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Local student makes history as first female bobsledder for Trinidad and Tobago

Akenke Oliver -- a student at Sask. Polytechnic in Moose Jaw -- has made history as Trinidad and Tobago's first female bobsled pilot this year
Local Sask. Polytechnic student Akenke Oliver made history as Trinidad and Tobago’s first female bobsled pilot this year.

One of Moose Jaw’s business students at Sask. Polytechnic is about to make history as she trains to become the first female bobsled pilot for her home country of Trinidad and Tobago.

Akenke Oliver is a business diploma student specializing in sport management. Even with an extensive background in sports, she never bobsledded before now.

Oliver is about to graduate this June. “I would like to jump straight into any sporting organization that would have me within Saskatchewan,” she said.

“It’s really about making a difference… for youth, because I see the impact (sports) had on my life and the positive impact and opportunities it has given me… I want to be able to pass that on any way I can, especially to the youth of Saskatchewan.”

Oliver’s first time hitting a competitive track took place earlier this year when she arrived in Austria on Jan. 27. Here, she began training for the upcoming Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 competition dates.

Oliver said nothing could have prepared her for the experience when she arrived in Austria.

“It was so overwhelming – that was my initial feeling when I got to the track (and was) absorbing all the information.”

Once she got some air on the track, however, these feelings quickly passed. “Going on the track I was filled with so much adrenaline. I was like, ‘Let’s do that again.’”

The idea to try out for the team came while Oliver was scrolling through social media. Here, she found a post from the Trinidad and Tobago bobsledding team and learned they were now hiring women – something that has never happened before.

“I was told it was a perfect opportunity to reach out and see what it entailed and if I would be a perfect fit for the team,” she recalled. She then participated in a meeting to go over what training efforts would be required. As it turned out, she was a perfect fit for the team.

Most bobsled athletes come from a sports background, and most have already competed at college or international levels.

She said the most valuable qualities are “strength and power.” This is because, at the start of the race, you must push the 300-pound sled. If it’s a multiple-person sled, the weight can be even higher.

“Those couple seconds – and it’s only about five seconds you’re running with your sled – will really make a difference with regard to your run down the track as well.”

“Because training was going so well and I was making such great progress prior to that, I was really excited to go there and be the first female to represent my country in bobsled…,” she said.

Sadly, a training injury would shatter her chances of competing in her first run.

“(Crashes) happen all the time. Just unfortunately my crash happened to leave me with a concussion…,” she said. The medical team declared that she had to sit out for this race.

She’s not going to let the concussion stop her from achieving her dreams, of course.

“I’ve been doing… conditioning, strength training, and preparing for the next season which starts in July.”

Because this scenario is all too common, Oliver offered some advice and helped explain the mindset of those who experience a similar setback.

“I think one of the most important factors is having a support system,” she explained.

“My team was there to support me, and everyone understood. Even other athletes from other countries reached out to me to make sure I was okay… because they have encountered that as well (and know) how much of a mental toll it can take on an athlete.”

After every injury, she said, you must step back and internalize what you must work on. “It may seem like a setback, but every setback is an opportunity for a comeback.”

Sports, she said, provide many positive qualities including self-esteem, stick-to-itiveness, and learning to get back up after you have fallen. Oliver said she wouldn’t be the person she is today without the influence of sports.

“I want to encourage anybody who is out there thinking, ‘How am I going to achieve my goals?’ (to) just take it one step (and one day) at a time,” she advised.

“It seems so unattainable but breaking it down into smaller goals and getting up every day and knowing that every effort you put in on that day will result in something bigger is really important.”

Now Oliver’s goal is to recover and re-join her team in time for the winter.

“The goal for myself and… my team is to get to the 2026 Winter Olympics. Hopefully you get to see me there in just a couple (years).”

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