How I became a Bromley sponsored athlete

After getting home from the Sochi Olympics I spent some time weighing up whether I wanted to stay in the sport or get on with a real life and stop being a disappointingly below par PhD student. After a few weeks of waiting for my brain to make a decision I realised that I wasn’t ready to give up the sport I love, and that if I carry on I need to do it properly and make sure that I put everything I need in place to medal in 2018.

First, here’s a short background on skeleton equipment:

All athletes have their own sleds, made from a variety of sled manufacturers, and a collection of runners for different conditions and tracks. Different sleds look largely the same to an untrained eye, but can work quite differently under the skin, a little like F1 cars. On top of this the huge variation in runner cuts and rock setups (the amount of curve put into a runner by compressing it axially) mean that technology is an area where huge differences can be made in speeds down a track. And any advances in this area are kept very close to the chest to keep an advantage over competitors.

Most of the larger nations in skeleton now have their own technology programmes, the British team included, where research is constantly being done to improve the equipment that us athletes are sliding on. No technology programmes, in my opinion, can beat the expertise and information gathered by Bromley Sports over nearly two decades of competitive action in skeleton. This is showcased in the results that Kristan and Shelley have consistently achieved in World Cups, World Championships, and Olympic Games, plus many other competitors who have succeeded on Bromley equipment.

So with this in mind I counted up all my savings and asked if I could buy a sled and some runners from them. This was a risky move for me, as I would be on equipment very different to what I had before, and I’d be moving away from what was provided by the British Programme so would lose support from them.

I didn’t want to make any presumptions on how much help I might get from Rich and Kristan. They’re both good friends, but I knew how closely they guard some of their trade secrets so had never pressed to try and find out more than they wanted to tell me. My plan was to start simple and add in more variables over time to learn the equipment and develop my skill with it over the four years until 2018.

A week later Kristan called me with an offer of sponsorship from Bromley Sports. Game changer! I was saying yes before he could finish his sentence!

It was obvious that the sponsorship was an awesome opportunity for me, but it also had potential to cause political issues within the British Skeleton programme if not handled carefully – a lot of time and money had been invested in the British technology programme, from which I had benefited up until the Sochi Olympics. And I was now turning to alternative equipment, from an independent company, in the expectation that it would allow me to perform better. In a way I was alienating myself from some of the British support structure, so the pressure to perform was increased.

Since starting on my new sled my results have justified the decision. Even with my pedestrian start times during the last two seasons my results have been consistently improving, and my skill at driving the sled has developed well with the help that Bromley Sports (and my ice coach Eric Bernotas!) provide.

The sponsorship from Bromley Sports is very different to a “normal” sponsorship where I’d be whoring myself out to any company who’s attention I could grab to get a bit of cash off them. As well as Kristan and Rich being good friends, they have a direct influence on my performance with the support they give. The development of equipment is exciting to be a part of, and I genuinely want to see their company succeed. I’m proud to wear their logo on my kit when I compete.

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