SKELETON BOB: Ready for the testing times
SHELLEY Rudman is determined to have the twists and turns of Sochi’s skeleton track hard-wired into her memory before she launches her third bid to land Winter Olympics gold next February.
The 2006 silver medallist and reigning world champion got a taste of what was in store in the 2014 Games when the 2012-13 World Cup campaign concluded at the Russian resort last winter.
A two-week training spell back there next month offers further vital ice time for the Pewsey mum of one, whose pre-selection by British Skeleton bosses for the first half of this season’s World Cup allowed her precious breathing space to focus on her ultimate goals.
While Rudman is almost certain to be among the favourites to clinch Olympic gold, the surprise triumph of compatriot Amy Williams over more fancied sliders at the Vancouver Games of 2010 proved previous form counts for little in the heightened surroundings of Olympic competition.
As ever, the Wiltshire athlete, who will be joined in Britain’s women’s World Cup squad by Lizzy Yarnold and Donna Creighton, is leaving nothing to chance.
“We’ll have testing for a fortnight and I’ll need to get the maximum number of runs on the track so that I get it in my system ahead of the Olympics,’’ she told the Gazette & Herald.
“We have allocated runs (on the Sochi track) and hopefully I can do the full set while I am there and really get a good feeling of what the track is all about.
“The problem I had in Vancouver was that it was such an intense new track and I had to miss a quarter of my allocated runs because of fatigue which really didn’t help me when it came to competing, as there were still some unknowns at the back of my mind.’’
Rudman was crowned world champion on one of her favourite tracks, St Moritz in Switzerland, in February, but the technical nature of her sport means not every venue is so much to her liking.
“The only analogy I can give is it’s like a Formula One driver or bike racer, who will know all of the track venues that the races are held on and the set ups to perform well there.
“Then imagine a new track opens and it’s hosting a really crucial race (the equivalent of the Olympics in our sport).
“The drivers whose home track it is will have unlimited time on the track, whereas the rest of the racers only get about 40 laps to practice the track.
“As a racing driver you could be the best racer out there, but in the limited practise time you have to both learn the combinations and your technical set ups for all conditions, you may not have enough time to really connect with the track.
“This usually takes years. This is the analogy in our sport.’’
She added: “We raced in Sochi (the Olympic track) in the last World Cup race (in February) and I treated our time there as training.
“It was a nice track to slide and I think it’s sitting right in the middle between a track that I like and one that I am needing to work really hard to figure out a few combinations to make me faster”
“At the moment, many people are expecting me to come back with the gold and, while that’s what I would love to do myself. It’s about who puts it all together on the day. That’s the profile of the Olympic skeleton race.’’
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