Riders safety off to Olympics

As a kid, Jay Dearborn’s dream was to play at the World Junior Hockey Championship. He never lived out that dream, but he’s done plenty more.

Dearborn played in nine games at safety and linebacker for the Riders, including starting in the Western Final. And just a couple months later he’s off to the Olympics in four-man bobsleigh. Dearborn will be the brakeman for one of Canada’s three teams.

“I’m super-excited just to get to the athlete village and the Opening Ceremonies and be able to experience all those things that, as a kid, you were watching on TV and it’s magical and it’s exciting. And now, I’m going to be there in person.”

Dearborn first tried bobsleigh after being released by Riders in 2019. A coach in Ottawa reached out to him and introduced him to the sport. But it went to the back burner when Dearborn recovered from an injury and returned to the Riders early in the 2019 season.

After some formal training with the national bobsleigh team in March 2020, he was hooked. Terrified of the speeds sure, but hooked.

“In Whistler those sleds can get up 140, 150 kilometres an hour. So, near the bottom when you’re at that top speed, some of those corners are relatively sharp.

“As you go around those corners at full speed, down doesn’t feel like down. It’s towards the bottom of the sled that feels like down. So your body just gets plastered into the bottom of the sled when those pressures hit. It’s a lot. And then you get a quick little breather in between corners, and you get plastered into the bottom again.”

Turns out that the COVID pandemic played a huge role in Dearborn getting to the Olympics.

“That fall when they cancelled the (2020) CFL season, it was two or three weeks later I got the email about the national team tryout in Calgary. So, it was pretty good timing because I was staying ready all summer hoping for a CFL season.

“I was like, ‘Well, I feel athletically ready and I’ve been training all summer…might as well head out.’”

Two former CFL players are also going to Beijing–former Ticats/Alouettes/Elks receiver Samuel Giguere is on another sled, and former Lions/Alouettes running back Shaq Murray-Lawrence is an alternate.

“The off-season training is pretty similar,” says Dearborn. “Both sports want this strong, fast, explosive athlete. They tend to try to pull athletes that are 205 to 230 (pounds) in bodyweight. It’s a pretty similar athlete that can do both sports.

“I don’t ever feel like I’m training for one and neglecting the other because both of my off-season goals are the same.”

That training allowed Dearborn to make a lightning-fast turnaround after the CFL season ended.

“We lost (the Western Final) on Sunday night and then by Tuesday or Wednesday morning I think, I was flying back to Ottawa,” he says. “And my mom and my brother met me at the airport with a car and I drove straight down to Lake Placid (New York) to meet the team that was down there competing.”

The 27 year old credits the Riders with making it possible for him to do both. And with free agency approaching, he intends to keep excelling at two sports.

“I think as long as I can make both sports work, which I think is a possibility, I’m going to have a ton of fun trying to compete in both and trying to succeed in both. One’s a summer sport and one’s a winter sport and they have a little bit of a cross-over, but so far I’ve been able to keep both afloat.”

Dearborn begins competition in Men’s four-man bobsleigh begins February 19.

Hear more from Jay today on the Sports Cage.

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