Athlete & Ambassador Stories

Overcoming Injury With 4 Time Olympian Chris Spring

Overcoming Injury With 4 Time Olympian Chris Spring

There is a constant drive to improve and strive for that perfect run down the track in bobsledding. And as a professional pilot bobsled athlete for over 15 years, Chris Spring is no stranger to attacking the finish line.

Chris has travelled the globe representing his home country of Australia but now competes for Team Canada since becoming a Canadian citizen in 2013. He has competed in four Olympic Games as well as the World Cup circuit, racing in both two-man and four-man events. Most recently Chris has piloted his four-man crew into the top 10 for the first time in his Olympic career.

But with any extreme sport, comes extreme risk. After a catastrophic crash back in 2012 during a World Cup training run, Chris was airlifted to hospital and met with a life-altering decision—retire or persevere? And as a strong believer that your experience is what you make of it, Chris triumphantly returned back to the track in just five short months.

From physical setbacks to podium finishes, Chris took a moment to share his career as an athlete—a journey that’s been powered by equal parts courage and fear.

How were you first introduced to bobsledding? What do you love about the sport?

Most athletes are recruited from other sports, but I actually came into the sport in a very non-traditional way. I found myself at the bobsled track in Calgary just over 15 years ago. I was watching a race and got to chatting with some of the spectators. I was intrigued and wanted to know more about the sport. A week later I found myself in the back of a sled.

As an athlete who has competed in multiple Olympic Games and World Cups, do you have any key takeaways that you’d like to share?

The difference is in the mindset. Two athletes might have the exact same result, and one may be disappointed whereas the other is overjoyed. My mindset has been the number one influencer of my success. And the longer my career goes on, the more I'm aware that winning isn’t everything.

What does a typical training session look like for you? How do you prepare your mind and body?

This varies depending on the type of the season or whether it’s dry land training or on-ice training. When we’re on ice there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work preparing the sled and equipment. Whereas in the summer and dry line training, the time on task is much higher.

However, in both types of training, I keep the same mindset. I’m very focused on an outcome each and every session—something I can control, not so much a time or a position. When it comes to my body, I know that it needs a lot of time, more than most to get ready and prepared to train. So that includes a lot of activation exercises and drills to ensure I’m not only getting the best performance from my body, but I’m staying healthy enough to repeat day in and day out.

How do you get pumped before a race? Is there a particular song that you always play or routine that’s a must?

I keep things low-key before a race. I'm usually listening to some folk or acoustic jams such as Ben Howard, The Lumineers or Gregory Alan Isakov. It’s important for me to keep that excitement internal until it’s time to race, and music like this keeps me grounded.

You experienced a serious crash during a World Cup training run in 2012. How did that impact you as an athlete?

After that crash, I noticed I was quite afraid. I had a fear of driving my sled, injuring my teammates again, and not being successful. For years, this fear hovered over me and almost consumed me. And then one day I realized that I was a better driver than I ever had been. And I attribute that to being afraid—the fear forced me to study tracks better, prepare better, understand my equipment better, and in turn, made me a better athlete. And so now when I’m afraid, I invite that feeling in because I know how much it helps me.

More recently you also experienced a catastrophic knee injury. What happened?

I’ve had many problems for the majority of my career. It’s a combination of my anatomy, the type of training we do, and no doubt being 30 lb heavier than my body likes to be. A few years ago after multiple PRP injections and prolotherapy in both knees, I tore my patella tendon on my left knee catching a power clean. The surgeons wanted to do surgery right away but I would have missed out on the season which was important to maintain my world cup spot to help me qualify for the most recent Olympics.

So I’ve managed the best I could these last couple of years, altering my workouts and avoiding certain exercises. And after the Olympics, we decided that it was the best time to operate on my knee. The surgeons repaired a meniscus tear, shaved down the fat pad and bursa to relieve pressure, removed a diseased part of cartilage, and then removed the diseased part of my patella tendon and reattached it to an anchor that they screwed into my femur.

How have your K1s supported your path to recovery? What have they unlocked for you?

The K1s have given me confidence in my recovery. When I wear my K1s, I walk less cautiously and I can execute rehab exercises with more control and confidence. It’s like getting a big hug from a loved one and that feeling that everything’s going to be okay. That’s the feeling I get when I'm wearing my K1s—it’s a big bear hug for my knees.

Chris has used his K1s from day one of his path to recovery. Learn more about his journey and what the K1s unlock for him:

You’ve adopted the motto “fun is fast”. Tell us what this means to you…

When my team and I are competing and away from family and friends, we often get caught up in the stresses of competition. This stress can overwhelm and impact the way you compete. I like to incorporate this mantra to remind us all that we’re doing something we love, competing for a country we love, and are in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. I like to remind us all that we’re here because we enjoy what we're doing and have found that when we’re enjoying the competition and having fun, we have our best results. Because fun is fast.

What are other interests that you gravitate toward when you’re looking to rest and reset?

I recently got into mountain biking. There are a lot of parallels between biking and piloting a sled. Choosing your entry speed and line into a corner on a bike is very similar to what we experience in a sled. I also get a similar feeling when I’m flying planes. I have a commercial licence and the experience of flying a plane, especially on the West Coast, is something that is really calming for me.

In his spare time, Chris likes to hit the local MTB trails and fly planes (no big deal).

What’s next on your journey as a professional athlete?

Before anything I want to make sure I recover successfully from the surgery. And that’s why my K1s are so valuable—they’re an integral part of that recovery. I know I’m not getting any younger, but I still believe I have the ability to compete at the highest level and the challenge of returning to that level of sport is something I’m excited about.

No two careers as professional athletes are the same. What motivates you to perform your best? What brings you back after injury? What does winning really look like for you? For Chris Spring, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being present in the moment and loving what you do.