White Rock’s Ryan Sommer is now a bronze-medal bobsledder, after reaching the podium in Beijing with Canada’s four-man team.
The Elgin Park Secondary graduate, 28, earned his first Olympic medal with three teammates on Sunday (Feb. 20), the final day of the Winter Games.
Sommer celebrated the medal win with his bride-to-be, women’s hockey gold-medallist Blayre Turnbull. After three months apart, the couple reunited during the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremonies and posed for photos.
On Tuesday (Feb. 22), Sommer and Turnbull returned to domestic life at their home in Calgary after a “whirlwind” couple of days.
“We went to the closing ceremonies, which was a great night, and then we did some celebrating on the plane home, so it’s been a fun – what is it, 48 hours? It’s still a bit surreal,” Sommer said.
Going into every race, of course the goal is to end up at the top of the podium, he explained, “but I couldn’t be happier with the colour of the medal we got, the one I have around my neck now,” Sommer added. “We’re calling it rose gold – that’s just about the colour it looks like. It doesn’t look bronze to me, but it’s a nice colour and a medal I’ll cherish forever.”
Looking ahead, Sommer said the couple plans to marry in August of 2023 in Nova Scotia, where Turnbull grew up.
“We’re finally home together and it feels great to be in our place again. Now we just have to get through the mountain of laundry here – I have more bags of laundry than her,” he added with a laugh.
In Beijing, Summerland’s Justin Kripps piloted the bobsled foursome, which includes Cam Stones of Whitby, Ont., and Ben Coakwell of Moose Jaw, Sask.
The @ELGINPARKorcas can lay claim to an Olympic Bronze medallist!!! Congratulations Ryan Sommer!!!Wooohooo! #GoCanadaGo #GoOrcas https://t.co/pQ054BIXWO
— Elgin Park Athletics (@OrcaAthletics) February 20, 2022
How it started ➡️ How it ended ❤️🇨🇦
Hockey player Blayre Turnbull and bobsledder Ryan Sommer reunited after 3 months apart at Beijing 2022… now they’re coming home with TWO Olympic medals 🥇🥉 pic.twitter.com/PkAKHaWPnH
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 20, 2022
On Sunday at Yanqing National Sliding Centre, they had an overall time of three minutes 55.09 seconds, well behind the gold and silver winners from Germany.
The Canadians were third after the first two heats on Saturday. They started the fourth heat with a slim edge over Germany’s Christoph Hafer and hung on for the podium appearance.
“When you cross that finish line, all of a sudden you’re aware of how much pressure there was,” Kripps said. “So in that moment, it felt amazing to have accomplished it.”
The bobsled team’s bronze medal was Canada’s 26th medal overall in Beijing, closing an out-of-the-ordinary Winter Olympics highly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic both during the sporting event and in the months leading up to it.
“It’s been really exciting, and this year has just been crazy with COVID and everything, so when the team announcement happened, it really was just a dream come true,” Sommer said in January from Germany, where he competed with the bobsled team on the World Cup circuit.
Over the past six years, Sommer went from being a novice in bobsledding to a key member of Canada’s top national four-man sled.
Born and raised on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, Sommer played mainly hockey and rugby growing up, and in high school focused on track and field, specializing in shot put and discus. He was good enough at track’s throwing events that he chose to attend the University of Lethbridge after graduating from Elgin Park, because the Alberta city was also home to a national track-and-field training centre.
After five years in Lethbridge, Sommer decided to become a firefighter – fighting forest fires, specifically. In 2015, he spent the summer working in Northern Alberta, and he enjoyed it so much, he returned in 2016.
During that second summer, he and his coworkers were watching the 2016 Summer Olympics from their fire base, when the discussion turned to the various Olympic events, and specifically, what ones each firefighter might be able to do.
“We were just kind of joking around, and I said that I didn’t think I’d ever go for track and field, but I said I knew a thrower who later got into bobsled, and… I thought that would be pretty cool,” explained Sommer, who later attended an open recruitment camp in Richmond and eventually found his way to the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
with file from The Canadian Press and Nick Greenizan, Black Press Media