Bobsledders race for pride not prizes

Four Rossland men have spent the past dozen years or so preparing for one moment, training for an event that won’t bring them riches or fame, not even much of a prize.

Brady and Jay Zanussi make the final adjustments to their homemade bobsled in preparation for this weekend’s Sonny Samuelson Bobsled Race. Along with Daven Ling and Nathan Stanton

Brady and Jay Zanussi make the final adjustments to their homemade bobsled in preparation for this weekend’s Sonny Samuelson Bobsled Race. Along with Daven Ling and Nathan Stanton

Four Rossland men have spent the past dozen years or so preparing for one moment, training for an event that won’t bring them riches or fame, not even much of a prize.

But they have spent countless hours and a good bit of cash, fabricating, machining, wrenching and polishing to create the perfect machine for the job – winning the Sonny Samuelson Bobsled Race.

Brothers Brady and Jay Zanussi, Daven Ling and Nathan Stanton all grew up in Rossland and have participated in the popular and challenging event for many years.

“I’ve probably been doing it now for 15 years, Jay maybe 10 or 12,” said Ling.

They have rocketed down Spokane Street in various incarnations of bobsleds from a canoe to an eight-foot-long fir log.

“Me and Brady were the original builders of the pink canoe which is still racing,” said Jay.

“That was one of our contraptions, then we passed it down, basically when we started building this one.”

It doesn’t hurt that Ling is a machinist and Zanussi a fabricator. They’ve fashioned a slick stainless steel sled that, depending on snow conditions, may reach speeds exceeding 80 km/h.

Appropriately, the words “Iron Maiden” are emblazoned on both sides, it weighs about 300 pounds and comes with interchangeable skis or contoured pipes depending on conditions, a steering wheel and brakes.

“It doesn’t matter what you ride on, if you have skis you are going to do pretty good,” especially if they’re coated with Lexan plastic, says Zanussi.

For safety, Rossland firefighters inspect each sled before the race, ensuring they have a good steering apparatus and effective brakes.

The teams have little opportunity to practice. Often, not until the night before or the morning of the race can a sled practice start and determine which skis to use.

Ling is the driver and Brady the brakeman and pusher, and although they have been at it for many years, their strategy is pretty simple.

“Just keep it as straight as you can going down that course, and less turning,” said Brady.

The start is very important and the men wear baseball cleats to get traction. Finishes are often separated by tenths of seconds so any advantage counts in this fun, but obviously competitive, race.

Participating in the event is something the men take pride in and over the years, while the Rossland Winter Carnival has had its ups and downs, the bobsled race has always been a constant.

“It’s a huge thing, the bobsled race has kept the winter carnival alive . . . no matter what happened in the past with Rossland, the streets were always packed (for the race),” said Jay.

The men are ready, the sled is ready; all that is left is to run the race.

“We want the best of both worlds, a sled that looks good and wins.”

And as far as prizes go, “Pride is the best trophy of all.”