A member of Canada's national bobsleigh team and a former standout university football player in Ontario is happy to now call Airdrie home.
Orion Edwards, a two-man driver for Bobsleigh Canada, said he and his wife recently bought their first home in Big Springs, and are enjoying their new community. Before settling in Airdrie, the married coupled lived in Calgary for a year, where they had relocated from Toronto following their wedding in the summer of 2021.
“We’ve been loving it,” said Edwards, who grew up in Newport, Ont. “We loved Calgary, but I think we love Airdrie because it’s close to a big city but also far enough that it’s a very family-feel town.
“It’s a good community. Even while training, I’ve seen football games at Genesis Place, and we went to the Festival of Lights two weeks ago. We’re young and don’t have kids yet, but could see this being a place our kids grow up in.”
Since 2019, Edwards has been a member of Bobsleigh Canada, with dreams of competing in the sport at the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. The 28-year-old said he intends to stay rooted in Airdrie as he continues to train and pursue his goal in the coming years.
“I’d love to let my community know I’m involved in this amazing sport and want to embrace and be a part of this community,” he said. “That day when I do get to the Olympics, hopefully in 2026, I hope the Airdrie community will be right there with me.”
Edwards' introduction to bobsleigh was unorthodox. He was previously a university-level football player, suiting up as a defensive back for the Guelph Gryphons from 2013 to 2017, with hopes of playing the sport professionally after graduating.
But in 2016 – his CFL draft year – Edwards tore his ACL during a U SPORTS all-star game. The injury required surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation period.
While recovering from surgery, Edwards said his sister, who is a nurse by trade, came to Guelph to visit him for a couple of days. During that trip, the siblings re-watched the movie Cool Runnings – a 1993 comedy film that centres around the famous Jamaican bobsleigh team that competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
According to Edwards, his sister joked about his and the character Sanka's similar hairstyles, before musing that he should give the sport of bobsleigh a try once he was done with football.
Though he recovered from his ACL tear and was able to complete the last year of his university football career in 2017, Edwards said he came to terms with the fact his football playing days were over. Upon graduating from Guelph, he moved to Seattle, Washington to work as a campus missionary for Athletes in Action, a Christian sports ministry.
“It was a weird feeling [to hang up the cleats], but I’m a person who really believes in seasons of life,” he said. “What I mean is, if you try to hold onto one season, you’re going to miss out on the beauty of another season. So I kind of realized I was done, but that it was OK.”
But Edwards still wanted to stay in shape, and was looking into other athletic possibilities when his sister reminded him of bobsleigh. Curious, he started following bobsleigh athletes on Instagram.
“I started to see how crazy and adrenaline-filled the sport is,” he said.
Researching how to get started in bobsleigh, Edwards said he reached out to Neil Lumsden, the father of Jesse Lumsden and one of his former football coaches at Guelph. The younger Lumsden had raced in bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2014, after a pro football career.
Edwards asked the elder Lumsden if he too had a shot of becoming a successful bobsledder.
“Coach Lumsden, knowing who I was and knowing my character and work ethic, he said, ‘Yeah I think you do. You’re going to have to work extremely hard…but it will be super rewarding,’” Edwards said.
“He actually got me in touch with one of [Canada's] recruiting coaches, so I got on a call with him and started in January 2019, training for bobsleigh.”
Later that summer, after months of workouts, Edwards said he attended a national bobsleigh combine to evaluate his strength and power. Given his background in football, he said he was a good fit for the sport, and the Bobsleigh Canada coaches were impressed with his numbers, inviting him back for a national team training camp that fall.
In preparation, Edwards temporarily moved to Calgary, where he crashed on an old Guelph teammate's couch (former Calgary Stampeder and current Toronto Argonaut Royce Metchie) in the lead-up to the camp.
“After that month of training and testing, by the grace of God, I made the team, and I’ve been on the team since,” Edwards said.
Now entering the fourth year of his bobsleigh career, Edwards said his career in the sport has progressed leaps and bounds since first making the national team in 2019. He's now a pilot in a two-man sled, has raced in multiple North American Cups, and is currently ranked second in those continental competitions.
“Last year I was mostly learning how to drive,” he said. “This year, I’ve seen some pretty good success. I made the ‘extended’ podium, so one fifth place, and two sixth place finishes. But with that said, I’m currently ranked second in North America races right now.”
Edwards said he's currently training for another North American Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y. in March, with plans of travelling to Whistler later this month to slide down the track there. (While Calgary has one of just two bobsleigh tracks in Canada, the track was decommissioned in 2018, which means in order to get practical sliding experience, athletes need to travel to Whistler).
To follow Edwards' journey in bobsleigh, his social media handle is @orion_edwards