had to nurse a back injury earlier this year.
Age is another factor to consider. Moyse will turn 40 next summer.
"It's not like I'm going from age 21 to 25," she said in a recent interview. "I'm going from 35 to 39."
When she was last immersed in serious weight training for bobsled, Moyse had four large plates on each side of the bar during squat sessions. This time around, she started with a couple "little 10-kilo plates," but is now up to 110 kilograms.
Her current workouts also include cardio work, underwater training, and pushing weighted sleds in the gym. Moyse admitted that everyone was being "super-cautious" about her incremental steps, adding it took some time for her body to get used to the new routine.
"Physically the first three weeks in Calgary were really frustrating for me," she said.
Moyse has gently pushed for a more accelerated plan now that she's getting used to more bobsled-specific workouts. The goal is finding that sweet spot of staying healthy and being ready when the Games roll around.
There's also the matter of getting reps in on the track with a new driver. Developing an effective timing routine with a new teammate is critical in a sport where podium finishers are often separated by tenths or even hundredths of a second.
"The coaches obviously know that my progression is going to keep going right up until February," Moyse said. "So they said, 'We're not in a rush for you to race. We'd rather you be systematic and come back strong and not push things.'
"However, I also know the importance of building up that rapport with the driver."
Moyse decided to come back after Canadian bobsledder Alysia Rissling asked if she'd be interested in returning to a team eager to learn from the three-time Olympic brakeman. They will likely race together once Moyse returns.
Rissling — one of the rising stars on the squad — was sixth at the world championship and won World Cup bronze on the Pyeongchang track.
Since Humphries is the only other women's team member with Olympic experience, the plan is for Moyse to help with mental preparation, handling pressure, minimizing driver concerns and providing feedback.
It doesn't hurt that she's one of the sport's all-time best competitors. Her presence would also provide a fresh perspective for a team that will likely include three drivers and at least six brakemen.
"It's way more than just the push," Moyse said.
Moyse was in Toronto for a recent media swing while her teammates were in Pyeongchang, South Korea for training sessions on the Olympic track. The World Cup roster will be unveiled Wednesday before the team departs for Lake Placid for the first World Cup event of the season.
The circuit has even more importance this season since qualification points are on the line. If the results are there, it's possible that Canada could qualify three sleds for the Games.
Moyse, a multi-sport star, won her first Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games before taking a break from the sport.
She planned to come back for the 2012-13 season, but that plan was scrapped due to hip surgery in November 2012. Moyse recovered in time to play in the women's rugby sevens World Cup in June 2013 and qualified for the bobsled team later that year, setting a personal-best push mark at the training centre in Calgary.
Moyse will need to meet the World Cup push standard later this fall for potential Pyeongchang inclusion.
If everything goes according to plan, the tentative plan would be for Moyse to get at least one race in before Christmas. But question marks will remain until she gets some serious training runs under her belt.
"Maybe my hip has more room to move, maybe that offsets the fact that I'm 39," she said. "There are a lot of factors.
"Right now it's just going to be figuring (things) out. I have no idea."
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