For athletes around the world, the road to the Olympics is something you dream about your entire life. For former Raven Jay Dearborn, the path from football to the Olympic Winter Games has been more like a rocket ship than a slow climb. Having only begun training with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton in 2019, Dearborn has quickly found a place among the world's best sledders.
To say it's been a whirlwind season for Jay Dearborn would be an understatement. Days after the Yarker, Ontario, product saw his second season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders come to an end in the CFL West Final, Dearborn was alone in a car heading from Ottawa to Lake Placid.
"It was quick, it was a fast turnover," said Dearborn from the team's training camp in Germany. "Our season ended on Sunday and by Tuesday I was headed out of town. Flew home, into Ottawa, and my mom and my brother met me with a car and I went straight to Lake Placid to meet up with a team down there." Just over a week after his CFL season had ended Dearborn finished second in the two-man bobsleigh with teammate Austin Taylor in the North American Cup.
"It was a new environment, new teammates, it was a new start and it was exciting to get there."
Less than a month later, Dearborn made his IBSF World Cup debut finishing in the top 10 in Winterberg, Germany. Following another top-10 finish, fifth overall, at the infamous track in St. Moritz, Dearborn was nominated for the Winter Olympics as a member of the men’s crew with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton.
Dearborn isn't focused on how quickly his season has progressed, instead, he's focusing on the process and gaining reps with new teammates. "It's one step at a time. We went down to the NAC races in Lake Placid and it went well there and the next step was getting over to Europe and getting to do some races with members of the National Team who were competing on the World Cup Circuit."
In St. Moritz, Dearborn's progression continued as he raced with 2018 Gold Medalist, in the 2-man event, Justin Kripps. With pressure building, Dearborn would gain additional experience racing on the infamous Swiss course. In the final week of the World Cup circuit, a strong showing from all three Canada teams could mean that not two but three Canadian sleds would qualify for the Olympics. "It was a pretty cool atmosphere that race day, you could feel that you weren't just racing for your sled but you were racing for the four other guys on that third sled."
"Each step was kind of a little bit more nerve-racking, as I've progressed, but it was also at a pretty good rate," Dearborn admits that there was stress along the way but credits his teammates for helping him to feel confident as the pressure mounted. "The teammates that I was racing with and training with really took me in under their wing. Because I was coming in late and showing up late I had to perform almost instantly, and it helped to have them take me in under their wing."
Being able to share the sled with some of Canada's top racers, Dearborn has been able to feel comfortable on the big stage. "It took a lot of the stress out of racing," he said, adding "those guys are as professional as it gets."
Among his teammates, Dearborn is joined by fellow CFL player Samuel Giguere and alternate Cyrus Gray. Asked about why so many football players end up at the top of the track, Dearborn says he sees an immediate connection between the two sports. "It's the perfect cross-over sport." While he admits that statement may come with some personal bias, it's echoed by strength and conditioning coaches in both sports. "Comparing my offseason goals for bobsleigh and my offseason goals for football they almost always line up. They want that strong, fast, explosive athlete, so it helps that both sports off-seasons and training are similar."
To many at Carleton it's no surprise that Dearborn has found more success in bobsleigh. The standout defensive player for the Ravens has always been a great example for other student-athletes at Carleton. Carleton Strength and Conditioning Coach Nick Westcott spent countless hours with Dearborn in the High Performance Centre and even helped him discover his potential in the sport of bobsleigh. "Having seen first-hand Jay’s work ethic, commitment and intelligent approach to training, I am not surprised that he continues to earn success both in football and on the bobsleigh track."
Beyond his athletic results, Westcott points out Dearborn's drive and commitment to his craft. Dearborn continues to work on completing his degree while competing at elite levels in both sports. "He is certainly the type of athlete and person that Canadians can be proud to have representing them in Beijing," said Westcott, adding "I could not be more excited to watch Jay compete at his first Olympic Games!"
Dearborn admits that he finds the excitement like his football career both with the Ravens and with the Riders. "It's as exciting for them as it is for me. I got a lot more joy out of gameday when I had family and friends in the stands because I knew how exciting it was for them that they were experiencing this great adventure with me. And I think it will be very similar with the bobsleigh stuff and the Olympics coming up."
The Olympic four-man bobsled competition is scheduled to take place on February 18 and 19 at 8:30 p.m. EST.