My on-off history with British Skeleton

My first deselection

Talent ID has been an issue for skeleton in the past, little to no coverage on mainstream TV channels or in the press, plus difficult access to facilities means that the participation around the country is limited to a very lucky few. Since around 2009 UK Sport has funded bespoke talent ID initiatives to attract more athletes into sports like skeleton (eg. ‘Power to Podium’ through which Lizzy Yarnold started the sport).

The first of these came when I had already been involved in the sport for a year or two. I was too inexperienced to be in one of the squads preparing for the Vancouver Olympics so I was brought into the squad of athletes that had come through this process. I trained with them through the summer, whilst also studying at University, and was due to slide with them during the winter in an avalanche of training camps that had been planned for the “Future Talent Squad”.

Before the end of that summer I was deselected from that squad over concerns about my commitment to the programme.

So that year I maxed out my overdraft and emptied my savings account to pay for two trips to race on my own, without any support from British skeleton. One trip to qualify for the Junior World Championships, and the other to compete at the Junior World Championships. I finished 4th at the Juniors, behind three Germans, in almost a carbon copy of my result there the previous year (when I’d had a coach with me to help me learn the track).

The following season I was allowed back onto the programme and had qualified to compete on the Inter Continental Circuit (the one below World Cup) because of my result at the World Juniors.

My second deselection

In the aftermath of the 2012 credit crisis British Skeleton was forced to reconsider their squad sizes in an attempt to cut costs leading up to the Sochi Winter Games. A deselection panel was formed and decided to cut two athletes from the programme that they thought wouldn’t be competitive enough to get to Sochi, I was one of those athletes.

I was told that I could come back onto the programme the following year on the condition that I swapped coaches to come under the wing of their in-house starts coach.

This meant a full season with no sliding, but I had enough money from a sponsorship that year to pay for my travel and accommodation to go to a couple of races. Fortunately for me two of the athletes who had been kept on the programme ahead of me were also competing in these races, and it was against them that I picked up my first international win.

Since then

The following season I qualified for the World Cup team, and then the 2013 World Championships, and finished as the top ranked male Brit in the those championships. The following year was Olympic year, and I gained automatic qualification for those games through my ranking coming into the selection period. My coach at the Olympics was Chris Type, the other athlete who was deselected four years ago, and one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with.

Now I’m back training with Rob in the summer (my previous coach) in conjunction with our new(ish) British Skeleton starts coach.

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