Editor’s note: We decided to end 2021 on a positive note by putting together a four-part series featuring four young athletes from the Penticton area who have turned their love of sports into post-secondary educations or careers on the international stage.
No hoopla? No problem.
As organizers of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing scramble to ensure the show goes on, the list of health precautions has only gotten longer. Among them: fans will be allowed to clap, but not cheer; no foreign spectators allowed; and athletes must stay in a closed “loop” between their hotels and competitions.
That all sounds fine to Justin Kripps, a former Summerland resident and the reigning Olympic champion in two-man bobsleigh.
“I think this Olympics is going to be really all business,” the 34-year-old said in an email interview.
“Normally, there is a ton going on in and around the Games and it’s important to manage your energy and not get caught up in trying to experience every part of it and getting every piece of free swag you can.
“This time, I don’t think there will be much of that. We’ll be in a pretty tight bubble and everyone will be completely focused on their competition.”
Kripps was born in Hawaii, but spent the latter part of his childhood in Summerland, where he excelled in track and field.
By 2006, he had enrolled at Simon Fraser University and was running for the school’s track team, when he attended a bobsleigh training camp that was staged to identify athletes who had the physical prowess to excel in the sport.
Kripps attended his first Olympics in 2010 as brakeman for Pierre Leuders’ four-man crew, then began training to become a driver.
By the time the 2014 Olympics in Sochi rolled around, Kripps was piloting his own two- and four-man sleds but failed to make the podium at those Games.
Four years later, he won gold in two-man at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang and placed sixth in four-man.
In the years since, Kripps has kept up his winning ways on the international circuit, steering his crews to bronze-medal finishes in World Cup events before Christmas that have him ranked second in the world in four-man and fourth in two-man.
Kripps, who normally resides in Calgary, spent the holiday break in Latvia with his fiancée, dancer Breanne Wilson.
His parents and some childhood friends still live in Summerland, and he typically visits for a few weeks each summer.
Kripps is getting married shortly after the Olympics and plans to re-evaluate his athletic career after that. Until then, he plans to follow his own advice to budding young athletes and keep working hard.
“Half the battle is sticking with it, and I think people have this idea that if they aren’t on a direct path to the Olympics or going pro or whatever that they can’t make it,” said Kripps.
“The truth is, you don’t have to be the biggest talent but you do need to stick with it when the going gets tough. That’s when you grow and move to the next level. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!”