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Like father, like son

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A long time ago, way back when, I lived on Queenston Street in River Heights, the second house from Grosvenor.

Our neighbours were the Mannings.

They had a sizeable yard, sort of an undeveloped half lot with two crab apple trees. As kids in the late 1960s and early '70s we played a lot in that yard with the Manning boys, Bobby and Jimmy.

They were into snowmobiling. Big time.

One year Bobby got an Arctic Cat Kitty Cat snowmobile, a tiny snowmobile for tiny kids. Bobby tested it out in the yard under the watchful eyes of mom and dad. He handled it like it was part of his body, part of his genetic makeup, doing jumps in snow piles he had built and throttling it as fast as it could go in such a relatively small place.

Bobby passed those genes to his son Cole, now 19.

Cole has made it his life's mission, supported by his dad and uncle Jim, to be one of the top snocross racers in North America.

He, much like his dad, has been racing snowmobiles about half his life. Except professionally. He raced part-time for about four years before racing full-time at 13. 

"Ever since then until now I've run all the series in the United States," he says. "The last two years I've just been strictly a ‘National', which is considered the top snocross circuit in the world."

Cole Manning was two when his parents introduced him to snowmobiling. Since then his dream has always been to go faster. And get paid for it through a combination of prize money, sponsorships and advertising.

"Right now it's kind of like a winter job. I think this year I can do it cost-free. Eventually, I'd like to do it as a way to make a living."

He also tests out new sleds -- they've been reinforced for snocross racing -- provided to him by manufacturers. His sleds come from Ski-Doo, which provide him with a practice sled and a race sled.

"The way the engine is built, it produces a lot more power a lot quicker," he says of race machines, adding racers also need the strength and stamina to handle a 420-pound sled as it speeds and jumps around a course.

"You have to have enough muscle to hold the thing and not let it beat you up. It's a really physical sport even though it looks like we're standing pushing a throttle."

His circuit this season starts Nov. 10 with a couple of weeks of training before his first race Nov. 29 in Duluth, MN. The last race is in mid-March.

Last season Manning raced in 12 events and placed within the top 30 for points.

Manning figures he can keep racing until he's about 30 -- after that birthday his body will be too old to take the bumps, bruises and grind of competitive racing.

"I'd like to do it as long as I can," he says. "As long as I'm in control and conscious about what I'm doing, it's really not that dangerous. The more competitive you get the more the riders are in control. They're not going to take you out. They're not going to hit you.

"When you're younger, a rider can easily just hit the gas, slide over the bars and the sled goes into you. It gets safe as you get older, but the speeds are also going up. When you do crash, you crash a lot worse."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca 

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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