BRITISH Bobsleigh chief Gary Anderson is backing Trowbridge drivers John Jackson and Paula Walker to be a force to be feared at next year’s Winter Olympic Games.
Great Britain’s number one men’s pilot Jackson and leading woman Walker, who live in Paxcroft Mead, are both expected to lead their country’s top teams at Sochi 2014 next February.
Jackson’s hopes of leading his GB1 crew in Russia rest on his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon but performance director Anderson isn’t considering any other option than for the 36-year-old to be fighting fit for Sochi.
“Injuries never come at the right time and especially a ruptured Achilles tendon,” said Anderson.
“We sent him to a surgeon up in Scotland that’s meant to be best in Europe at these sort of repairs (Professor Gordon Mackay) and the prognosis here is that he’ll be back for the first World Cup of the season. Our plans are exactly the same as they were before he was injured.
“Obviously, we have to do things to get him back. We’re planning to send him to the intensive rehab unit at Bisham Abbey as much as possible to get him the best treatment.
“I have no doubt that he’ll be there. The fact is he’s one of the best drivers in the world and he’s certainly got one of the fastest starting crews in the world. If we can get all of that right, we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Walker, 27, had her own injury problems to contend with last season but Anderson is backing the women’s number one to be a surprise package next year.
“You can never discount Paula Walker. Last season’s world ranking for her was very false because of the race in Altenberg where she crashed, which caused her injury and the problems for the rest of the season,” he said.
“That taught me more about Paula than anything else. She was in a position to take her first World Cup medal only to crash at the end of the track and her split times were ahead of all her rivals for Sochi. That taught me she can compete at the highest level.
“To her credit, she went to the World Championships and also made it to the Olympic test event, so that’s money in the bank as far as I’m concerned.
“She’s in great shape and I have a saying with Paula which is ‘S.T.W’, which means ‘shock the world’.
Jackson’s four-man crew were 17th overall at the Vancouver 2010 Games while Walker was 11th alongside Kelly Thomas in the women’s two-man event.
However, Anderson thinks his crews are in a position to make waves at February’s Games.
He added: “The three-and-a-half years we’ve had building up to this has been a huge learning curve for us at British Bobsleigh.
“I make no secret of the fact that when I joined just after Vancouver (in 2010), there was a lot of work to be done and the vision was always for 2018.
“However, the athletes we’ve now recruited into the programme have allowed us to be in the medal zone for 2014, which is extremely exciting.”
The World Cup season starts on November 26, with testing and training in Latvia and France prior to that.
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