Jackson finds inspiration in his struggle with adversity

09 February 2014 / 05:48

John Jackson’s Olympic ambition seems to be underpinned by one inspirational sports quote after another.

He’s got knocked down and got back up again, he knows all too well about the triumph and the struggle, will readily testify that success is indeed one per cent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration and concede that teamwork does indeed make the dream work.

Britain’s first-choice bobsleigh driver arrives in Sochi for his second Olympic experience as a serious medal contender in the four-man event, where he’ll pilot a crew completed by the sprinting firepower of Joel Fearon, Bruce Tasker and Stuart Benson.

Four years ago in Vancouver, Jackson enjoyed an Olympic debut to forget, returning home with only bumps, bruises and dirty laundry to show for his endeavours in Whistler.

But the arrival of new performance director Gary Anderson inspired him to put his pride to one side and finally establish himself as one of the world's best drivers.

Anderson talks a lot about his Project Trajectory, a long-term plan that aims to peak in Sochi and end Great Britain’s 16-year wait for a bobsleigh medal.

Last year Jackson, 36, finished fifth at the World Championships, just 0.07 seconds off a medal, and claimed another top five at the Olympic test event in Sochi, only to rupture his Achilles during training over the summer.

He defied medics with his recovery – thanks to a series of seemingly never-ending rehab sessions at British Olympic Association’s medical institute at Bisham Abbey – guiding Britain to a first World Cup podium in 16 years with a silver medal in Lake Placid before Christmas.

“I’ve made a lot of gambles to be here and worked very, very hard,” he said. “I’m the first elite athlete to have the surgery I had, so there was always concerns about whether I’d get back to fitness in time.

“No matter what I was told, I always believed it would take four to six months but I also know how close I came to watching the Olympics on television.

“I’ve had some moments of self-doubt but I was determined to do whatever it took to be here, there was no other option for me than making this team.

“My job in the Royal Marines is to help guys rehab from injury, I couldn’t have looked them in the eye if I didn’t practice what I preach.

“Being a Marine isn’t about fitness, it’s about a state of mind. I think my mental discipline has been the difference to getting on this Olympic team and not.”

Jackson only returned to full sprint training for the first time in six months during last week’s preparation camp in Königssee and remains unshakable in his belief about his crews’ medal chances – though they will have to wait until the final weekend of the Games to get their chance.

Bobsleigh drivers need years of experience to be competitive and Jackson is known to develop a quick read of track conditions, which plays into his hands with Olympic events decided by the cumulative time over four runs, as opposed to two on the World Cup circuit.

“I know my driving style suits the track in Sochi, all we need to do is tweak a few lines and work on the sled set-up,” he adds.

“It’s also great we’ve qualified two British four-man teams as we can share the workload and then fight the rest of the world once it comes to race day.

“In Vancouver I was just happy to go there and take part as it was my first Olympics but I’m going to Sochi to compete and to put Team GB on the map and try and step onto that podium.

“It’s not just me, everybody’s totally focused now on winning a medal. We’ve proven that we are world class in the past, now we need to prove we are world class when it matters.”

From James Toney, Sportsbeat, in Sochi

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