The Sochi 2014 Olympics will include a local star, 32 year old skeleton racer Eric Neilson.
Neilson, of Kelowna, has always felt driven to be part of the Olympics. He watched the games on television from a very early age, and imagined the thrill of representing his country and calling himself an Olympian.
Growing up, Neilson excelled in volleyball, basketball, and rugby, winning Top Male Athlete of the Year in School District 23 in 1999.
The athlete who inspired him the most when growing up was Bo Jackson, in large part because of his ability to excel at two sports, both football and baseball.
Neilson’s sister, Kayla Neilson, says, “We are very proud, because he is working so hard to accomplish one of his dreams. It still feels surreal knowing that my brother is going to be in the Olympics. and walking out in the crowd of athletes in the opening ceremonies.”
Neilson has financed his trip to the Olympics mostly on his own. Working at a job while training full-time has been a challenge, one he has met with determination. Training involved 4-5 hours at the gym six days a week, with ice baths to help his body cope. Nutrition plays a big role in training as well: No processed or fast food, lots of chicken, steak, rice, eggs and vegetables, as well as plenty of water.
During the rare times when he can take a break from his vigorous training schedule, he enjoys watching rugby, volleyball and hockey.
Neilson is looking forward to the Olympics, “Just being there, experiencing the atmosphere, representing Canada and wearing the Maple Leaf.”
Does he have any advice to young athletes who aspire to greatness? “Work hard and set goals,” he says, “Each day you wake, try to be a better person and a better athlete than you were the day before. Even if it’s just a small improvement, you know your hard work is paying off and you’re doing something to make yourself better.”