Confidence building as Deas slides towards PyeongChang
Skeleton

Confidence building as Deas slides towards PyeongChang

21 December 2017 / 08:09

Four Olympic Winter Games, four medals won – Great Britain’s female skeleton athletes know what it takes to climb the medal rostrum when it matters most.

But next year, high up at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, the Brits will be aiming to step matters up another notch.

The run started with Alex Coomber’s bronze at Salt Lake City 2002 as women’s skeleton made its Games debut, before Shelley Rudman bettered that with silver in Turin four years later.

Then came further dominance as Amy Williams and Lizzy Yarnold clinched the Olympic titles in 2010 and 2014 respectively. Not bad for a country with no ice track to call their own.

Williams retired two years after her victory in Vancouver but Yarnold, while taking a 12-month sabbatical for the 2015-2016 season, has pushed on, chasing the chance to make history as the first slider, male or female, to defend an Olympic skeleton title.

LauraDeasPyeongChang

The qualification period for PyeongChang 2018 remains open until mid-January but Yarnold, and teammate Laura Deas, are in pole position to book their places on the plane to South Korea.

The latter is in fact ranked the higher of the two in the current World Cup rankings and believes both can be sharing the podium come February 17.

“For Lizzy the aim is to defend her title, which has never been done before,” said Deas.

“For me, it would be my first Games and it will be a totally different experience for me. But I really do believe we can both be on the podium.

“The Games are coming up really quickly, it’s just over 50 days to go but it’s a really exciting time.”

With PyeongChang set to mark her maiden Olympic Winter Games, it’s easy to forget Wrexham-born Deas is in fact a seasoned slider – and also two months older than teammate Yarnold.

The 29-year-old got into the sport back in 2009 through the UK Sport talent programme Girls4Gold, the very same initiative which had identified Yarnold 12 months earlier.

Yarnold’s career trajectory may have been much steeper, and medal laden, in the years since but former cross country runner Deas – who describes herself in two words as optimistic and organised – has steadily gone about accumulating experience and know-how of racing at the top level.

Her maiden World Cup victory in Altenberg, in November 2015, hinted at things to come while she ended the 2016/2017 season ranked sixth in the overall standings, having finished in the top ten in all bar one of the eight races.

That consistency has continued this season with an 11th-place finish in Whistler the only noticeable blemish in a run that has produced four top-seven finishes, and seen her come within a hundredth of a second of bronze at last week’s European Championships.

“Despite missing out on a medal, I was pleased with my performance in Igls, it’s not a track where I have had a great deal of success,” she added.

“I would say they were the two best runs I have ever done at that track in what was a quite challenging competition. All in all, I’d put it down as a good day in the office.

“There have been some frustrations with some of the racing conditions this season but you cannot let it affect you too much.

“It’s given me a lot of confidence this season with the consistency of my runs and being able to put them together. A lot of the things my coach and I have been working on are starting to take shape. And I feel like I am heading in the right direction.”

Another three World Cups in Altenburg, St Moritz and Koenigssee await post-Christmas before Deas, Yarnold and co turn their attentions towards PyeongChang in February.

And while eyes will undoubtedly be on the reigning champion and whether she can discover top form at the right time, Deas is certainly not going there to play the supporting role on a track she hopes will suit her strong push start.

“I feel like I know the PyeongChang track fairly well from previous competitions there but there is still a lot to learn,” she concluded.

“The speed generated from the top carries a long way which is good and there is a nice mixture of technical turns.

“I’ve enjoyed sliding there so far so I’m looking forward to us all getting back there.

“Lizzy and I go away back and we have been friends for a long time, competing together a lot.

“We help each other out if one of us is struggling or whatever and I am sure that will continue. But hopefully we can both work together and enjoy success next year.”

Sportsbeat 2017

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