Luke Demetre - A Quick 30 Pounds, and The Fastest He's Ever Moved
Eating tubs of ice cream every night before bed is not what most people associate with the of lifestyle of a high performance athlete. However, this is exactly what Olympian Luke Demetre found himself doing his first year pursuing a spot with the national team for Bobsleigh Canada. The goal, put on 30 pounds fast… like yesterday.
Let’s rewind and set the stage on how exactly this nightly ice cream routine came to be…
Luke grew up in quaint New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. As an athletically gifted kid, Luke enjoyed hockey, basketball, ultimate frisbee, track and field, and cross country running. He speaks with an animated highly energetic tone that instantly grabs my attention. Naturally, the questions lead to, “so how did you get involved with Bobsleigh?” The energy in his already upbeat voice spikes, and he describes the chance encounter that kicked things off.
Demetre had followed a successful high school season with enrollment at Dalhousie and a spot on the varsity track and field team. “I was pretty good in high school”, and he notes 5th and 7th place finishes in the 100 and 200 metre sprints at the legion nationals.
Now, fresh off a second season of indoor CIS track racing with Dalhousie, Luke was an upbeat student athlete transitioning for the upcoming summer season. In case you’re unaware (like I was), the sport of track and field is primarily divided into two seasons, a winter and summer season- each with slightly different distances run by track athletes. For Luke, this meant running the 60 metre and 300 metre on the indoor track in the winter season, and the 200 and 400 metre events outdoors during the summer season. Now that you can grasp Luke’s training as a young student athlete at Dalhousie University, picture him training outdoors on the Saint Mary’s University outdoor track on a mild Halifax day, preparing for the summer season of track and field… “this is when things get interesting”, he laughs.
He describes the surreal encounter of being approached in between running pieces during practice, by an obviously anxious bobsled coach. With an exasperated delivery, the coach was asking the training group, “does anyone want to come to Lake Placid this weekend to race Bobsled?” Up went Luke’s hand, “I’ll go”, and the journey begins... he jumped on a plane for the last minute (“paid for trip”) which makes him smile.
“Telling the story to you, it seems a lot more crazy now than it did at the time,” he laughs.
The New York trip to Lake Placid gave Luke his first exposure to a 4 man bobsled race, and from that point he was hooked. “Speed and competitive atmosphere were the draw for me.” He explains it to me (an outsider) looking for a bit more context and perspective, “imagine tobogganing, but really fast!”
“Really fast” though, is an understatement I soon learn, as Luke describes the feeling of going down a track. He describes the feeling of 5 g’s on the corners, and speeds of 130+ km/ hour.
“You feel tons of pressure, some guys hold their breath, others get motion sickness at first. It feels like you have someone sitting on your back, there is so much pressure.”
He’s definitely got my attention now. It sounds like absolute madness. I quickly become better acquainted with the concept of g-force, which Wikipedia (post Google search) informs me that it is possible to feel more than the standard gravitational “1g” of force during acceleration, and then references a number of different cases and associated g-force numbers. For example, a Bugatti sports car going 0 - 100 in 2.4 seconds yields 1.55 g-force. Moving down the list, a “Gravitron amusement” ride yields 3 g, as well as a standard space shuttle. In fact, the top dragster world record of a 4.4 second world record ¼ mile is associated with a g-force of 4.2. Sure enough, down the list a little further, (and just before Apollo 16 re-entry!!!), is Luge (similar to bobsled) at 5.2. I now have context and a newfound respect for luge / bobsled; there must be something special about the kind of people that can compete in this sport!
Our conversation shifts to Luke’s 2014 Olympic experience in Sochi. He had been named as an alternate to the team, and unfortunately during the “tryout” portion of the 2014 season was told after the first race that “selection was over, and he had no chance to make the team”. It was a disappointing break for Luke, but despite his alternate status, he eventually found himself racing in Sochi after all. A dream come true.
It’s 2016, and Luke has his eyes on being a big part of the 4 man bobsled in 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games.
“What’s keeping you interested and excited?” I ask.
“It’s the camaraderie, the group training environment, and the feeling that we could do something special in 2 years from now,” he answers with a renewed sense of energy in his voice after discussing the Sochi experience.