It’s two years until the next Winter Olympics at Milan-Cortina in 2026, so we are in a winter sports mood! Milan-Cortina’s slidingnovela (where the sliding events will take place) has us curious about bobsled, so Australian bobsledder (bobsleigher?) Breeana Walker joins us to talk monobob. Bree competed at Beijing 2022 in both the two-woman and the monobob, placing 16th and 5th respectively.
At the Olympics, monobob is a women’s-only event, added to the program at Beijing 2022. With the International Olympic Committee’s push for gender equity, adding monobob allowed women to have the same number of medal opportunities as men (we won’t get into the fact that monobob is for one woman, and that at most, three women from one country can compete in bobsled, while six men can compete because their events are the 2-man and the 4-man).
That said, the other benefit of putting monobob on the Olympic program is that it’s supposed to be a cheaper sport (Bree explains that to us). It’s been on the Winter Youth Olympic Games program for a while. Para bobsledders also race in monobobs, although it’s not yet a Paralympic event.
We’ve wanted to talk about monobob for a while, and Bree sheds some light on the sport for us, including body weight differences between the two events, why you need different sets of runners, and why they call it the lonely sport. Plus, we get into the costs of sleds and runners–you’ll be shocked at how much they can cost.
Because it’s two years until the next Winter Games, there is a bunch of news from Milan-Cortina, not all of it rosy.
The good news: The NHL is back in the Olympics! They’ve come to an agreement to have pro players compete at 2026 and 2030, and we are here for it!
The not-so-good news: The sliding track is one construction project we’ve been focused on, but there are more construction issues happening that could affect other sports and where some athletes sleep.
In Paris 2024 news, French police are investigating the way Paris 2024 CEO Tony Estanguet is paid and whether that is skirting French law in the wrong way.
Final spectator numbers for the Opening Ceremony have been announced–and they’re quite a bit lower than originally planned.
Pride House is looking for volunteers, both in-person and remotely. Find more information here.
Tickets for Team NL house are on sale–and it’s a pretty good deal! Find them here.
Following up from our Youth Olympic Games coverage, the IOC will announce the next Winter YOG host next year.
In news from TKFLASTAN, we hear from:
- Artistic swimmer Jacqueline Simoneau
- Curler John Shuster
- Shooter Kim Rhode
- The Big O (or Owe)
- Author Andrew Maraniss–register for his March 5 book launch at Parnassus Books in Nashville here.
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Photo courtesy of Bree Walker.
Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio. Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.
Monobob with Olympian Bree Walker (Episode 323)
Jill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games.
I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello. How are you? Buon giorno! Oh!
I am so
Alison: excited. Fun. Dern. Oh!
Jill: Oh, we have news about Milan Cortina 2026. I’m, uh, just shaking my head. Shaking my head. But it is two years to go until the cauldron is lit at Milan. So you’re practicing. I am
Alison: practicing. I am going to the land of my people.
Jill: I think you’re more ready than Milan Cortina is, to be quite honest.
Alison: I could leave right now and I would be so there.
I have , my fuzzy coat, I have my fuzzy hat and I am ready.
Bree Walker Interview
Jill: All right. Well, we are celebrating the two years to go until Milan Cortina 2026. And we have today with us, Australian bobsledder, Breeana Walker, to get us excited for the games. Bree started out her athletic career as a hurdler and switched over to bobsled in 2016.
She just missed out on the 2018 Olympics, but kept at. The sport and competed at Beijing 2022 in both the two woman and the monobob in the two women. She competed with Kiara Redingus and her as her break woman, and they finished 16th in the monobob Bree finished fifth. She is currently training and competing on the world cup circuit in her quest to be a two time Olympian at Milan Cortina.
Bree talked with us to answer our many, many questions about monobob. Take a listen.
Bree Walker, thank you so much for joining us. We have a million questions about Monobob, really.
Bree Walker: Yes. I heard that you guys are interested in that. I have lots to tell.
Jill: So let’s start with , the sleds. The sleds are different in terms of weight and length , and also where you go into them. So tell us a little bit about the differences.
Okay. So starting with, I guess you would say maybe the traditional, , event, which would have been the two men for the women. , we obviously slide with two women.
Bree Walker: So I, the pilot pushed from the side, generally the left hand side, and then I load in over the top of the sled. And my brakeman is pushing from the back and she will. Push maybe for a little bit longer than me. And then she would load in from the back. And then her job during the ride is that she just puts her head down and it goes along for the journey.
And then at the end of the run that she will pop her head up and she breaks the sled as we, as after we’ve crossed the finish line, my job in the two men. Is to, uh, once I get into the sled after pushing it with her at the start I navigate the sled down the track and then once I get to the finish it’s her job to stop us.
Jill: If you are going in from the left, is that personal preference or is that the way the sled is set up?
Bree Walker: It’s generally the way the sled is set up. I’ve, I’ve seen very, very rare pictures of pilots having pilot bars on the right hand side, but I feel like that’s just people being like, inventful. Um, I don’t think generally these days everybody pushes and loads from the left.
And then of course we have the monobob. Which is the one person event that was introduced at the last Beijing Olympics. I’ve been competing in it since 2018 19 season and It yeah, pretty much. It’s just me pushing the sled as fast as I can at the same I load in from the back and then I navigate the sled down the track, , as best as possible.
And then I also have to break the sled at the end. So there’s, for those who don’t know it, there’s a, like a pulley system where you just will, , pull the break down. And then it’s like a. Fork that kind of just jabs into the ice and then that’s how we stop and the sleds are different in terms of how they operate slightly.
The two man being that it’s heavier because there’s two people in the sled, that tends to be, uh, not as. Fiddly, I would say when you’re driving it, you can tend to, , put the sled where you want it and it’ll stay there. The monobob on the other hand, because it’s lighter, because there’s only one person in the sled, it can jump around a little bit more.
And just say, if you brush a wall, you, sometimes you end up being like a ping pong and you’re like just a ping off one roll and you go to the other. And so it’s, it’s quite fiddly. Um, you have to have a lot of finesse with it. And it can be actually quite tricky. A lot of pilots will tend to favor one or the other.
I actually haven’t done a lot of two men in the last few seasons, but I’ve jumped back into the two men this year because I’ve got an excellent brakeman and I must say the two men is, I find the two men a lot easier to drive, even though I’ve been used to driving the monobob. now for multiple seasons.
So it doesn’t deter me from, you know, being successful and wanting to do the, the event. I still love both events, but yeah, driving the sleds can be quite different.
Alison: Is your sitting position different in the Mana Va versus the two man?
Bree Walker: I would say yes, slightly in the two man I’m sitting actually more forward, , in to the sled.
It’s better for aerodynamics and then also it gives , my teammate, , room in the back to fit in. And then in the monobob, I’m sitting further back because we want to be, , sitting more on the axle. So it kind of spreads the weight distribution across the sled a bit more.
Jill: The monobob looks long for one person sitting into it, so how do you jump into the sled and get far enough into the sled to get into the right place?
Or do you find yourself scooting?
Bree Walker: Oh, no, like you can tend to like completely jump in. There’s actually why it looks, I guess, so long, but then there’s , maybe there’s enough room to fit somebody else, but not really. , there’s a step in the back there that you can actually put weight, , over , the axle and also it helps you when you’re loading into the sled.
So I will step on the step before getting into my seat.
Alison: Okay, so weight you mentioned, is it standardized for monobob that you and the sled have to weigh a particular amount like it is for? The two man.
Bree Walker: Yes. Yeah. There’s both, minimum weights that the sled has to be. Both of them actually weigh the same. So even though it’s just me pushing the monobob by myself, it’s still the same weight, the minimum weight is still the same weight as in the two men.
but then obviously because there’s one less person in the monobob, the maximum weight of the sled and the athlete is different.
Alison: Does the difference in the weight between monobob and two man ever mess you up in terms of what you weigh?
Bree Walker: yes, that is a, that is a very good question.
It does because I, if I have a heavier breakman, I can’t be necessarily that heavy in the two man, but obviously in the monobob, I have to be as heavy as possible because As even though, you know, you do all this training summer to be as strong as you can and be as powerful, as you can weight, obviously still has a factor.
And so if if you look at my social media, I often post me pushing my sled, I kind of. Throw myself into my monobob. And obviously with my weight, the heavier I am, the better, the faster the sled moves off the block. So, it’s finding this balance between a good weight for the two men that me and my teammate aren’t going to be overweight, but then also a weight, that, allows me to get the monobob moving as best as possible.
Jill: What about the differences in pushing? Because obviously if you’re pushing a two man with the bar, it’s a different movement. Mm-Hmm. than it is pushing from the back and the mono bob.
Bree Walker: Yep. Yeah. So, and then also the speeds are quite different. That’s what throws me the most. So in the two man, obviously I’ve got somebody else helping me to push the sled, , off the block, and so the sled gets moving much quicker.
And so if I was to do my big, long, pressing steps like I do in monobob, because the sled is heavier, if I was to do that in the two man, I would get left behind. when I’m pushing in the monobob, I really have to make sure that I’m, uh, being as strong as possible, as stable as possible, with these Big, long accelerating steps.
And then once the sled gets moving, then I can get into like my fast running, of like phase of push, but in the two men that happens quicker. And so if, so I really have to like be conscious of, okay, today I’m doing. Two men and I really have to get my legs moving a lot faster. And then the, you know, I might switch back to mono bobb.
I’m like, okay, now I’m doing mono bobb. I need to be more patient with my steps and making sure that I’m putting as much power into the ground as I possibly can to get that sled moving.
Alison: So that also comes into play when you’re competing those two things at the same time. Mm-Hmm, . So if so, that’ll be back to back in days.
Bree Walker: Yeah, definitely. And it’s thrown me a bit in the past, actually, I’ve got recently got a new push coach who was very, like, he became very aware of that for me, very early in our time together. And so he’s constantly reminding me like, okay, Brie, this is now two men. You got to get your legs moving quicker.
You’re going to be switching faster, get into your upright running, especially when I’m down the hill. , And then we’ll switch back to Monobob. He’s like, okay, just make sure you’re patient. , when you hit the sled, it’s going to be heavy. Don’t like, freak out about it. Like just be really strong and real and really stable in, , your technique.
And. That for me has been the biggest thing because like I said previously, I haven’t done so much two man in the last few years. So I got really, really used to pushing a monobob. And it’s a slower rhythm and I’m very much a rhythm athlete. And so I have to be very conscious to switch up my rhythm when I going from one event to the other.
Jill: When you are not in the sled, how do you train differently for those two things?
Bree Walker: , there are push tracks all over the world, not mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, not in the Southern Hemisphere yet. There is rumors that, , there will be one in Australia soon, fingers crossed, but we go and train at push tracks, which is pretty much just a start simulation, set up and we can just.
Push, go, push down the slide, it’s about, oh, maybe a little over a hundred meters. And it just simulates a start, and you have a, full start, but then it goes up a really steep incline at the end, and you can just push the sled back, and you go back and forth, back and forth, and you’re just practicing those different techniques, those different rhythms, and, , yeah, you can maybe, within an hour, you can maybe do up to ten pushes if you’re really keen, and, you just practice again and again and again.
And that’s why I spend a lot of time overseas in the summer because I want to be able to optimize my summer training with, a lot of push training because we obviously can’t slide down the track in the summer because there’s no ice.
Jill: I’ve seen videos. Of you? Pushing the sled back up the hill.
What is that like?
Bree Walker: Oh, that’s torture. And especially when your coach wants you to do that for training, especially when like, you know, you’ve just gone and you’ve done like an all out push, you’ve put everything into it and then you go and have to push, they’re generally around 90 kilos, a 90 kilo sled back up a hill.
And yeah, that can sometimes cook you more than the actual push.
Alison: My calves are hurting just thinking about that.
Bree Walker: Yeah, it’s, it’s your quads, your quads just burn.
Jill: so I’ve heard it’s called Lonely Bob. Oh yeah. What, what is it like driving alone versus having a teammate?
Bree Walker: I must say driving the sled alone, I kind of don’t really think, like, when I’m driving the two men, I don’t think.
I think I have somebody in the back. Like sometimes you, notice them if they move around or something like that. what I find the most different is. At the end and celebrating your success. That’s what I, I find the most different. And of course, like when I’m being successful in the monobob, my team made a set of teammates and, um, like team has celebrated with me, but it’s just, it’s really cool when you can celebrate with your teammate, when you both achieved a result together.
And so I guess that’s where the term lonely Bob has come in.
Alison: So, with Monobob, the sleds are all the same. It’s not like the four man and the two man where each country makes its own.
So how does that play into who’s successful in Manobob versus more successful in the two man and for the men’s four man?
Bree Walker: Well, you can definitely see it in, even just in the world rankings at the moment, you’ve got a lot of different, , nations that are like scattered throughout the Manobob world ranking, but compared to the two man where it’s.
Pretty standard, you know, the Germans are up the top because they’ve got their very high tech sleds and then everyone kind of falls in underneath, especially the rest of the field, actually in the women’s. Anyways, they mainly have another type of sled, a BTC sled. And so pretty much the rest of the field is standardized like the monobob, except the Germans, they have their FES sleds.
, but it does play, especially in the monobob, it plays a huge factor at, evening out , the playing field, but we’re learning more about the mono bobs. We are learning how they operate and if you have a very good team around you that has a very open mind, you can change certain things on the mono bob, which does provide you with a better setup to be able to drive the sled, , better down the track.
Jill: What types of things are those?
Bree Walker: So you can change your own steering, like how you steer the sled. That’s personal preference, I think, but it does make you drive better. there used to be more things that you could change there, but tighten the rules over the last years because the lines were blurred and people were doing fun things.
The runners that go underneath the side, you can select the type of runner you choose. And again, the high quality runners, , the better designed runners, they can help you drive better. And. And that’s going to be different.
Your selection of runners on one track will probably be different from monobob compared to two man. Sometimes they’re the same, but on certain tracks, they can be different and that can obviously make you drive better as well.
Jill: so that, that has blown my mind because we understand that runners are very expensive.
Bree Walker: Yes, and I have quite a few sets.
Jill: I was gonna say, so then if you’re competing monobob, which is, I mean, they have the same sled so that it’s cheaper, right? Yeah. But it’s not really cheaper if you end up being in both
Bree Walker: sports.
No, it used to be, , a much cheaper option for athletes. So when I started monobob back in 2018, 19, I was part of the, pretty much the whole introduction to the sport. There was a lot of, , athletes who were on a Europa cup, North American cup level, which is a lower level compared to world cup, who. Pretty much where the test dummies for this event.
And when we first started, I think we played at 300 euros for the week that then got us the sled, the runners, the, the track time, and if you needed it, the coaching, and so that was a such a economical way for us to do the sport and to be introduced into this new event and. It brought in so many new athletes into the sport nations who had been long gone out of, , bobsleigh were coming back in and the field was, were just booming, but then two years out from the 2022 Olympics, the, , international bobsleigh federation.
So the IBSF said that everybody now needs to buy their own sleds. And so for countries like myself, even that was mind blowing because I was doing the event because it was cheap and because it was a, , better way for me to be able to compete in both one of them and two men.
And then now I, and actually, ironically, I just bought a. 60, 000 euro to men two weeks before that announcement was made. And so I’m sitting there being like, okay, now I have to pay another 25, 000 euros for a monoball. And I was sitting there being like, I can’t do this. So I was very grateful to my federation who was like, okay, if we’re going to keep having the funding that we can get from the Australian Olympic committee.
because of your results in the monobob, we have to support you and provide you with a sled. So they have helped me with my sled, but when it comes to everything else in this sport, I generally, especially in the beginning, I was generally paying out of my, my own pocket and a lot of other nations are like that too.
So that’s why it’s super important for us. To go out and find sponsors and get as much support as we can, because even though I have like wonderful support from the OWIA, which is the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia. And the Queensland Academy of Sport, I still don’t have enough money to be able to keep up with those big nations who have those very expensive two mans.
And they, and like you said, our runners are really expensive. A set can cost us between 6, 000 and 8, 000 euros. And like I said, I have quite a few pairs because when you go into different tracks, you need different, Thicknesses of runners, different rocks of runners in order to be able to be competitive.
And so I, I think I have, yeah, like half a dozen sets of runners. And then on top of that, we have all of our tools that we need to use to Maintain our equipment and then also driving the sleds around because we don’t get them freighted around and we generally drive from location to location.
So I have to have a sled transport truck, but I’m very lucky. I have , a sled, Sponsor, uh, Sled Transport, um, sponsor. I also have, Actually, this year is probably my first year that I’ve gotten a few Australian sponsors, which I’m very grateful of. , ResPax is a sponsor who’s just come on this year, and they are a tourist management company in Cairns, and that’s kind of where I’m based at the moment, so I’m super proud to have a, um, I have a company that from where I’m based, to support me this year and yeah, it’s just, and you know, I have a few other apparel companies who support me and it’s just about getting as many people behind us as possible to be able to make it work because
I’ve never been one to be like, Oh, we don’t have the money. We can’t be competitive. , I haven’t come from a, you know, a, , winter sport background country. I can’t be competitive. I’ve never allowed those limitations to stop me. And it’s just about finding a way and making it happen really.
Jill: Okay, can we go back to, I have several pairs of runners. What? No, seriously, because when we first started doing interviews, we talked with Nick Cunningham from the USA. That’s when we found out.
That’s when we found out that drivers have to buy their own runners. And that blew us away because we know how much bobsledders make. Who aren’t German, and then to know that you need multiple pairs, what kind of tracks need what kind of runners?
Bree Walker: So if you’ve got a very high tech track, it’s very technical, it’s got a lot of Corners.
You want to have a runner that has a little bit more grip and, , that’s personal preference though. So for me, when, especially when you’re beginning, so we’re beginning at a high tech track, you’d want to put on maybe a bit of a smaller runner. because it has more grip and it can dig into the ice a bit more as you become a little bit more advanced and just say you’ve done a lot and lot of training on this high tech track, you might, , get a runner that’s a little bit thicker.
So then, because the thick of the runner generally. The faster you are, but however, that thicker runner is kind of like driving on slicks and you have much less control. So you want to make sure that you have the foundations of your driving skills, especially on those high tech tracks down pat, because, you know, you can get into a lot of trouble involved, say, because if you can make a small mistake, like just the smallest of mistakes, it can, The other end of that corner. So yeah, it’s, it’s pretty much personal preference and, obviously the whole purpose of the sport is to go as fast as possible, so, you know, people tend to risk it a little bit. but that’s again. It comes with experience, it comes with time, it comes with your sled setup, everything kind of plays a factor into what runners you use.
The weather also can play a huge factor into that, so if it’s snowing you might select a different runner. If it’s colder, you might select a different runner. If it’s humid outside, the ice might be a bit softer, so you might select a different runner. So, yeah, there’s a whole lot of factors that come into it, and so you have to have a very good team around you that’s very experienced, , to be able to select what setup you have.
Alison: What would be an example of a high tech course?
Bree Walker: Altenburg is a very high tech course, , I would say Segura is a very, is a high tech course, like Placid is another one, , in New York. For me, the top three that I would say they’re very technical tracks and, uh, they can get a lot of people into trouble if they don’t have those, foundations, , in place to be able to drive well there.
Jill: What about Lake St. Moritz? Since it’s natural?
Bree Walker: It’s technical, but it’s not difficult. So people can make that down that track, like no problems, but there’s certain ways to drive that track that make it technical. And because some people can get down that track and think they’ve had a beautiful run, but they’re not fast.
And so then they’re sitting there being like, What, what did I do? But I’ve, I actually have in the last two years, I’ve been working with my new coach, Pierre Luders, and he has taught me there’s certain, techniques to use on that track that can make it can make you slide really well there.
And the fact that it is a natural track that does play into it as well, but also that track is rebuilt every year with snow and that means that the corner will be slightly different each year. And so then that’s another element that comes into it because you obviously then have to quickly learn what those differences are and adjust your driving accordingly.
Alison: And where would Beijing fall on our Whistler versus altenberg
Bree Walker: scale? , I would say Beijing is kind of like the St. Moritz in terms of that it was, , relatively easy to make it down, but there was certain corners that if you. If you messed up those corners, you lost a bunch of time and there was no making that up.
So it’s like certain sections of the track were technical. but if you hit those, then you were flying.
Jill: And so how do we store our runners? Because my brain immediately went to like, a knife roll up. That a chef would have, but I don’t think that’s going to be the right answer. See, I went to like a padded
Bree Walker: gun case.
Yeah, yeah, you’re right. A padded gun case or a box is a box with like sections and you just put the runners into the sections, , is how we carry. But you’re not wrong in saying like the chef’s knife roller. Some people do that if you don’t have a box. And, and so you’re both correct. Gotcha. So.
Jill: Then if you wanted to play a practical joke on your friend, you would change the order of the runners in their boxes? Oh, and they’d never
Bree Walker: Don’t even get me started on this. My co I’m gonna have a dig at my coach here because he He has a certain way of organizing the runners, and he likes to put all front runners together and all back runners together.
And I’m just like, why can’t we put runners in sets? Because when it’s like, you know, I like this back runner and front runner together, can we not just have that as a set? And then he’s like, well, at the moment we’re changing them all around, so it doesn’t make a difference. And I’m just like, my, you know.
A type brain is kind of losing its mind a little bit because I can never find my runners anymore because I generally know like, okay, this set belongs in this box, this set belongs in that box, but right now it’s all over the place. So yeah, we’re, we’re both quite stubborn in that fact and we like to have everything organized, but we like to organize it.
Our way and our way is sometimes not what the other person wants. And so, that’s where, our team conflict comes in and is organizing our runners.
Alison: Jill and I were just having a conversation before we came on with you about how we do things differently. So it’s very apropos Bree that you would mention that.
Bree Walker: And I mean, both, I’m sure your both ways work for you guys. And it gets the job done. I guess that’s being part of a team, you know, you have to compromise and, uh, it doesn’t bother me too much.
, I’m sure if I was really bothered by it. My coach would switch it back to my way, but , you know, you just make it work. You keep the peace and then, uh, you know, it’s bigger, it’s bigger fish to fry out there than, organizing runners.
Jill: What’s up with the fact that if you have a two man end a monobob on your team, the two man break woman fixes the monobob sled. Is that correct?
Bree Walker: Yeah, well, they will help me and my coach do some sled work.
Often in my team, I like to do a lot of my own mechanics as well as my coach likes to do a lot of it. , of the mechanics, majority of the mechanics, I would say, so my breakman will do things like sand the runners, general maintenance to the sled. And she will do sanding of the runners and general maintenance of the sled for both sleds.
Yes. but. One thing, I think people don’t really realize is that to qualify for the Olympics we, it’s a combined ranking. Oh, well, it has been in the past. I’m not sure if it’s going to change. , but it is a combined ranking. So, in order for my teammates To be able to go to the Olympics, I need to be also successful in the monobot.
That’s how it was in Beijing. And, actually think that the qualifications have just come out. , I’m not too sure if it is on the combined ranking again. However. So for the, talking about the last Olympics, it was very important that I was successful in the monobob so my teammate could also go in the two men so we can both qualify together.
So , that’s why it’s important that, they do also help me in the monobob so she can also go to the Olympics.
Jill: Does the two man and four man in the men’s have that same stipulation?
Bree Walker: They used to, but I don’t think so anymore. That’s interesting.
Cause I’ve seen some, , teams qualify just the four man. And some teams qualified just the two men. I’ve also seen some women just qualify the monobob and just qualify the two men. And I think there is a certain amount of quota positions that. Allow for that, but it is easier to qualify for both events.
There is a lot more quota positions to qualify for both events.
Alison: I want to talk a little bit about Beijing. It was very cold. It was very cold. Mm hmm. We have read you do not like the cold.
Bree Walker: Oh, no, I don’t. And I must say, I didn’t really realize how much I don’t like the cold until I’ve come back here. For Christmas. So this is my first Christmas back in Australia in seven years.
And I was like, I’m not sure if I don’t know if I’m going to be able to cope. My family live, my parents live in Cairns, which is for those who don’t know at the top of Australia, it is ridiculously hot is ridiculously humid. And I’m like, I think I’m going to die. but actually I went there and. Even though working out and was really tough in that heat, , on my body just thrived and the, my training has been really good.
I’m currently in Melbourne and it’s been really nice and drier heat over the last few days. I much prefer the dryer heat. But again, my body’s been like amazing. And, , I’m really excited to be able to go back and have, have had these two weeks of like warm weather and sun over the last few weeks and make everyone jealous because I’m kind of tan.
but yeah, Beijing was ridiculously cold. I really struggle to warm up these days , because of the cold and I don’t know, maybe it’s my older age and I’m getting soft, but, but I just, I just really have struggled in the cold weather. But Beijing was. I feel like cold, I could handle the most.
What was really tough around that is the, parameters around COVID. , it was really, isolating. It was really restrictive. I was a little bit paranoid about getting COVID before my, at least before my first event, because you had athletes coming in and out, in the early stages of, the games.
And so I just kind of kept to myself. which. I must say, I haven’t really said it on other podcasts or told other people. I was pretty injured going into those Olympics. I had a back problem. I had a bulging disc at L4, L5, which, meant that I had sciatic pain all the way down my leg.
So I would do my training and then I would go back and lie in bed with my feet up. And, which I was very lucky, those beds there, , they were, , those. I had no mechanical beds and so I propped my feet up. And so for the, after the opening ceremony? No, before the opening ceremony, so the five days leading into the opening ceremony, I was just in bed for those days.
I would go, I would do my training, I’d get my physio, I’d go back to bed, I’d get physio in the evening, and I would go and sleep. And it was just like this constant like repeat of. Training, physio, beat up, physio, beat up, eating, and it was It was a very stressful time but I must say like once we got to the opening ceremony, I had a really great physio who got me going again.
And I was, so within those five days I was pain free and was able to compete without any pain. So I’m very grateful, but it was a touch and go there for a little while.
Jill: So how was walking in the opening ceremony? Cause that ends up being a very long day. Especially getting to Yongqing, which was
Bree Walker: not easy to get to.
Yeah, that, that was a few hours drive. And, , then obviously we went and we met the team and, , we had a little bit of food in the stadium, just outside of the bird’s nest. And then we got to walk in. And I must say that was. Probably the highlight of my games was the opening ceremony because of everything that I had leading up until the opening ceremony.
, I was like, oh my gosh, I’m here. I’m here and I’m achieving my dream right now. And I can’t believe it. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to compete as well as I wanted. , in terms of like, could I even push a sled without any pain? And I was like, wow, like that’s when it, like the penny dropped.
And I was like, oh my gosh, like I’m here and I’ve done it. So that was an amazing experience. And I don’t think I’m ever going to forget that moment.
Alison: You ended up doing quite well in Manabob, especially as you went along in the competition. So was the injury a factor once you got
Bree Walker: going? , it wasn’t a factor when, once I started competing, but I think I was quite, , mentally and physically exhausted from, uh, Just the whole, , experience that, leading up to that.
And so I think in those first days, I wanted everything to be perfect. And that’s why I think I made this one minor mistake, which ended up having a humongous effect on my very first run. I was also very lucky, , to have a good team around me there that, we looked, we analyzed the videos on the first day of sliding, , the first day of competing in the monobob.
And we realized I was making a mistake that nobody had picked up and I was able to change that. And then that’s why, on that second day I was able to do a lot better because I just fixed this one little mistake that had a huge, , impact , on my results. And, I was pretty proud that I was able to come back from being ranked 10th in that first run to being, , coming fifth overall.
So yeah, it was, it was a hell of an experience and a big learning curve for me.
Jill: What was the, what were your expectations like going into the two man because your teammate and you had only had a few races together? Before Beijing.
Bree Walker: Yes. Really no expectations. I was very much just like, okay, we’re here and we’re going to do this thing and we’re going to compete to the best of our ability.
I thought a top 10 could be possible. We were on track to achieve that. I think after the third run, we were ranked 11th and then I made a really big mistake at the top of the track in that fourth heat, and that just killed our speed and we dropped so many places, which was disappointing, but again, it was another lesson that I learned, you know, the race isn’t over until the fourth run, and so you have to maintain your focus and you.
You know, you just. Treat every run like it’s a new run and not thinking about end results or anything like that. And a lot of athletes talk about that and I think you hear it as an athlete, you hear it, but until you get to experience, have those certain experiences yourself, you don’t quite get it.
, and I certainly got it. And I must say, like those two races were completely different, I made a mistake very early in the race, race in the monobob and I was able to fight back. And so that showed me, you know, again, the race isn’t over until the fourth heat. And so you just keep fighting and fighting and fighting and fighting and, until the end.
And then the, two men. I went in there with no expectation, and as the event went on, I could see what was maybe achievable, , and it used to, that your brain kind of switches to that at time, time to time, and you make one mistake, and then that can lose you. So you just have to maintain your focus, , the whole way through in order to be able to, , get the results that you are capable of.
Jill: Beijing was a new track, how hard was it to learn? Were you part of that test event group that got to go in advance?
Bree Walker: I was a part of the athletes who all went over in October of that season to, go and train on the track there.
And I must say that was a really cool experience because it wasn’t just that, you know, my coach would tell me how to drive the track and, but I’ve never slid there before. My coach obviously has never slid on that track. He knew nothing about, this track. All we would do is we would go, we would look at the corner, we would look at the profile of the corner.
, and you’d be like, okay, well, I think this is how you would drive this corner. And we like, and I’m standing, I remember so clearly, , in October of that season, just standing at the top of the track and being like, okay, we’re going to give it a go. And you just go down and I must say that kind of, I love that kind of thrill.
Just being like, you know, putting it to the wind and being like, okay, we’ll see how we go here. And the first one was shocking. Like I bashed myself up, I got to the bottom and I was like, Oh my goodness. What did I just. Do and then I would see some other girl come up and she’s just sitting there being like, Oh my goodness, what was that?
And I’m like, Oh, good. I’m glad I’m not the only one. So yeah, it’s, it’s a pretty fun, way to learn a track. I don’t know if we will get that opportunity with the next Olympics, , because if you don’t know the next Olympics, we potentially are going to be competing outside of Italy.
There are rumors that, , they will still get a track together, but I don’t know, I’m not hopeful. And my coaches even said that from the beginning, he’s like, Bri, I don’t think you’re going to be competing in Italy. So when the announcement was made late last year, I wasn’t really surprised because my coach has been telling me from the get go.
And so in my head, I’m like, Oh, well, I’m still going to be competing for Olympic medals. Maybe it won’t be the same not being in the country, but I still think that they will put on a really good event and they’ll put all the bells and whistles to it to make it, to give it to the Olympic feel.
So it is what it is and , if that’s what happens, I have competed in the most two iconic. Olympics for bobsleigh that’s, that’s happened in history so far. So that’s something that I’ll hang my hat on.
Alison: Where are you in your training cycle for the quad? What does it look like for the next two years for you?
Bree Walker: That’s a very good question. Because I’ve started with a new physical coach and push coach last year we were kind of just getting to know each other. Getting to know what my needs are in terms of what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are and how can I, , improve on those weaknesses and continue to, , increase my strengths over the next few years.
, I’m also, trying to find my training base last season. So pretty much last season was like a reset. For me and, , next season and the season after is going to definitely this coming year is just building on every, on the foundations that we began last summer. and then Olympic year will be trying to build on whatever we are able to achieve this coming year.
but also just maintaining and keeping healthy is a very, very important goal for me. And, , if I’m able to continue to build on what I’ve achieved the previous year and then maintain my, , physical health, I think I should be in, , a good place leading into the next Olympics. Post Beijing.
Jill: How was your back?
Bree Walker: Um, that. It took a little bit, I must say I took a little bit of time off and that was more for my head rather than my body. And in taking that time off your body like loses all of its tension. And, know, you start to lose muscle and everything like that. So when I started to get lots of aches and pains in my back again, I was like, okay, I need to get back into training.
That was maybe a month after the games. and then that was so hard to get back into it. It was really difficult because I had to do rehab, but then on top of that, I had lost strength, and physical fitness. And so now when I finish a season, I don’t tend to take off, a very long because it’s just way too hard for me to get back into shape.
So I take like, a week or two and then I start rolling again and it’s not anything difficult. I do a lot of yoga. , I will just do some general fitness stuff and it’s just to keep my body ticking over because I would very much prefer to go back into like training kind of early at a lower level.
, instead of just taking a whole bunch of time off and then having to like, feel like you’re just running uphill for months on end because you’ve lost so much fitness.
Jill: How is training for bobsled different from training for hurdles? Cause you came from. A hurdling background.
Bree Walker: Yeah, it’s different in terms of, I was a 400 meter hurdler, so I got to get rid of all that lactic training, which I was very, very happy about. , it’s funny, people were like, Well, , You used to do 400 hurdles, like, how could you deal with that lactic and stuff, like, did you like it?
And I was like, no, of course I didn’t, it was awful. But right now, like, I’m in a sport and I hate the cold. There’s always going to be elements of your sport that you don’t like. but you do it because you love the sport and, for me anyways, I love Achieving a goal. I love being successful.
I love winning medals. And so that’s why I, do the things that I don’t like. but then when it comes to training, I must say when I was doing track, I wasn’t doing an awful lot of. I was actually only introduced to weights training when I started college, over in the States. I, went to the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, in 2014 for a year.
And my coach introduced me to weight training and. It didn’t help me with my 400 meter hurdles, but it certainly helped me build a lot of strength and I realized my love for weight training. So again, if you go and look on my socials, I mainly post a lot of, training, uh, in the gym because that’s what I love the most.
when I’m doing running. sessions, I really have to focus and I’m, more focused on, getting my technique right and getting the session done than, doing a bunch of videos. When it comes to the difference between the two trainings, Bob’s site, I’m only running for 30 meters.
So a lot of my training is, acceleration training, shorter, sharper, um, sprint type training, my Olympic lifting. I can lift really heavy And do a lot of power based stuff because I’m not necessarily worried about putting on too much muscle because in, when I did a lot of training at college, I instantly just stacked on the muscle and that actually made my 400 meters slower, but when it comes to bobsleigh, you want that kind of, you want to be Thank you.
Slightly heavier and you want that strength and power that you develop through our weights training. So it is lots of different elements, like there’s lots of differences, but I must say the base that I got from the, my 400 meter hurdle training, really gave me kind of a head start when it, when I switched over the sports and switched my training.
I have a quick question about
Alison: the OWIA. So over the past 20 years, Australia really has decided it’s gonna be a winner sport powerhouse. Mm-Hmm. on the elite level. , and how does the OWIA work with the athlete and how does that work? ’cause it seems like they’re doing
Bree Walker: amazing things.
Yeah. The, there’s such a, oh. Such a good Institute. I must say a lot of my success is due to, , them like the Institute and Jeff Lipshard, who, is the head honcho, having a lot of belief in me and my ability. and selecting me to, and supporting me, , when Monobob first came in, he was very forward thinking and saw the potential in the sport and saw, , that.
because the sleds are standardized that we might have an advantage because we don’t have the disadvantage of not having the funding to be able to provide those high tech, , equipment. So what the OWA kind of does is that they will see the potential in an athlete. In a federation and they select them to be supported and so they provide you with extra funding.
They provide with extra training opportunities. And if you are in the sport of aerial skiing or moguls, where Australia has had a lot of success in the past, they often run their programs. I think that also might happen for other sports, but that’s just two examples off the top of my head.
Then they will select you into that program and it’s completely run by, by them. And what that then allows is. Athletes to get very high level coaching and high level support. If you need training facilities or, sport sites or dietitians and everything like that.
And it just provides an athlete with such a humongous boost, to be able to perform so well on the world stage. And after Beijing, Jeff came to me. I was actually in the line to drop my bags off in Beijing. And he said, Brie, what are you doing for the next four years? And I was like, Jeff, I have no idea what I’m doing for the next four minutes, let alone the next four years.
And, but he was like, if you. Want to go on to the next Olympics. We need to think ahead and you need to get your four year plan to me within the next, month or so. So pretty much I landed back in Australia and I started planning my next four years and I presented it to him. I said, this is what I want to do.
This is what I want to achieve. This is who I want on board and this is how much money I need. And, he has been able to help me, work together with the, Queensland Academy of Sport to create a program for me. So again, I’m very grateful for him and the support of the OWIA because I wouldn’t be as successful as I am without them.
Jill: Oh, Bree. Thank you so much. This is great. Cut down a lot of our questions for sure. We really appreciate it and best of luck to you in the, chase for 2026.
Bree Walker: Thank you very much, ladies. It’s been great chatting with you.
Jill: Thank you so much, Bree. You can follow Bree on social at bobsled bree, and her website is bobsled bree.com au and we will have links to all of those in the show notes.
Milan-Cortina 2026 News
Jill: All right, two years to go to Milan Cortina, big, big news. Thank you, listener, Tommy, for being one of the first to tell us the NHL is back, baby.
Alison: This is my favorite sport where they allow the professionals to play. So the NHL hockey players will be playing in the men’s hockey tournament. First time since 2014, what’s so fantastic about it is every team is going to have NHL players because the NHL is such an international league, and the players really do come from all over the place, so it’s not like when basketball has the professional players and they’re almost all on the U.
- team. Oh, no, no, no, no. They’re going to be everywhere. Probably Italy is going to be the only one without an NHL player.
Jill: It is very exciting. It’s uh, always a struggle. The players always want to play in the Olympics because they just love that atmosphere. It’s much harder to do this during the NHL season because it.
It requires a big break for everybody else. So, it’s very exciting that they got to go. The agreement covers 2026 and 2030. So this is big news and, uh, yeah. It’s gonna be fun. Oh my gosh, the hockey tournament’s fun anyway.
Alison: You can never have enough people slamming into each other and yelling in many languages for me.
Jill: You put this on , our show sheet. And I just shook my head so hard, I almost got a cramp. , what is going on?
Alison: So AP News did an update on what’s happening with construction and the headline went something like, The sliding track is not the only construction problem that Milan Cortina is having. There’s lots of construction that’s behind schedule.
One of the big ones is they were building a new hockey arena. It’s a hole in the ground. Ah! Because of the issues with the sliding track, they were going to build a small Olympic athlete village in Cortina, and it was going to be temporary. If they don’t have any of the sliding athletes there, they don’t really need it.
So they haven’t even started that yet. Oh,
Jill: and our bobsled track may start construction very soon. Or may not, you know, I just realized that somebody came forward to build the bobsled track, which they have a year, maybe less than to get it done. Do they even have plans?
Alison: Oh, you mean construction plans like to have a blueprint?
Yeah. Well, they did had, they had put this out for bid like 2 years ago.
Jill: Yeah. But with the organizing committee on those plans. I mean, somebody’s got to draw them up.
Alison: They know a guy. So, they could end up having a sliding track completed, but no place for sliding athletes to stay. So we could end up with that same problem that we’re having with Paris and the surfers. That they don’t have a hotel, and we don’t have the option of putting them on a cruise ship.
There was supposed to be dedicated transportation between the different clusters, you know, the city cluster in Milan, the mountain cluster in, uh, that’s not happening.
Jill: So how will people get from place to place? I mean, granted, you’re probably not talking about a ton of athletes going from cluster to cluster, but I’m sure there’s going to be fans that might want to go from place to place.
There might be media that wants to go from place to place.
Alison: I think we’re going to have to make some friends with the French Organizing Committee and share a cab.
Jill: Oh, thank goodness that they’re up for 2030. Because they will be there.
Alison: And you have the odd job, James Bond cab driver, to get you down the mountain in one piece. well, there is transportation that does exist. There are some trains, but there’s going to be no newly built dedicated transportation, no new roads, no dedicated Olympic roads between the clusters within each cluster. Yes, there’s new transportation, but not between.
Jill: Wow. That’ll be interesting to say the least.
again makes me think of how strongly opposed to the idea of a new bobsled track that the IOC is, but they didn’t even address really that other construction is behind schedule. Why are you taking on this other massive project?
Well, we’ll see how that goes. It
Alison: may be easier to get to, from Milan to, say, The Austrian sliding track up
Paris 2024 News
Alison: oh, Mandu,
Jill: Paris, 2024 news. We have more, , police investigations going on into the organizing committee, , france24. com, they had a story where French police and the financial crimes unit are investigating how the organizing committee chief executive officer, Tony Estanguet is paid. So he is.
Getting paid 270, 000 euros a year along with possible bonuses, possible bonuses, totaling another 20 percent of a salary. So if you want to go into organizing committee leadership, , that’s a going rate right now. but this is what they’re investigating. Tony has his own company and that company bills.
The organizing committee for his salary. So he is not considered a salaried employee of the organizing committee. And thus they’re avoiding a salary cap that the French government imposes on charities like the organizing committee of the Paris 2024 games.
Alison: Okay. I got very concerned when I saw this article.
Nobody is accusing Tony Estanguet. of embezzling anything. No, correct. Which is how, which is how a lot of the headlines read, that he’s being investigated for stealing money from the OCOG. And that’s not , what’s happening. It’s really a question of the charitable laws in France being skirted, kind of like skirting the salary caps in so many professional sport leagues by how you structure.
Jill: right? So it’s interesting to hear that. I think it’s a very interesting type of case, but I get nerdy about stuff like that. And I’m very curious as to. Um, if there is something found that’s wrongdoing in any way, what kind of penalties are imposed? What do they do for that? My guess would be a fine, which no charity or nonprofit wants to deal with, but it, it’ll be interesting to see how they structure this.
And again, looking ahead to if France hosts the 2030 Winter Olympics, how do they structure their organization?
Alison: And when you say who pays the fine, is it the OCOG, is it Tony Estanguet, is it his company? Who’s really at fault here? And how much and where is that money coming from? Mm hmm. And then does this get into the question of, which we’ve talked about before, when they report back the budget of a particular Olympics, how accurate is that?
Because there’s always the question of, well, this was what the organizing committee spent. This is what the city government or the state government or the federal government spent. So we don’t count that. And then this is what some random. Guy off, you know, Pierre off the street bought for us as a gift and that doesn’t get put in the budget.
Jill: Dunlap Rue.
Jill: bought all de cafe. To la cafe. All right, the opening ceremonies, they’ve decided how many people will be there, along the Seine, the banks. Originally, they had said. About 600, 000 that’s now down to 300, 000, 000 will be sold places on along the lower banks. 200, 000 will be free.
And those, , seats will be along the upper bank. So, my guess is that the visibility is a little bit limited on the upper banks versus the lower banks. This does not include the buildings along the river. , so if people have apartments or businesses have offices and have rooftop access or whatever, they could still watch the send from their buildings, though we’re not counting that into the final totals,
Alison: but And it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the security for those buildings because will they in fact be allowed to do that?
Or will the police say, no, you can’t have roof access in your building has to be shut down. That
Jill: is interesting. That’s a lot to take in. I mean, that is a long, long parade route, And
Alison: it’s, and it’s not just like when you do the presidential inauguration,
you’re really protecting the president and his family. This is protecting thousands of athletes and hundreds of dignitaries. I mean, this is a complex beyond my possible little brain can comprehend. So it will be fascinating to see it play out in person to see what does that really look like for.
ordinary spectators, the media, anyone else who just wants to go and watch it. Can you really just go and watch it or is this going to be, you know, trying to enter Alcatraz in its day?
Jill: we’ve got some Hospitality House news. Pride House is looking for volunteers. there’s going to be a main pride house in Paris.
There’s going to be pop ups around the city and apparently they are even looking for remote volunteers. So if you’d like to work with pride and the LGBT, movement, that is an opportunity. We will have a link with more info in the show notes. And that has, the button where you can apply for that role and then team Netherlands house.
Now his tickets on sale, they are selling both seats in a viewing stand and standing places in the hall. So I’m guessing it’s like a big, concert hall or something like that,
you can buy a maximum of six tickets per person per day. The house will be open 11 a. m. to midnight. That ticket will give you access for the entire day, which is very cool because then you have in and out privileges and that is very nice. To purchase tickets, you must be 18 years or older. They will cost 30 euros and that includes service fees.
So we will have a link to those in the show notes.
Alison: And we mentioned last week about the surprise ticket drop. So that’ll be February 8th as well for more Olympic and Paralympic tickets coming. Yeah!
Youth Olympics Games News
Alison: We ask a question about the Youth Olympic Games and the answer comes the following week.
Jill: Gamesbids. com reported that the next winter Youth Olympics host, which had not been named yet, they will be announcing that next year, the IOC will, and, that will be the fifth winter edition of the games.
Alison: You know who’s not going to have it? Who? Sweden. Because the IOC hates Sweeney.
Jill: Oh! Snap.
Alison: Welcome to Shooklastan.
Jill: Big huge news from our team, Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests of the show and listeners who make up our very own country of Shooklastan. First up. Artistic swimmer. Once again, Jacqueline Simenow is competing at the World Aquatics Championships. Back in the pool. It’s so exciting.
So she’s competing in the solo competition and the duet competition. The duet is the hope that she can go back to Paris 2024, but it’s going to depend on how results are. But, oh man, she came back with a bang in the solo. She got silver in the technical event and. gold in the free event. This is Canada’s first artistic gold medal in 26 years.
So excited. Not bad. No, not bad at all. In the duet, the duet competed, , already the technical program, they placed seventh and then they will compete in the free duet event on Thursday, February 8th. We did talk to Jacqueline about her return to artistic swimming and, uh, we’ll have that interview for you next week.
Alison: Team Schuster won the U. S. National Curling Championship 11 6 over team Corey Dropkin.
Jill: Did you see any of the coverage of this? I did not. They had it in a shopping mall,
Alison: which on the one hand is brilliant, right? Because if you want to get people who’ve never seen curling before don’t put it in a curling center Put it in a shopping mall,
So it was very at people talked a little bit about the venue being very unusual Sometimes a fry fell from one of the upper levels, but in all snack mid batch Yeah, right, but in all it sounded like it went Really surprisingly well and Schuster team Schuster just knocked it out of the parK.
Kim Rhode has been Celebrating a victory in a court case over ammunition. Did you I could not understand what this was but you did some deep dive in I did
Alison: some deep dive. So Kim Rhode is the named plaintiff, but this was one of these general , lawsuits against the state. So it’s called, , Rhode V. Bonta.
Bonta is the attorney general for California. So what this had to do with was California had passed a law that limited the purchase of ammunition to face to face transactions and required background checks before ammunition Purchases. And there were additional reporting requirements for ammunition sales to the California Department of Justice.
That law has been struck down. Due to her lawsuit. Due to the lawsuit,
The Montreal 1976 stadium is going to get a new roof because the old one is damaged enough that the stadium would have to close permanently within two years, according to the Canadian press. This will take four years to construct, will cost 870 million. It should last them 50 years and it will allow them to have events year round, which they can’t do.
Isn’t this the
Alison: third time
Jill: they’ve rebuilt this roof? I think so. And now , the roof has so many tears in it that if they have like three centimeters of snow on, they have to cancel whatever scheduled there because they’re worried that the roof would collapse.
Alison: And it’s so frustrating because the Montreal Olympic Park is one of the parks and one of the Olympic sites that gets used so much.
They’ve had such a great legacy in that park and they’ve had so many problems with this stadium. It makes me sad
Jill: for them. It really does. It’s been, they call it the Big O, both in the size and OWE. We owe a lot of money on it, but hopefully this will be a good fix for the stadium.
Alison: You know what they need?
They need Céline Dion to do her, her comeback concert and that’ll pay for the whole thing.
And Andrew Maraniss will have a book launch at Parnassus Books in Nashville on March 5th, and it will include a conversation with Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Donnell. Registration is required, and we will have a link to that in the show notes.
Jill: That will do it for this episode. Let us know what surprises you most about Monobob.
Alison: You can connect with us on Xthreads and Instagram at flamealivepod. Email us at flamealivepod at gmail. com. Call or text us at 208 422 4222. 4 8. That’s 2 0 8 Flame It. Be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive podcast group on Facebook and don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode.
You can sign up for that at flamealivepod. com.
Jill: Next week, we will have Jacqueline Simino on to tell us about her comeback and how the new rules are changing the sport of artistic swimming. Also, Book Club is coming up soon. So if you have read If Gold is Our Destiny by Sean P. Murray, please let us know what you think. Thank you so much for listening.
And until next time, keep the flame alive.