Local skeleton athlete, Joe Cecchini, has qualified to represent Italy at the 2015 World Championship International Skeleton and Bobsled Federation (FIBT) to be held March 5 and 6 in Winterberg, Germany.
The local, a past member of the Trail Track and Field Club was born in Fruitvale, B.C. and moved to Calgary in 2007 to pursue his career as a member of the police force.
The Calgary Police Service is supportive of bobsled and skeleton racing offering staff flexible vacation and unpaid leave packages to enable them to compete in the sport. Joe was working shift work with the police and training on the Canuck skeleton team simultaneously. To be a full time Canadian slider, Joe would have had to take two years off work.
“He just could not give up his job,” said Joe’s father Mark Cecchini.
This is when Joe decided to apply for dual citizenship and take advantage of his great grandfather’s Italian heritage. Joe completed Italian citizenship papers for his grandfather, father and himself all based here in Canada, in order to join the Italian skeleton team.
The first race Joe won was the Italian national championship in February 2013. He again succeeded to win first place at this year’s race.
“Today was the Campionati Italiani Skeleton (Italian National Skeleton Championships) in Igls, Austria. This is the same track where I had a disappointing 24th in the World Cup a week and a half ago. My goal was to learn from that race and build off the successful form I had in Sochi. I am happy to announce that I did just that winning my second national title and am now the current Campione Italiano di Skeleton. It was a very close race with my team mate Mattia Gaspari, who continues to push me to be better every run,” Joe said.
Joe’s passion for skeleton developed when he was in Vancouver at school.
“He and his brother would sit on the ice banks…Joey was fast at track and field,” said his father.
The men also thought the Norwegian snowboard women were cute and decided a good way to rub shoulders with these athletes would be to join the Olympic team. Although Joe has since married another member of the Calgary police force, he continues his passion for skeleton.
In the 2014/2015 final World Cup held Feb. 15 in Sochi, Russia Joe finished 12th place. This is a career best World Cup finish for Joe who says, “This track is a lot of fun with some really challenging sections. I was sitting 9th after the first heat but had some difficulties in a couple of those corners in the second heat. I must say this was one of the best races I have had the pleasure of participating in.”
Joe will have three qualifying runs on the track in Winterberg, Germany. The track is 1330 meters long, has 15 curves, an altitude difference of 110 metres and athletes have been recorded at reaching speeds of up to 140 km/ph. Joe’s fastest recorded speed was 135 km/ph on the skeleton, which his father refers to as a cookie.
“His fast start is advantageous…he likes speed,” said his father.
While he’s on the North America circuit, Joe pays for his own expenses related to competing. Being the only Italian racer on the North American circuit means Joe is pretty much going solo in terms of training for most of the year. He has very little contact with the teams in Europe. He has a strength and conditioning coach in Calgary but there is no technical coach for Joe here on home soil his parents said.
“My goal is to be in the (2018) Olympics in Korea. I’m doing everything I can to be there,” said Joe.
Joe’s mother and Fruitvale Mayor, Patricia Cecchini who will be in Germany watching her son compete, explains that while her son is not on the Canadian team he is still worthy of hometown support.
“Even though he is competing for Italy, he is still a local athlete. It would be very encouraging for him if we can rally local support and well wishes going into the World Championships,” she said.