Bobsledder slides into new role back home in London

Josh Kirkpatrick moved home, married his high school sweetheart in September and stepped away from the demanding sport to hit a personal reset button.

Curtis Thorner performs squats under the guidance of Olympic bobsledder and trainer Josh Kirkpatrick at Total Package Hockey on Wednesday. 

Josh Kirkpatrick will always own one of the best discovery stories in sports history.

He was playing in a rec league slo-pitch game when he met a Bobsleigh Canada coach, who mentioned he might be a good candidate to try the sport. In February, he pushed to a 12th-place finish in a four-men sled at the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“You never really know how things are going to go,” the 31-year-old Londoner said. “I ended up in the exact opposite place. I’m a summer guy. I love the water and beaches, and I ended up competing in the smallest towns in Europe with two feet of snow and going down ice.”

Kirkpatrick moved home, married his high school sweetheart in September and stepped away from the demanding sport to hit a personal reset button. It could be temporary or it could be forever, but since May, he has worked as a high-performance trainer at Total Package Hockey in the Western Fair Sports Centre complex.

On Thursday, he is conducting a speed training clinic at BMO Centre focusing on the fundamentals hes learned and mastered from high school to the present day.

And it’s not only aimed at hockey players.

“The cool thing at TPH is they’ve opened their arms to building complete athletes,” the former pole vaulter said. “It’s been a blast. We’re trying to reach more of the community. London is underappreciated in the sports world outside of hockey and there are so many great athletes here. That’s where my expertise comes in and everyone’s embraced it with an open mind.

“I like to tell them my story, and share the mistakes I made and my shortcomings, because I had a lot of them. I can pass on the knowledge I gained from thinking I was retired to returning to sport and appreciating it at a different level after having the 9-to-5 job, then getting back into it.”

One of the Cornell grad’s office jobs was in the marketing department of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, alongside working business operations with their major junior team, the Hitmen.

“I’m going to call myself a Flames fan now and there aren’t very many of us here in Ontario,” he said. “I didn’t really get to know the players, but I was always interested in seeing how they dealt with things on the professional side.

“My wife is a Montreal Canadiens fan and her family are diehard Habs supporters,” he added. “At least we’re not fighting over the TV. Her games are done at 9 p.m. and mine are just getting started at 10.”

Kirkpatrick said he is back in London for good and couldn’t be happier about building a career here. He needed this transition after spending four years preparing for the Olympics, which takes a big personal toll.

“It’s nice being back close to family and friends,” he said. “You miss that when you’re gone for eight months of the year training and competing. And I’m so excited to be home. Like every other typical student, I want to go the United States (on scholarship) and fulfil a dream. But people don’t appreciate London enough until they move away. After it was done, I didn’t see a better city to come back and build a family. My wife is from here and my mom is here.

“For a big city, it still has a very small-town feel and I appreciate that.”

It’s a place that has produced two of Canada’s elite male bobsledders: Alex Kopacz won Olympic gold with Justin Kripps in South Korea.

“I’m proud of him,” Kirkpatrick said. “He’s a brilliant guy, an engineer with big aspirations in life and still riding high. You win a gold, you have to do everything you can with that. And you look at we have two bobsledders from here, it’s a special thing and a testament to how good London is – not just in hockey, but in every sport.”

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Bobsledder slides back home in London
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