‘MIRACLE man’ John Jackson is determined to complete his stunning comeback from a career-threatening injury by securing Great Britain’s first Olympic bobsleigh medal for 16 years in next month’s Games in Russia.
The 36-year-old, who lives in Trowbridge, was this week confirmed as the pilot of Britain’s number one four-man sled for Sochi – six months after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon that threatened to end his hopes.
Jackson, who lives in Paxcroft Mead with Paula Walker – who was also confirmed in the 56-strong Olympic team for the women’s two-man event – fell awkwardly during a sprint session at the University of Bath in July, forcing him into surgery and months of rehabilitation to try and keep his dream alive.
A rehabilitation instructor in the Royal Marines, he said he put his knowledge to good use, returning quickly enough for the start of the World Cup season and proving his recovery – labelled “miraculous’’ by crewman Bruce Tasker – by steering his four-man sled to a World Cup silver medal in Calgary just before Christmas.
With this year the 50th anniversary of Tony Nash and Robin Dixon’s famous triumph for Britain in the two-man event in Innsbruck in 1964, Jackson hopes to complete the fairytale by earning a podium position in Sochi.
“Obviously, it was a bit of a setback,’’ he said of his injury this week.
“Our aim was always to win Olympic gold but we had to change that goal for a while and focus on getting back fit. Now we are back to where we are and I believe we are back on track for a medal.”
He added: “I was probably the most relaxed out of everybody (about the injury) because I knew exactly what had happened and there was no point panicking.
“I started to get my head round it and use my experience as a rehab instructor. Ten years of doing that job really began to pay dividends, and I was able to focus on getting fit.’’
Tasker recalled: “I was standing right by the hurdle where it snapped and it was horrible – it sounded like someone had thrown their shoe down on the floor.
“It was awful to see our pilot stricken by suck a terrible injury and we thought our dream was over, but John has made a miraculous recovery which is testament to his motivation and his passion for the sport.
“Even while he was laid there on the ground he said straight away, ‘I will be with you on that line in Sochi’.
“He was confident right from the word go and from that moment on we never doubted him.”
Jackson, who overturned both his two-man and four-man sleds in the course of a tumultuous Olympic debut in Vancouver four years ago, will be pushed by the trio of Tasker, Stuart Benson and Joel Fearon in Sochi.
The trio switched crews to help Lamin Deen over the line in their penultimate World Cup event of the season in Austria last weekend.
Deen’s 11th place finish in Igls secured Olympic berths for his crew of Ben Simons, John Baines and former Beijing Olympian Craig Pickering, ensuring there will be two British four-man bobsleighs at the Games for the first time since 2002.
Meanwhile, Jackson’s partner Walker will go to her second Games as pilot alongside brakewoman Rebekah Wilson.
She said: “It fills me with great pride to represent Team GB once again.
“Eight years of hard work have gone into trying to be the best physically and mentally. I hope that we do our country proud in Sochi.”
FOR MORE SPORTS NEWS, REPORTS & PICTURES SEE FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @WTSport