Head First Ed is eyes down and looking to Sochi

20 October 2013 / 07:33

British skeleton slider Ed Smith is hoping to slip head first under the radar as he looks towards next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Smith, in only his fourth year in the sport, is hopeful of booking his place on Britain's World Cup team this week - the first step towards Olympic selection next January.

Last season he completed an encouraging debut on skeleton's top tier circuit, edging ever closer to a top ten finish in World Cups and claiming 15th at the World Championships in St Moritz.

“I think there’s probably an expectation on certain athletes but in some ways I’m going to enjoy coming in as a bit of an underdog. Nobody expects me to medal," he said.

“I like that position. I don’t want to be walking into an Olympic Games with people thrusting a camera or a microphone in my face with that expectation of you, saying you’re going to deliver a medal.

“I’m going to like the feeling that none of my competitors are expecting me to do well.”

Smith, 26, is one of four British sliders challenging for three places on the World Cup circuit at next week's selection trials in Altenberg.

Former world champion Kristan Bromley, 41, is the experienced name with Dominic Parsons, 25, and David Swift, 26, also lining up.

Smith won last year's selection races - and went on to finish an overall 13th in his maiden World Cup season - but the experience and influence of Bromley still dominates the British men's squad.

“Kristan is a massive inspiration," said Smith. "In terms of his duration in the sport he’s the equivalent of a Steve Redgrave, he’s been doing this for nearly 20 years.

“He’s done everything there is to achieve in this sport apart from get that elusive Olympic medal. He’s achieved phenomenal things and I’d love to get five minutes inside his head and even get a glimpse of what he knows. It would change everything.”

Olympic medallists Shelley Rudman and Amy Williams both discovered skeleton after promising track and field careers but Smith came via the slightly unorthodox route of swimming and weightlifting.

“I was about sixth in the country for swimming, doing butterfly and breaststroke but I quit at 15 and went into professional weightlifting," he said.

"I was actually training with Tommy Yule, Commonwealth Games weightlifter. He got invited to do a bobsleigh trial and he wasn’t interested and he said: ‘why don’t you go instead?'.

“I honestly don’t think it would make any difference what sport I was doing, I’d still want to be the best in the world at it."


READY FOR ACTION: British skeleton sliders Rose McGrandle, Dominic Parsons and Lizzy Yarnold (Getty Images)

Smith narrowly missed lottery funding last season, meaning he is paying for his Sochi ambition by working as an electrician and selling t-shirts on his website head-first-ed.co.uk.

He admits the situation is far from ideal, though refuses to use funding as an excuse for poor performance.

"At the moment I’m getting up at five in the morning and coming up to Bath to train before work," he adds.

“It’s an ego check as well. You’re on a building site and no-one cares what you do. In fact it’s the complete opposite, they rip it out of you for dressing up in lycra and going off to do what we do.

“If somebody decides to give you a chunk of lottery funding there’s that opportunity for you to become complacent.

“I don’t think going back to work has made me any more driven, it just means that I’ve got to be a lot more sensible about what I do with my time and how I manage my money.”

© Sportsbeat 2013