Canadian rugby international turned Olympic bobsleigh star
A two-time Olympic gold medallist in the women’s two-man bobsleigh alongside Kaillie Humphries, Heather Moyse has also been one of the driving forces of the Canadian women’s rugby team.
Until she was 27, Heather Moyse focused on her academic studies, though she played and excelled at a variety of sports. After a period working in overseas development, she returned to Canada and, encouraged by her sister, she took up rugby.
Her natural affinity for the sport and rapid progress meant she was soon playing for the national team. As a winger Moyse developed into a prolific scorer, racking up numerous tries both in the 15-a-side game (she was top scorer at the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup) and in rugby sevens, the format which is due to take its senior Olympic bow at Rio 2016.
In August 2005, Moyse embarked on her new adventure as a bobsleigh brakeman. It might seem a radical departure for a rugby player, but according to the Canadian the transition was a smooth one. “As a rugby player you need a lot of speed. I was a winger/full back which requires explosive power in your legs,” she explains. “These are qualities you also need for bobsleigh. In fact when you are hitting a sled you need the same power as hitting a scrum machine.”
Sure enough, just six months later, partnering pilot Helen Upperton, Moyse finished fourth at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin.
Subsequently, she teamed up with Kaillie Humphries to form a partnership that produced an exceptional triumph in front of home crowds in Vancouver in 2010. On their way to the gold medal the duo beat the Olympic start record no less than three times, as well as setting a new course record for Whistler. It was the first ever medal for Canada in the women’s bobsleigh.
A winning return
Moyse did not rest on her laurels, switching her focus back to rugby, and even trying her hand at track cycling. After a two and a half year break from bobsleigh, in part enforced by a hip injury, and a long period of rehab and recovery, and an intensive training regime, Moyse returned to action “stronger and faster than ever before.”
The multitalented Canadian, who hails from Prince Edward Island, resumed her partnership with Humphries, who had in the meantime won world championship titles in 2012 and 2013 racing with with other brakemen. The duo dominated the FIBT World Cup circuit in the 2013/14 season before heading for Sochi to defend their Olympic crown.
In Russia they came up against a stiff test in the form of American pair Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, who had the better of the first two legs, and then clocked a faster time in the third. However in the final descent of the Sanki track, the Canadians hit peak form, producing a pitch perfect run to edge out the Americans by a mere tenth of a second. In doing so they became the first women bobsleigh team to win two gold medals.
The next challenge
Moyse has also enjoyed success outside the sporting arena. She has a degree in occupational therapy and regularly appears as a motivational speaker. During the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games she acted as an Athlete Role Model, having been nominated by the International Rugby Board (IRB).
Asked what has motivated her to excel in such different sports, she replied: “Discovering how far I can make use of my potential is a real driver for me – not just in sports, but in life... Potential is about setting the bar at a certain level and trying your hardest to achieve it and then raising the bar a bit higher.”
So can we expect to see her pushing those boundaries yet again for the Canadian rugby sevens in Rio in 2016? “It’s a temptation of course…That said my athletic future has never been easy to pre-dict. If I was asked to commit a year before, I’d think about it. The possibility exists. Anything is possible. But at the moment I’m enjoying lots of other opportunities outside sport.”