With the opening ceremonies for the Beijing 2022 Olympics in just a few days, the excitement is high for Cody Sorensen. But once the four-man bobsleigh competition begins to slide closer, Sorensen, 35, expects the stress to increase.
Sorensen is one of three University of Guelph graduates heading to these winter Olympics, which are being held Feb. 4-20.
Joining him are Mirela “Mimi” Rahneva, 33, competing in the women’s skeleton, and Dustin McCrank, 37, who will be a linesman for the men’s hockey tournament.
Former U of G student Mikkel Aagaard, 26, will also be competing, acting as a ‘practice player’ on the men’s hockey team for his home country of Denmark.
High hopes for Sorensen
While hurdling with the Gryphons men’s track and field team, Sorensen studied management, economics and finance at U of G from 2004 to 2008. The three-time national medallist in the men’s 60 metres played a key role during his final season.
At an open identification camp hosted by Bobsleigh Canada at York University, Sorensen found four-man bobsleigh to be “a good fit for his natural abilities as a bigger sprinter who was quick out of the blocks.”
He served as an alternate for the Canadian men’s team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He says he was fortunate to “officially” become an Olympian in 2014 in Sochi, when he slid with Justin Kripps, Jesse Lumsden and Ben Coakwell.
“That was a dream come true for me and it’s a surreal feeling to be able to come back to the Olympics after almost eight years off,” Sorensen, from Ottawa, said.
He will join team pilot Chris Spring (with whom he slid at the 2013 World Cup), Mike Evelyn and Samuel Giguere at the National Sliding Centre from Feb. 19-20.
“It will all come down to the push for us in 4-man,” Sorensen said about the upcoming competition. “We know Spring can drive and we have the sled to be fast. I’d say that we are an outside threat for a medal, and we expect to be in the mix after Day 1.”
Rahneva becomes a two-time Olympian
While studying tourism management at U of G between 2006 and 2010, Mirela “Mimi” Rahneva, from Ottawa, played on the Gryphons women’s rugby team, during which she became a three-time Ontario University Athletics champion and a four-time Canadian Interuniversity Sports (now U Sports) bronze medallist.
After graduating, she played for the Canadian national sevens rugby team. Inspired by Heather Moyse’s switch from rugby to bobsleigh, Rahneva tried bobsleigh but was too small and was encouraged to try skeleton in 2012.
She began competing the following year. She has achieved six podium finishes at the World Cup and bronze at games in Germany and Switzerland during the 2021-22 season. Despite finishing 12th in her Olympic debut at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, she “has become a fixture on the international circuit for skeleton.”
Women’s skeleton at the Beijing Olympics will be held Feb. 11-12 at the National Sliding Centre.
McCrank one of three Canadian hockey officials
Recruited to U of G by the men’s hockey team for his rookie year (2006-07), Dustin McCrank competed for the Gryphons track and field team in weight throw throughout his five years of studies.
He won gold in 2009-10 and silver in both 2008-09 and 2010-11 in weight throw, during which time he also played on the men’s rugby team (2009-11).
After graduating with an honours degree in anthropology, the three-time All-Canadian champion coached U of G’s weight throw team in 2014 and 2015.
Originally from Haileybury, Ont., McCrank began officiating in 2006 with the Ontario Hockey Association, where he supervised two Queen’s Cup games. Starting in 2008 with the Ontario Hockey League, he conducted six league finals. In 2015, he began his extensive career with both the American Hockey League and the ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League), for which he officiated many final championship and series games, including the Canadian Hockey League/National Hockey League Top Prospects Game played in Guelph in January 2018.
From Feb. 9 to 20, McCrank will officiate the men’s hockey tournament in Beijing as a linesman, along with two Canadian referees, at the National Indoor Stadium and the Wukesong Sports Centre.
Aagaard competing as a ‘practice player’
Before studying accounting at U of G, Mikkel Aagaard, from Frederikshavn, Denmark, played in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Juniors and World Cup tournaments.
He served as the team captain of the Gryphons men’s hockey team during the 2019-2020 season before he was offered the chance to go pro, ending his studies at U of G. Aagaard, then the OUA’s top scorer with 63 points in 42 games, signed a contract with MoDo, a professional Swedish hockey team.
At his first Olympics, Aagaard will be a “practice-player” for the Danish men’s hockey team. In this role, he and the other practice players ensure optimal training conditions and compete in lieu of a player who tests positive for COVID prior to the tournament.