Olympic athlete seems like a pretty good guy

As Duff Gibson passed the finish line in Turin, not only did the Canadian skeleton racer win Olympic gold, beating out his teammate Jeff Pain by a quarter of a second, but he became the oldest individual gold medalist in Winter Olympic history, passing ice hockey player Al MacInnis for the distinction.

The Skeleton event returned to the Olympic program in 2002. In 2003-2004, Gibson finished 2nd overall behind Kristan Bromley in the men’s seasonal World Skeleton Cup.  After a tenth place finish at Salt Lake City’s Olympics, Gibson knew he needed to focus on his fundamentals, primarily those of sliding, visualization, and pushing.

“A race cannot be won on a push,” says Gibson, “But it can be lost on a push and in order to be a great pusher you have to be a fast pusher. After that, it is all about the way the sled is driven.” The adjustments Gibson made all led to him reaching his peak at the ripe age of 39 while participating in the games in Turin.

Gibson’s win came two months after Duff’s father lost an 11-year battle to cancer, a major reason why he wished to end his career on an emotional high. It was with a “self-imposed pressure” that he pushed himself to the gold and, still glowing with the “joy and relief” of the victory, announced his retirement at the conclusion of the games.

Gibson accredits his competitiveness to his familiar athletics background. Gibson’s father was a heavyweight judo champion in the early 1960’s while his uncle was a member of the rowing team at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. Gibson was a multi-faceted athlete as well, competing in wrestling, rowing, speed skating, bobsledding and finally skeleton.

With so many sports to choose from, Gibson decided on skeleton because it gave his father the chance to watch him compete in a “prototypical Canadian sport.” Gibson was also enamored with the “strength and talent” it required, noting, “Great skill is involved with maneuvering the sled down a skeleton track.” According to Gibson, this is imperative because the more conditioned an athlete is, the more success he will have when it comes to controlling the direction of the sled.

Duff, who is now 43 years old, currently lives in Calgary with his wife Jen and their two adopted boys. In addition to his regular job as a firefighter, Gibson still finds time to coach Olympic athletes, support the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), and work as an Olympic analyst for CTV. His flexible work schedule allows him to be a part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a cause which enables him to raise funds and awareness for the prevention of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Although still busy in his athletic retirement, Gibson still finds time to enjoy life. When he is not mountain biking or playing with his kids, he delivers motivational presentations to community and corporate audiences on themes such as perseverance and teamwork.

// Safir Lalji

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