WINTER OLYMPICS: Jackson proud of Sochi fifth
FIFTY years after Tony Nash and Robin Dixon gave Great Britain their finest bobsleigh moment, John Jackson came agonisingly close to sealing another podium place at the Sanki Sliding Center on the slopes above Rosa Khutor.
Bobsleigh times are measured not in half centuries but in hundredths of a second, and just 0.11 separated Trowbridge pilot Jackson and his four-man crew from a third-place finish which would have yielded a first four-man medal since the Nagano Games of 1998.
Jackson was second fastest in two of the four runs but was ultimately left too much to do by a first run which had left them in 10th position, partly due to their having to slide in 12th position as per their current world ranking.
Nevertheless Jackson's fifth-place finish, exactly half a second off leader Alexander Zubkov, who added to the gold he also won in the four-man event, represented an astonishing achievement for a man whose Olympic dream appeared to have been dashed when he snapped his Achilles in summer training.
Jackson's powers of recuperation allowed him and his crew of Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon not only to reach the Sochi start line, but to seriously threaten the established order with only silver medallist Oskars Melbardis of Latvia, bronze medallist Steven Holcomb of the United States, and a second Russian sled totalling faster times over the four runs.
Jackson said: "We were close and I don't think we were disappointed. I think we've done Great Britain proud.
"I had a small moment when I was unsure whether I was even going to make the Olympics, never mind being in the top five in the world.
"Tomorrow is seven months post my operation, so just to be here on this stage and standing 0.11 away from a medal, I can't be disappointed.
"Seven months ago I wasn't going to be here so it's testament to these boys here, who didn't stop working and training and who always believed that we would be on the Olympic start-line."
The 36-year-old Jackson conceded he is likely to have competed at his last Olympics, with crew-man Bruce Tasker already being fast-tracked as pilot with the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in mind, but stopped short of indicating his immediate retirement.
"This is hopefully my last Games," added Jackson. "I'd like to continue for another couple of years to try to keep the funding coming in to help the guys.
"We're looking at developing Bruce as a driver and hopefully come 2018 he'll be the guy who'll be looking to take Great Britain forward. He's got the potential, and if I'm still here in four years' time something will have gone massively wrong with the development programme."
Besides the ultimate goal of a medal, a place in the top six was crucial in terms of maintaining UK Sport funding, but it was testament both to Jackson's consistent driving skills and his determination that his result left a lingering air of disappointment.
An emotional Great Britain Bobsleigh performance director Gary Anderson said: "I am extremely proud of the boys because it has been four extremely hard years.
"For three of the runs we were in a medal position but that's the draw and the way things go. It just shows that what we are doing here is working and that is testament to the whole team and all of the coaches who work with me."
Great Britain's second sled piloted by Lamin Deen finished in 19th place, 2.92 seconds behind winner Zubkov.
Deen said: It's been a long road to get to this point and it would be nice if we had the chance to stick together as a crew and develop.
"Our performances were pretty hot and cold. We were improving on our start times all the way, but our driving has been mixed and we had some problems at the top and the bottom of the course."
MORE FROM JACKSON AFTER HIS SOCHI PERFORMANCE IN NEXT WEEK'S WILTSHIRE TIMES