Sara Villani – from one track to another
March 25, 2021
Written by Kellie McCarney, Communications Intern
King’s alumna Sara Villani, BA ’19 (Psychology and Thanatology) has turned her love of track and field into a passion for the sport of bobsleigh and is training as a member of the Canadian Senior Bobsleigh Team for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Although bobsleigh is now her sport of choice, Villani had a successful athletic career as a track and field athlete during her time at King’s. She completed a double major in Psychology and Thanatology from 2014 – 2019 and she credits her time as a Western Mustangs student-athlete during that time for helping her develop time management skills and the ability to ask for help from professors or coaches when needed.
“In doing thanatology, I was able to a lot of online classes which helped me learn how to be self-disciplined and make sure I used my time effectively. Also, my professors were very open and approachable. That helped me gain confidence about asking for help,” says Villani about her time at King’s. Those skills helped her develop confidence that she continues to use in her daily life.
While competing with the London Western Track and Field Club, Villani won the 2015 junior National Championship in heptathlon and qualified to represent Canada at the 2015 Junior Pan Am Games in Edmonton. After suffering an ankle injury while competing, Villani persevered through the injury as well as some uncertainty about the future of her athletic career. She switched gears and ultimately decided to focus on track and field athletic throwing sports. She was propelled to the podium once again, coming in 2nd in shot-put at the 2019 U Sports Championship.
As an athlete with a flexible mindset, Villani first considered making the change from track and field to bobsleigh in 2018, when she attended a sporting event known for recruiting Olympic talent. She won multiple events, and was recruited for bobsleigh. From this experience Villani discovered a passion for the sport, and was named to the Canadian National Bobsleigh Developmental team in 2019. Since then, she has gone on to be named to the senior bobsleigh team and is now working toward the ultimate goal of winning gold at the 2022 Olympic games.
A major challenge that Villani and many other Canadian athletes training for the Olympics faced this past year was balancing an intense training schedule with COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
Additionally, during 2020, the national bobsleigh program split its time between valuable training time at the world-leading Whistler B.C. Sliding Centre and working on their starts in at WinSport, Calgary’s Winter Sport Institute.
“For the first half, Team Canada did not participate in any competitions, which was a little bit sad but obviously understandable given the situation,” reflects Villani.
In January, the Canadian team rejoined the World Cup circuit in Germany, living and competing in a bubble. Villani placed 5th at her first World Cup competition in bobsleigh, piloted by Christine de Bruin.
“I felt extremely safe in the bubble. We were all tested twice a week and all we would do is go to the grocery store and to the bobsleigh track. I felt very safe because it was very well managed and I think the athletes did a great job of abiding by the rules,” says Villani.
After returning home to Canada in February, Villani prepared to resume training following a 2-week mandatory quarantine.
“I feel excited for the offseason and I feel very motivated to train,” said Villani. “I think that with the new confidence that I’ve built this past year I just feel excited for prepping and training.”
She will continue her preparations for the Olympics by training, raising funds and acquiring sponsorships. Anyone who wishes to support her on this journey is welcome to do so.