The BC Sliding Development Centre has a new skeleton coach.
Australian Olympian John Farrow will step into the role this season after retiring from competition following the 2017-18 season. Farrow qualified for three Olympic Games, including the 2010 event here in Whistler, but only competed in 2014 in Russia (finishing 17th) and this past February in South Korea (placing 19th).
The 36-year-old spent a decade on track after making the switch from mountain biking.
"Getting all that experience, I wanted to be able to hand it on. That way, it's not for nothing," he said. "It's bringing back all the memories from when I started. I was recruited in Whistler as an Australian. Some people convinced me to try skeleton and get on it, and here I am now with the opportunity to do that for other people."
"My performance was still up there, but being 36 now, to go to another Olympics, you're pushing that 40 age," he said.
The other factor is that Farrow became a father last year.
"When that happens, your whole life changes as well, and with personal pursuits, the sharp focus on being an athlete goes away," he said. "A lot of my focus is now on (my daughter)."
Being an athlete with a prior high-level career, Farrow knows all about making a switch and how to scout potential stars.
"We always look for talent transfer. We always look for people that have a previous sporting career that we can take their skills ... and make them specific for skeleton," said Farrow, who started skeleton at age 27. "I started racing mountain bikes around the world when I was 20 and was in Whistler with my team. I had an injury and walked around the village and some people said, 'Why don't you try this sport?'
"From downhill mountain biking, the skills are going down the hill fast, carrying speed and not having an engine to do all that for you. You're remembering a track and remembering corners."
From his own experience, Farrow is also aware of how to handle the highs and lows of development, which has its ups and downs and plateaus.
"The skills transfer, but you've still got to be able to put them on the tools, on the sled," he said. "Getting onto the sled, you don't really know what you're doing.
"There's a year or two where you'll take some hits and you'll get some bruising and you'll wonder why you're doing this, but once it all starts to click and you figure out what's going on, then you can really use your skills in the sport.
"The first year is pretty fun, because it's all so new, but the second year is one where you're thinking, 'I'm getting hit here' or you're seeing some roadblocks that you have to work through."
As he gets settled in his coaching career, Farrow will look to emulate Australian national team coach Eric Bernotas, who struck the right balance of instruction and motivation while also being someone whom Farrow considers "a great friend."
Farrow will coach athletes with some ranges of experience, and knows there will be some challenges with the rookies.
"For the newest athletes—and you can understand it going down a track at 100-plus-kms/hr on this little sled—it's nerve-wracking. They are stiff and tense and that kind of stiffness stops you from being able to move the sled," he said.
In other WSC news, Farrow will be part of the crew for Discovery Day this Saturday, Nov. 10. Young athletes will have the chance to try any of the three sliding sports at a reduced rate, $20 for luge and $50 for skeleton or bobsleigh if they are Canadian residents. Luge athletes must be between eight and 14, while the skeleton option is open to those 14 and older and the bobsleigh experience is open to those 16 and older.
The day starts with luge at noon, while skeleton starts at 1:30 p.m. and bobsleigh is at 3:30 p.m.
For more information or to register, visit www.whistlerslidingcentre.com/discoverday2018.