News & Events

Two athletes share common ground in sport

The road to the Olympic Games can be difficult, but two Saskatchewan athletes are hoping to make their potential journey...

Weekly Roundup
Weekly Roundup Nov. 22-28

John Wetzstein comes home to Sask Rowing Association  It’s a homecoming for John Wetzstein as the distinguished national team coach...

Parapan American Games Wrap Up 

Photo Credit: Dave Holland Sunday November 26 marked the conclusion of the Santiago 2023 Parapan American Games, with the Closing...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 24

Photo Credit: Angela Burger / Canadian Paralympic Committee Canada has gained a spot in the medal rankings, moving to eighth...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 23

Photo Credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee Comité paralympique canadien Canada has fallen in the medal rankings, sitting in ninth with 26...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 22

Photo Credit: Dave Holland/Canadian Paralympic Committee Canada continues to sit eighth in medal standings, with 24 medals, four of which...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 21st

Photo Credit: Dave Holland/Canadian Paralympic Committee Canada holds it place in medal standings, sitting in eighth with 14 medals, three...

Weekly Roundup
Weekly Roundup – Nov. 15 – 21 

Donsberger among eight on National Athlete Pool in skeleton  Kyle Donsberger, who hails from Regina, was named to the National...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 20th

Photo credit: Angela Burger / Canadian Paralympic Committee Canada has made its way to the top ten in medal standings,...

Parapan 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 17th

The 2023 Parapan American Games will commence with Opening Ceremonies today. Para-cyclist Shelley Gautier and wheelchair tennis player, Rob Shaw...

Santiago Welcomes 2023 Parapan American Games This week

Canadian athletes are once again descending on Santiago, Chile as the city plays host to the 2023 Parapan American Games...

Weekly Roundup
Weekly Roundup – Nov. 8 – 14

Ray represents Canada with U18 Men’s National Softball Team Rayn Ray from Saskatoon has joined the Canadian softball team at...

Weekly Roundup
Weekly Roundup – Nov. 1 – 7 

Swift Current group at 2023 Canadian Mixed Curling Championships  The 2023 Canadian Mixed Curling Championships commenced on Sunday, November 5th...

Pan American Games Wrap Up

Photo Credit: Diego Alvujar/Santiago 2023 via Photosport The Closing Ceremony took place on November 5, marking the conclusion of the...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 3rd

Photo Credit: Heuler Andrey/Santiago 2023 via Photosport Canada reclaims its place as third on the medal standings, with 136 medals,...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 2nd 

Photo Credit: Dragomir Yankovic/Santiago 2023 via PHOTOSPORT Canada has moved down in the medal standings, now placing fourth with 116...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – November 1st 

Photo Credit: PEPE ALVUJAR/SANTIAGO 2023 via PHOTOSPORT Canada holds its place as third in the medal standings, with 109 medals,...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Updates – October 31st  

Photo Credit: JAVIER SALVO/SANTIAGO 2023 via PHOTOSPORT  Canada continues to hold its place near the top of the medal standings...

Weekly Roundup
Weekly Roundup – Oct. 25 – 31 

Klimchuk announced for Canada’s men’s rugby roster    Regina’s Matthew Klimchuk will join the 32-player roster for Canada’s Men’s 15s...

Santiago 2023 Team Canada Midway – Oct 27 

DANIEL APUY/SANTIAGO 2023 via PHOTOSPORT  The 2023 Santiago Pan American Games have come to the midway point and will conclude...

Saskatchewan Stories

“Our goal is to win the Olympics:” Moose Jaw’s Coakwell set to represent hometown once again

December 16, 2021

Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport

Ben Coakwell has an interesting way of explaining travelling in a bobsled going 150 km/h down a track. 

“It’s like if you’re inside a tin garbage can rolling down a hill, but that hill was also taking off in an airplane, so you’d get that feeling of take-off, but also the bumps while rolling down a hill,” he said. “Every time a new guy comes out. I want to watch. I want to be at the top or the bottom and see what the reaction is going to be. It’s insanity.” 

The Moose Jaw product is eager to attend his third Olympic Games as a member of Bobsleigh Canada, a journey assisted by the Saskatchewan Program for Athletic Excellence, a grant that is supported by Sask Lotteries. Coakwell stars as the brakeman on Justin Kripps four-man bobsled team, which is in the midst of the 2021-22 Bobsleigh World Cup. Fresh off a bronze-medal finish at an event in Winterbeg, Germany, Coakwell is in good shape to qualify. 

But like many in the sport, when he was growing up bobsledding wasn’t on his radar.  

Coakwell’s listing of Bo Jackson —the only professional athlete to be named an All-Star in the MLB and NFL— as his favourite athlete explains a lot. First, Coakwell was a hockey player, then a football player. He joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team in 2005 as a running back and also starred on the Huskies track and field team as a sprinter. It was that combination that helped him be ultimately introduced to bobsledding. 

“You need to be fast, but you also need to be heavy. And that’s not two things that really go hand-in-hand in the athletic world very often,” he noted. 

But Coakwell is an exception. He was found thanks to the presence of stats, measurables, newspaper articles and highlights, by a recruiter with Bobsleigh Canada. It is a much different process now, said Coakwell, where aspiring bobsledders attend camps or programming like RBC Training Ground to show their stuff.  

Coakwell’s introduction to bobsleigh, was still with two years of eligibility remaining as a Huskie athlete, after he was emailed by the recruiter to let him know was coming out to a track and field meet in Saskatoon. After exhausting his two remaining years of eligibility with the Huskies and leading the football team in rushing yards in both 2010 and 2011 and winning sprinting medals at the Canada West championship, it was time for him to turn his attention from University sport to the Olympic Games. 

“This was always something that I was interested in. I went to Calgary and I pushed in their indoor facility and it’s something that I just love 

From the moment he tried it he was hooked. 

“It’s just a crazy expression of explosive power. It’s something that I can’t explain to people and everybody gets it as soon as they try it. You get wrapped up in it and it’s hard to get out of it.” 

At the age of 34, Coakwell expects this to be his last Olympic Games. While he has interest in coaching after wrapping up his career — first he has some unfinished business. Expectations follow when you’ve been a part of a program for 10-plus years. 

“Things are looking really good for us,” said Coakwell. “There’s a lot of scenarios that we’ve come across that we’ve gained wisdom from and we’ve won a lot of medals because of that. The momentum is definitely on our side. Our team has been together for the last four years, we haven’t had any changes, we’ve been solid and that’s been a big reason for our success.” 

Their success as a team is evident — four gold, one silver and five bronze-medals at World Cup events since 2019 and as recently as Dec. 11. The group was named the Team of the Year at the 2019 Canadian Sport Awards.  After a disappointing 29th place finish in his Olympic debut at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi that involved an on-track crash, Coakwell’s team finished 12th in 2014 in Pyeongchang. He minces no words about what his team’s expectations are for when the best in the world gather again in Beijing. 

“Our goal is to win the Olympics and that’s not a secret. We don’t pretend to say that it’s not,” said Coakwell. “We feel like we can win and we’re going to do everything we can to win. We definitely have the ability to do it. It’s just a matter of showing up on the day, which is a huge thing at the Games, because it’s the Games.” 

Coakwell understands what his presence at the Games means for his hometown of Moose and the province.  

“That’s why we do it, that’s why I do it,” said Coakwell, who is one of two Moose Javians working toward a spot in Beijing. The reason I’ve worked so hard at this is because I am a representation of the neighbourhood I grew up in and a representation of the people that taught me and the sports that I played in the communities in Moose Jaw and in Saskatoon.” 

“When Canadians watch the Olympics, there’s so many emotional attachments to sport, and I think that’s a big part of it because they’re watching people that grew up in their neighbourhoods and their towns. That’s the reason we want success. It’s not a personal thing as much as it’s a thing that you want to achieve to share with others.”