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In Sochi, Canada’s Olympic bobsleds really are chariots of the gods

Canada's Justin Kripps and Bryan Barnett compete in a heat of the two-man bobsleigh event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, at the Sanki Sliding Center in Rosa Khutor February 16, 2014.


For Canadian pilots Chris Spring and Justin Kripps, their bobsleds literally are chariots of the gods.

Born in Hawaii, Kripps dug into his heritage to name his original Canada 3 sleds after Hawaiian gods. The two-man sled is named Pele, the goddess of fire and lava, while the four-man sled was Poliahu, goddess of ice and snow.

When Kripps inherited Lyndon Rush's four-man 2010 sled, he opted to retain its name of Kal-el — Superman's name on Krypton — "as a tribute to Rush and that sled itself."

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"That sled has a lot of mojo," said Kripps, a native of Summerland, B.C.

Rush piloted the sled to a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, becoming the first Canadian in more than 40 years to win an Olympic medal in the four-man event, among other honours.

Australian-born Chris Spring, who now makes his home in Calgary, also looked to the heavens to name Canada 2. His two-man sled is Altuira, the god of the dreamtime.

"A time before man that the aboriginals believed in," he explained. "I have a lot of respect for the aboriginal culture back home and wanted to represent that through my sled."

He originally didn't have a name for his four-man ride. But a crash in January 2012 took care of that.

"My sled went from being worth a lot of money to probably not being worth anything at all," he said dryly.

Bobsleigh Canada's head mechanic Marc Van Den Berg built him a new sled, drawing in a few parts from the wreck. "So fittingly I have named it Phoenix, after being reborn literally from the ashes."

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Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries named her sled Thorfin after her great-grandfather. Her grandfather also used the name for a sailboat that Kaillie used as a kid.

"I never actually got to meet my great-grandfather but he was a World War II vet and I remember hearing stories upon stories and seeing some of the medals he had got," said the Calgary native. "And being a part of the boat and understanding a bit of history and background of my family, I decided to stick with it.

"Although it's not a boat and it is a sled, I stuck with Thorfin — to keep it in the family."

Regulations don't allow the name to be displayed on the outside of the sled. So they are marked on the inside of the front nose, right in front of the driver.

Edmonton's Jenny Ciochetti named her Canada 2 sled DJ Sirocco.

D.J. are the initials of a friend who died. Sirocco is a warm Mediterranean wind, which fits in with her Italian heritage. Plus "my mom always say go fast like the wind."

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Rush, from Humboldt, Sask., calls his Canada 1 two-man sled Deuce and the four-man sled Moose.

"It's a two-man so Deuce makes sense but my wife (Krista) calls bobsled poopsled and my kids (Olivia and Amelia) call bobsled poopsled and they kind of tease me. And going poop is a No. 2," he explained, drawing laughs at a team news conference.

Hence Deuce, thanks to a suggestion from Olivia. And with sleds hurtling down the track at more than 140 km/h, that's real poop power.

Moose was chosen for the four-man "because it's big and rhymes with Deuce."

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