Ben Coakwell, member of Canada 2 bobsleigh team. Photo provided by Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton
Six former University of Saskatchewan students are trading in Huskies green for maple leaf red as they head to Sochi, Russia representing Canada at the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.
One of those individuals is bobsledder Ben Coakwell (BSc'10).
Running seems to come naturally for Coakwell. He played running back for the U of S Huskies football team, leading the team in rushing and scoring for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He also ran 60 and 200 meter sprints as a member of the Huskies track and field team.
Recruited by Bobsleigh Canada in 2012, the Moose Jaw, Sask. native is competing in his first World Cup season this year and his first Olympics in Sochi.
UofS: Describe your first day on campus.
BC: I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect. And also pretty hungry, which is usually what happens when I get nervous.
UofS: What is your favourite or most memorable moment at the U of S?
BC: Playing in the Vanier Cup that the U of S hosted in 2006. We lost, but the energy from that game and the fans will be something I will never forget.
UofS: Did you have a favourite hangout as a student?
BC: The PAC [Physical Activity Complex]. I used to work there, and many of my classes were there. It was a close walk to the football field, and many of the people I knew were around there.
UofS: What was the best place to get food on campus?
BC: Sushi. I ate there often, mostly because I could smash a lot of it, which is fairly important to keep weight on.
UofS: Did you have a favourite place on campus to unwind?
BC: The Bowl. I liked to relax a bit outside and watch people walk by. I would try to guess their major.
UofS: Do you have any pre-competition rituals or superstitions?
BC: I try not to have superstitions. I believe my ability dictates my performance, not some random ritual. I do however wear the same tights for every race because they are the most comfortable. I always do a mental drill of visualizing myself performing.
UofS: What is your most memorable moment in sport?
BC: Winning a pee wee hockey provincial title. I was just this little kid filled with dreams of being a big hockey star, and it was the most fun.
UofS: What are you most looking forward to in Sochi?
BC: Testing myself. I have always wanted to test my ability on the biggest stage possible, and I have that opportunity. I am anxious to see how I respond.
UofS: Do you have any advice for U of S students today?
BC: Discipline and hunger. I use hunger to drive me to success. Even when I have achieved my goals, I maintain the hunger to go beyond that. This can be applied to most things in life including your studies. You owe it to yourself. Small amounts of discipline go a long way. That extra hour of studying or making it to class on time, for example.
UofS: Do you have any advice for aspiring young athletes?
BC: No matter what sport it is, and how talented you believe yourself to be, keep working towards greatness. The cliché of hard work exists for a reason, and I am a walking example of that. I would not be where I am today if I didn't believe in myself and my willingness to work harder than anyone I came across.
Follow Ben Coakwell on Twitter: @bencoakwell or on Facebook: facebook.com/ben10speed
Read more about former U of S students heading to Sochi:
Lyndon Rush, BA'04, men's bobsleigh
Graeme Rinholm, BSc'10, men's bobsleigh
Colette Bourgonje, BSPE'84, BEd'85, women's para-nordic cross-country skiing
Kurt Oatway, BSc'10, para-alpine skiing
Brad Meier, BSPE'91, BEd'92, referee, men's hockey