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How one Sunshine Coaster is looking to get on track for the Olympics

Team Canada athlete Mackenzie Stewart is raising funds for a bobsled
Madeira Park-raised Mackenzie Stewart is hoping to buy a bobsled to be competitive for the 2026 Olympics.

Hurtling down a track at 150 km/hr isn’t for everyone but for Mackenzie Stewart, it’s where she’s meant to be.  

Madeira Park-raised Stewart is a bobsleigh pilot on Team Canada. But with Bobsleigh Skeleton Canada’s funding suspended following concerns in the past couple of years around governance, culture and safety, the athletes were left to find their own funding for their high-level competition this season, including Stewart.  

It’s about $40,000 to $80,000 a year for an athlete to fund their season, which runs October to March, then there’s the off season and then the season ahead of that, said Stewart.  

The athletes found out mid last year that they wouldn’t be funded, said Stewart. “It kind of put people in a panic of trying to find sponsors or trying to work and be able to cover costs a little bit so we don’t go into debt. 

“It’s kind of the name of Canadian sport that you go into debt for sport, but not to the point of being hindered in future…I would like that not to be the case,” said Stewart, talking from Whistler earlier this year, where she trains in the wintertime. In the off-season, the 28-year-old lives in Calgary. During the season, sliding requires 10 to 12 hours of work a day, including speed and strength training, said Stewart. During the off-season, she works a part-time job but still needs to put in four to six hours of training a day. 

Recruited into bobsleigh from Simon Fraser University, for several years Stewart was a brake person, but became a sled pilot two years ago.  

“Making the jump into the front seat, it clicked and I just found what I was meant to do. I think when people find that feeling, it’s pretty incredible,” said Stewart. “I love being in a sled. Being in the driver’s seat, I would do it every single day, eight runs a day, if I could, but they limit us to three or four.” 

In her first year in the driver’s seat, Stewart came in second overall in North America – when she talked with Coast Reporter in January, she was seated 26th in the world.  

“Yeah, so it’s pretty exciting. I basically steer the sled at 150 kilometres an hour with no brakes until the end – we kind of just let her fly and hopefully you don’t make any mistakes that put you on your head.” 

There are three different tours in a year: the North American circuit, the Europa Cup circuit and the World Cup circuit. While three other women are filling out Canada’s World Cup spots – Stewart being relatively junior – her goal in the next two years is to get onto that circuit so she has a shot at the 2026 Olympics in Italy.

But first, she needs a sled. In a sport where steering is the difference of closing a fist or twitching a finger, the sled makes a difference.  

“Equipment is huge in our sport,” said Stewart. “It’s not solely about athletic ability, equipment is a big game changer. 

“Because I’m so new, I get allocated sleds that are too heavy or sleds that are older and it just doesn’t keep up with the new stuff.” 

And then there are also weight restrictions: a sled can be only 330kg. total, including its two athletes. As she’s got a sled that’s on the heavy side, at nearly six feet tall and 82kg. herself, Stewart spends a majority of of her season starving herself to make weight, she says. “Which is not ideal for athletic performance but it’s kind of the name of the game, which is unfortunate.” 

Stewart’s now looking to raise enough money to buy a sled next year, and sleds are $50,000 to $80,000. “So it’s pretty much like buying a car, but it doesn’t have a motor.” 

There are a few means to support Stewart: businesses can sponsor her in a sort of partnership where they may write off part of the expense as advertising. Stewart’s biggest sponsor when she talked with Coast Reporter was Sunshine Coast-based Jenkins Construction. And she would love more hometown support. “I love to just represent the Coast – like that’s my pride is being able to say I was from the Sunshine Coast and have people support me.” 

Supporters can also visit Stewart’s GoFundMe page at