HUMBOLDT — Former Olympic bobsleigh medalist and Humboldt product Lyndon Rush hopes being inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame might one day inspire someone else to pursue success.
The Class of 2021 provincial sports Hall of Fame member recalls going to his hometown’s Uniplex as a young person and visiting the Humboldt and District Sports Hall of Fame. He remembers reading about Robert Gasper, a Bruno product and 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics luge competitor.
“I was like, ‘you just never know, hey?’ Now thinking about it, I came from Humboldt and end up going to the Olympics in bobsleigh. …
“As a kid, I was inspired by that …not like that ‘I want to be a luger one day,’ but that planted a seed in the back of my head. … I'm sure it did. And then me going into the Hall of Fame and being from Humboldt, I really hope it plants seeds in another kid's brain.”
During a decade-long competitive bobsleigh career, Rush racked up many wins, accomplishments, awards and accolades. With Jesse Lumsden, he won the World Cup tour overall two-man bobsleigh title for the 2012-13 season and the 2012 silver medal at the World Championships. There were 21 medals on the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup Tour, being named the 2013 Sask Sport Athlete of the Year, and a 2019 induction into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
And, of course, there were the Olympics. Rush piloted his sled of David Bissett, Lascelles Brown and Chris le Bihan to a bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. He also was in a two-man sled at those Olympics and competed in both disciplines at 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
“Being a home Olympian, that's super cool,” Rush said. “Having it in your country. Everybody there cheering for you. … And then there's a way more attention. … Talking to people, everybody still remembers 2010, like everybody basically took three weeks off and watched TV every day. And then I was one of the things that people remember like, ‘Oh, yeah, you won the medal before the hockey game.’”
At both Olympics he competed at, Rush enjoyed meeting different athletes from all over the world. And not just bobsledders.
“It's really neat to see the different body types … bobsledders, we stick out like a sore thumb. … The Winter Olympic sports are like endurance or skill, they're all little people. There's very few big people.”
Rush is proud to be from Humboldt and Saskatchewan. He speaks about growing up during a time when it seemed like everyone knew everyone in Humboldt. He played many organized team sports and also enjoyed action sports such as dirt biking, snowmobiling, wakeboarding at Stoney Lake – all of these helped him during his athletic career.
Playing football at the Humboldt Collegiate Institute for former University of Saskatchewan player Cal Hobbs had a big impact on Rush. He recalls his team twice winning provincial girdiron titles and falling in his Grade 12 season in the semifinals to the eventual champions. Rush went on to play for the Huskies.
“[U of S head coach] Brian Towriss ran a great program and [Hobbs] brought that program basically to HCI,” Rush said. “When I went to the Huskies, it's like, ‘Oh, we were doing the exact same thing.’ And he just brought that program to HCI … you learn, like, what it takes to be a winner, and what it takes to gain an advantage, and do more work than the other guys.
“And a big part of it, too, was mostly the team sport. I learned how when a group comes together - one and one doesn't equal two. The math doesn't equate when there's a special bond amongst teammates, it makes you better. And that was something that was really important to Cal Hobbs, to the Huskies, and to me. And one of the reasons why I had a successful [bobsleigh] career was I had a great relationship with my teammates and we got more out of each other. I was a good leader, I guess, and I learned those leadership skills - a big chunk of that – through the Huskie program/HCI football/Cal Hobbs.”
Playing linebacker and defensive end, Rush helped the Huskies make it to two national university Vanier Cups. He was a Canada West All-Star in 2003.
Near the end of his Huskies football career, Towriss was contacted by Bobsleigh Canada recruiters, who Rush said were “looking for big guys that can run - sort of like linebacker type guys, and I was a linebacker.” He had not yet decided his future and was considering trying to go to a Canadian Football League camp.
“I just felt like God was calling me to give this a try,” Rush said. “This is really strange, but it just appealed to me somehow. And then as soon as I tried it, I was like, ‘Like, this is what I've been training for my whole life. It’s athletics, and racing, and adrenaline through the nines.’ It's like, all the things I love to do blended into one and I was like, I'm going to do this, even if I have to pay to do this.”
Rush feels he had a pretty solid 10 year-long career.
“When I started, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, if I could get to here my third year, here my fourth’ and then the goal was the Olympics in Vancouver. It kind of went according to what I laid out in my head.”
While Rush had success in both four-man and two-man bobsleigh, he said the disciplines are very different. He has that “pushing two man is just like a genetic gift. You’re a freak of nature – you’re super strong, you're super fast and your pilot is pretty good, too.”
In the four-man event, Rush said teamwork is crucial. All four have to work together to succeed.
After his competitive days were over, Rush moved quickly coaching. It could have been an awkward as former teammates became his students, but:
“I was actually coaching them all along. … Because I was a veteran on the team and I was already the coach of the men's program, because I was already helping the guys out. It's one of the reasons why I retired, because I could tell they were better than me. Canada would do better if I was helping these guys.”
At the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, he helped Justin Kripps and Alex Kopacz to the gold medal in two-man.
“Giving back is really cool,” Rush said. “As an athlete, your job is to be really selfish. As a coach, it's the opposite, like being a parent versus being a kid. Your job is to help athletes do the best they can. … And even when they don't do well, you see them learn from it.”
Rush is now based in Sylvan Lake, Alta. He and his wife have three daughters and a son. With a winter-heavy coaching schedule, Rush said proudly he can dedicate his summer to being “super dad.”