Golden Boy: Alexander Kopacz
I know I don't need to tell you again that I was absolutely GLUED to the PyeongChang Olympics but I literally just feel like I'm coming down from my Olympic high and BAM! the Paralympics start Friday! So many great moments during the Olympics but one of my favourites has to have been watching Justin Kripps and Alex Kopacz race to their gold medal in the 2-man bobsled! I know Alex from his varsity athlete days at Western University here in London and it has been so fun to continue to watch his athletic journey unfold. When watching the Olympics we often don't think about the sacrifice that athletes make and I am so grateful that Alex agreed (literally straight off the plane from Korea) to share some of the highs and lows with us today!
Describe that final run and what it felt like to win a gold medal at the Olympics
That final run felt like everything was muted. I felt extremely calm and determined.
The push felt great, all technical aspects coming together. The drive was the best drive [Justin] Kripps had put down in that competition. The excitement in the sled during the run was palpable. Once we crossed that finish line all I could feel was intense relief. I was overwhelmed by the fact that what was once an impossible dream was literally finally in the palm of my hands.
Beyond winning the gold medal, what was your favourite Olympic moment?
I would have to say either watching the events live such as short track skating and the team event figure skating, as well as the closing ceremonies.
How did you get into bobsledding?
I was encouraged to try it when I was a thrower at Western. There were a couple of coaches from the team that all thought I could excel in the sport. Leading up to this moment was a series of fun competitions I took part in against the team sprinters, where I took many of them by surprise with how fast I was. In one competition with no formal training, I ran a 7.24s 60m at 280lbs!
What did your typical training day schedule look like gearing up for the games? What has been the biggest struggle and/or sacrifice?
Any given training day consisted of two sessions, of one lift in the morning and sprint in the afternoon. Almost every lift focused on lower body movements with lots of volume. The sprint sessions were also volume based with emphasis on speed through technique. I would then finish the day with some type of physical therapy or massage and then work on my own recovery routine.
The biggest struggle by far would be the day to day pain I dealt with through tendonitis/osis of various tendons in the body as well as smaller degree tendon tears. The pain would be so bad at times it hurt to walk up stairs let alone have a successful lift or sprint session. The biggest singular struggle was a sports hernia I suffered the year before the Olympics. I had to lay low for half a year and struggled to not only come back, but to prove I was still an effective part of the team. I was tested mentally as well as physically.
My greatest sacrifices were all comfort and finance based. I moved to another country, learned the language and spent months away from family and loved ones on top of the time spent in season because of the sport. I trained in uncertainty, not knowing if the risk I had taken would pay off. Ultimately I am proud to say that it did.
What’s next for you?
I am looking forward to healing my body and looking to establish myself in a professional world with engineering. Of course this will be in tandem with my preparation for more competition in the world of bobsleigh. Most importantly catch up on time lost with my dear friends and family.
Thank you Alex for sharing your experience with us today! If you want to connect with Alex you can find him on Twitter @Kopacz77 and on Instagram @alexanderkopacz. If you have LOVED the Olympics and want to support our Canadian athletes be sure to check out CAN Fund to find out how you can make a difference!
Be sure to catch the Paralympics starting Friday! Find the schedule and coverage here!