University of Toronto alumna Heather Moyse is bringing home another Olympic gold medal after hurtling to victory on the bobsleigh track yesterday with partner Kaillie Humphries at Sochi.
The repeat Olympic champions won by a tenth of a second -- a close finish that had Moyse and Humphries watching the final race by their U.S. rivals on a monitor, erupting into screams and cheers when it was clear the Americans had lost.
Moyse, who graduated with a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from U of T in 2007, from the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, also won gold with driver Humphries at the Vancouver Games in 2010. But at Sochi the pair trailed the U.S. team going into their final run. Moyse assured Humphries that it was possible to close the gap, and they were determined to do just that.
“I just looked at her and said ‘it’s possible’ – and that’s all Kaillie needed to know,” Moyse told The Globe and Mail after the race. “That the gap wasn’t closed, but it was possible.”
Bobsleigh was not Moyse's first love as an athlete. After the 2010 Olympics she spoke with U of T Magazine about why she didn't take up bobsleigh until she was 27.
"I wasn’t attracted to it at all…. Bobsleigh Canada actually asked me when I was 22 and my first thought was, ‘No way am I wearing a uniform that is head-to-toe spandex'," Moyse told the Magazine. "But growing up for me, rugby was the cool thing to do. In PEI, rugby’s huge."
A Right to Play athlete ambassador, Moyse represented Canada on the National Senior Women’s Rugby team in 22 international rugby games, and was the leading try-scorer in both the 2006 and 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cups. She also represented Canada in the Pan American Cycling Championships in Argentina in March 2012, making track cycling her third national sport for Canada.
“Heather was one of the most well-rounded students to ever come through our program,” said Associate Professor Alex Mihailidis, acting chair of the Department. “She was a very bright student, graduated in the top of her class, and she was also a very kind, outgoing and involved student.
"She’s always excelled at everything she’s done and we’re very proud of her.”
Jane Davis was Moyse’s research project co-supervisor, in the days when the high performance athlete would show up at the lab with a large bag of fuzzy peaches. She remembers the apologetic email Moyse sent back in the 2005-2006 school year when bobsleigh tryouts and training for the 2006 Olympics temporarily took her out of the program – and the way that Moyse continued to volunteer in the lab whenever she could fit it in around her training.
Davis points out that Moyse has had to deal with an ankle injury and hip surgery in recent years, using physical therapy to battle back.
That determination and positive spirit are two of Moyse’s defining characteristics, she said.
“When Heather taking a bath in a garbage bin, to us, that was a real occupational therapist moment,” said Davis. “That’s what OTs do – determine what needs to be done and figure out a way to do it.”
Moyse had retired from bobsleigh after Vancouver but returned on the World Cup circuit in 2013-2014 which led to her being named to the Olympic team in Sochi.
And, in the aftermath of the dramatic win by Humphries and Moyse, social media lit up with congratulations for the team.