Gillian Cooke headed into her Olympic debut as a red-hot favourite for a medal before failing to deliver – however she believes a reverse in opinion can lead to a reverse in fortunes at Sochi 2014.
Brakewoman Cooke and pilot Nicola Minichiello became the first British females ever to win gold at the World Bobsleigh Championships a year out from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Lake Placid.
However they couldn’t follow it up with a medal at the Games as they crashed during their third run with a knee injury then ruling Minichiello out of the following season before she retired in April 2011.
Cooke briefly piloted herself during that season before joining forces with Paula Walker and going on to place seventh at the 2012 World Championships a year after finishing 21st as Fiona Harrison’s brakewoman.
All was looking well this season before a crash during run two of the Altenberg World Cup, when they were placed third, led to injuries to both although they battled to 14th at the World Championships.
Cooke believes that, plus the rise of the men’s four-man that finished fifth at the worlds, has left them off the radar less than a year out from the next Olympics however she insists that will only benefit them.
“It was a really mixed season. We started really well but then after Christmas in Altenberg there was a high and a low because we were in medal contention and then unfortunately we crashed,” said Cooke.
“It showed we have the potential but then the fallout from that crash caused us both to carry injuries for the rest of the season which affected our results.
“I think a lot of the focus is on the boys now whereas in the past it has always been on the girls. It’s really good to see the boys having that success and it does spur on the whole squad to raise their game.
“I’m excited more than anything; we’re in a good position as we’re just off the podium area so there is no pressure pinned on medal hopes.
“A medal is a real possibility but we’re not nailed on medals so it’s a nice position to be in, we can work away a little bit off the radar and spring that surprise on the big day.”
Walker finished 11th on her Olympic debut at Vancouver 2010 where she was pushed by Kelly Thomas while the following year she won the world junior title with Rebekah Wilson.
Since joining forces with Cooke they have placed a best of sixth three times on the World Cup circuit and the 30-year-old brakewoman is adamant they will be better for their experiences – good and bad.
“Physically we can always get faster and stronger and also coming together as a pair as this was the first full season that we had getting to know each other properly and how we can work together,” added Cooke.
“Now we can really go forwards and work on the technical elements, the timing and knowing if we have a good result or a bad result how the other person is going to react.”
© Sportsbeat 2013