Team GB exclusive: GB bobsleigh aim to make statement at World Champs

Team GB exclusive: GB bobsleigh aim to make statement at World Champs

12 February 2016 / 10:53
One tenth of a second doesn’t sound like much when put down in five simple words.

But when it is the difference between finishing fifth at a Winter Olympic Games and missing out on Great Britain’s first bobsleigh medal in 16 years then that simple time measurement – or 0.11 seconds to be exact – suddenly magnifies in significance.

“Right up until that last run in Sochi I believed we were going to nick the bronze medal, I really did,” recounts Great Britain bobsleigh performance director Gary Anderson about Team GB’s performances in the four-man, led by pilot John Jackson.

“I knew we were capable of it. A lot went against us in the lead up to it, and also during the event, but that’s what it is. We had to deal with that, but it didn’t change us, it galvanised us really.”

Just under a fortnight shy of two years on from Sochi 2014, and the world of bobsleigh has of course moved on.

Germany’s reigning European and World champion pilot Maximilian Arndt has moved ahead of the now-retired Russian Olympic champion Alexandr Zubkov as the one to beat going into the World Championships which get underway in Igls, Austria today.

Great Britain have progressed their bobsleigh programme too with this season alone producing a number of encouraging results, including a fourth-place finish for Lamin Deen’s four-man crew at the Lake Placid World Cup and Jackson’s four-man team taking bronze at the last Europa Cup race in St Moritz.

Even more promising for the future is the form of Britain’s youngsters after they led the way in qualification for the current Winter Youth Olympics and came within a whisker of a podium finish at the recent Junior World Championships.

Meanwhile Anderson admits selecting the squad for the senior World Championships had been ‘tougher than ever before.’

Deen will pilot GB1 in the four-man alongside John Baines, Joel Fearon and Andy Matthews while double-Olympian Jackson pilots GB2 alongside Bruce Tasker, Ben Simons and new recruit and sprinter turned bobsleigher Tremayne Gilling.

Another track star-turned-winter-sports-specialist, summer Olympic gold medallist Mark Lewis-Francis is also on standby just four months after taking up the sport, while in today’s women’s competition, Winter Youth Olympics silver medallist Mica McNeil leads the British challenge alongside fresh face Natalie DeRatt.

“Six years ago when I took up this role I said the key was that we need competition for every single place in the sled, and the coaches now have that,” explained Anderson.

“With that comes the tough decision on making the selection. It was very, very hard because there are a number of people that could earn the right of a seat in that sled and we had to make a call.

“At the end of the day we’ll know if that call is right when the results come in.”

Regarding those results, Great Britain will be hoping to buck a recent trend that has developed of coming down on the wrong side of the clock.

In addition to the disappointment of Sochi, Britain’s four-man outfit have been fifth at the last two World Championships in 2013 and 2015, including missing out on a bronze medal by just seven hundredths of a second in St Moritz three years ago.

But with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang slowly coming into focus on the horizon, Anderson remains more confident than ever that his bobsleigh athletes are narrowing the gap to their rivals.

“We’ve been so close for the last three years to a medal that I believe it’s a matter of time,” he said.

“It’s all about a process for 2018 and we know where we need to be and the World Championships in Austria is going to be very tough.

“We know that, but equally other nations are going to say it’s very tough as well because the Brits are on their game. That’s what we want, to make sure we are competitive with the leading nations.”

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