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Bobsledders looking for housing

National team members hoping to use home track advantage



Danaka Porter has an Olympic dream.

Formerly a varsity athlete in track and field, the Vancouver resident is now pursuing that dream as a member of Canada’s national bobsleigh team, which will have some members training at the Whistler Sliding Centre starting Jan. 18.

To meet that dream, she’s put two things on hold: an interdisciplinary studies degree at UBC, as well as a job as an auditor with PriceWaterhouse Coopers. It’s a big undertaking, but she has no regrets about training for a sport she only took up last September.

“I was kind of at the point where I don’t want to go back to school and I don’t want to work right now,” she said. “I was talking to one of my friends from the University of Alberta, Adam Rosenke, who’s actually on the World Cup team.

“He said, ‘why don’t you try bobsled!’”

Porter then called the national team coach, did two weeks of tryouts in which she did a lot of running, jumping and weightlifting, and about three weeks later found herself on the team.

To make the Olympics, she and approximately five other teammates want to get in some training time in Whistler. But the resort’s housing crunch is making that difficult.

All members of the national team have a place to stay for training, but Porter and some teammates want to be in Whistler right up until just before the Olympics.

“Just for the training, to get on the course more,” she said. “It’s like a hometown advantage kind of, it’s just easier when you live there.

“We have to keep coming back to Whistler, there’s so many training camps here, it’d be nice to just not have to worry about driving out there from Calgary or flying in from Toronto.”

Searching for a home hasn’t been easy, as many people can appreciate. Porter and her teammates have checked ads in the papers and on Craigslist, but thus far they’re turning up dead ends. Some ads have turned out to be big houses they’d be sharing with a bunch of people they don’t know — not an ideal situation for Canada’s national bobsleigh team.

“It’s pretty much impossible for us to find housing, for all of us that tried,” she said. “You call and then you find out it’s in a six-bedroom house and you’re sharing with a whole bunch of other people, so it was a little bit frustrating and I’ve kind of given up.

“For the price I’m going to pay, I can get my own place in Vancouver versus a bedroom in a house with people I have no idea who they are.”

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed was disappointed, but not surprised that Olympic hopefuls couldn’t find a place to live in town.

“We’ve been saying this for a year now, be very careful about waiting out and holding out for an expectation that may not arrive,” he said, addressing landlords within town.

“Maybe look for some ways to contribute to the success of the Games. This would be one of them. This would be absolutely fantastic if somebody from the community would be able to help out some of our national athletes.”

The bobsledders are looking for some kind of a house to live in, although they’re flexible, according to Porter.

“Just a house, kind of, I guess, or like a cabin, really anything,” she said.

The ones looking for housing are members of both the men’s and women’s teams. Currently they’re part of the “development” team that counts among its ranks some sledders who haven’t yet made the Olympic teams.

But they’re holding on to hope — especially Porter, who’s encouraged that the Olympic team could have a spot for her position, brake(wo)man.

“Obviously it’d be a dream come true,” Porter said. “It’s the Olympics in my own, not just home country, but home city, there’s a big driving force there.”