Red, white, no blue: Gold medalist Bakken moves on

“The moment, I’ll always remember,” Bakken said.

This February in Vancouver, Bakken’s help could lead someone else to an unforgettable Olympic moment.

Only it won’t be an American.

Bakken spent part of this Olympic cycle coaching Canadian bobsled hopefuls, who’ll spend the Vancouver Games trying to beat Americans and everybody else down their new home track. She resigned from the position earlier this year, several months before her contract with Bobsleigh Canada was to expire, citing the demands of travel and hopes of changing her career.

Now she’s coaching younger sliders at the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia.

“I loved competing for the U.S.,” Bakken said. “But as a coach, it’s different, because you go where there’s a job. You go where someone needs you. There’s a lot of coaches that coach different nations all the time. One year they’ll be coaching one nation, one year a completely different nation. That’s just kind of the way it is. It’s not unusual.”

In sliding especially, it is absolutely not unusual.

Canada’s head bobsled coach these days is Tuffy Latour, who was an American coach when Bakken won her gold medal—and, like Bakken, served the United States through the National Guard. Tristan Gale, who was the 2002 women’s skeleton gold medalist for the U.S., is now working with a French men’s slider who’ll likely be in the Olympics.

USA Luge has even seen an athlete change colors, with Bengt Walden, a 2002 Olympian for Sweden, now set to slide at Vancouver for the U.S. after marrying an American luge competitor.

There’s countless other examples as well.

Pride in country is one thing, but the need for work is powerful, too.