Bobsleigh back on ice

Bobsleigh back on ice

Latvia is the location for Great Britain Bobsleigh’s first outing on ice this winter as the men’s senior squad continue the countdown towards the new season.

With just a few weeks to go until races kick off in the World Cup, European Cup and North American Cup competitions, 10 of the men’s team have headed to Sigulda to put a summer’s worth of progress into practice.

A full week’s pushing will stand the squad in good stead before they take on the world’s best, especially as the entire team knows the importance of being the fastest starting crew on the circuit.

“The facility in Latvia is one of the best push tracks in the world and this camp gives us the chance to get our ice starts on point before we begin the season,” said Performance Director Gary Anderson. “The facility is well known to us and we are always well looked after in Latvia, plus we have the added bonus of being able to compare ourselves with the Latvian crews that train there.

We want as many opportunities as possible to practice our starts because we know that we have to be the leading starters in the world - that’s the only way we’re going to challenge for a medal at the World Championships or Olympic Games.

“The squad started off with single-man pushing to get used to sprinting down downhill on ice and they’ve moved on to two-man pushing and then it’ll be four-man by the end of the week. We’re trialling a number of combinations out there and we’ll be looking at how they work with drivers and their compatibility weight wise.

“The season is getting very close now and we’re all looking forward to what’s coming up. Within a few weeks, the teams will be racing at various venues around the world and that means there’s an added buzz around the squad, both out in Latvia and back here in the UK.”

The camp is the first taste of the ice for new squad members Mark Lewis-Francis and Tremayne Gilling, both of whom have excelled at the push track facility in Bath and are now aiming for similar speed in winter conditions.

Their presence in Sigulda is a key milestone in their development but is also having a positive impact on the more established squad members as they aim to show the newcomers that they still have plenty of catching up to do.

“For people like Mark and Tremayne who are new to the sport, it’s the next phase of their development,” added Anderson. “It helps us translate the skills they have practiced on what is a running track surface at the push track in Bath to a starting facility on ice, before they move on to a full ice track. It’s vital that we get that transition phase into their training.

It may be the first time Mark and Tremayne have pushed on ice but the other guys who are out there with them have all been through a similar process and will be able to work with them and give them the confidence to do what they’ve been doing so well in Bath out on the ice. It’s a big moment for those two guys and the feedback we’ve had from coaches Chris Woolley and Michael Khmel has been very positive so far.

“But it’s not just Mark and Tremayne who are benefiting from their inclusion in the squad: we have always known we needed to improve our strength in depth in order to keep on progressing and to take the next step on to the podium at global championships and the other athletes know that Mark and Tremayne have been biting at their heels in Bath. Yes, they want Mark and Tremayne to keep improving for the sake of the team but they are also desperate to prove that they still have to go a long way to catch them up and take their place in the top crews.”