Canadians show their heritage with Olympic helmets

Canada’s Jane Channell slides during the first women’s skeleton race at the 2022 Winter Olympics Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, in Beijing’s Yanqing District. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

After a disappointing result on the World Cup circuit, Canadian slider Jane Channell knew she needed something to motivate herself beyond performing better on the skeleton track.

To create a tangible goal for herself, she ordered a brand new helmet that she would only wear at the Beijing Olympics. In other words, if she was on Canada’s Olympic team.

“It was my worst result in a World Cup to date and so just being able to keep it was a huge motivation,” Channell said after finishing 24th in Altenberg, Germany. “Just, it’s gonna be okay, keep going, keep pushing. Keep your head up. It really, really helped.”

Regardless of Channell’s performance at the Winter Games, she considered the helmet her prize. She wore it throughout training and competition at the Yanqing National Sliding Center, where she placed 17th.

“It was almost like I was wearing my personal little trophy,” said Channell, who is from North Vancouver, British Columbia. “This season cost me a lot of money because we were all self-funded.

“Everything from coaching to car rental to flights, accommodation, everything, food, everything, it was up to each of us to pay. So that was my Christmas present for myself, my gift of good work, you did it.”

Channell chose the design elements herself.

Heavily influenced by mythology, the helmet has a Japanese dragon on its right cheek and a Phoenix on its left. The top of the helmet has a maple leaf — for obvious reasons, Channell laughs — from the leaf are two spokes with the years 2018 and 2022 to represent the two Olympics she competed in.

The helmet also has paw prints for Channell’s cat as well as a broom, commemorating when she was hit by the cleaning tool during a Skeleton World Cup in Igls, Austria in 2015 On the nose of her helmet, she has wings with a No. 7 to commemorate her boyfriend Bernd Dittrich, who died in 2009. Dittrich wore No. 7 as a quarterback for the football team of the Simon Fraser University.

Channell said much of his international competition took note of the helmet at the Beijing Olympics.

“Because the tone here is always pretty serious at Games and all I get is like pointing fingers, nodding and thumbs up,” Channell said. “So that’s a silent endorsement.”

One person who expressed approval of his helmet was his Canadian teammate Blake Enzie. Channell introduced Enzie to Ian Johnson, the Vancouver artist who made her helmet.

“I didn’t want to go to the Olympics with a blank canvas,” said Enzie, who has worn her helmet for the entire World Cup season. “I thought that if I had the chance to represent Canada, I would be able to show my family and my roots.

“I mean, the Olympics is the biggest stage in the world, so might as well do it.”

Enzie, who is from Calgary, has a prairie design on her helmet.

Wheat flowers adorn the sides of it, airbrushed to look like they’re blowing with the wind as Enzie glides down the runway. The wheat field surrounds the back and sides of the helmet, while the blue top depicts the Alberta sky with the Maple Leafs on the front.

Each side has Canada written in wild pink, and on the back of the helmet he has the birthdays of his grandparents, parents, and sister.

“When you pay homage to your family and your heritage, you can’t really get enough of the design,” said Enzie, who finished 20th in skeleton at the Beijing Olympics. “So once (Johnson) came up with the design, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a done deal. Let’s put a wheat field.

“As my family owns a grain farm, it represents my heritage well.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 16, 2022.

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