Excitement for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics reached fever pitch this week with the long awaited announcement of Team GB.
We caught up with former Olympic sprinter, Craig Pickering, who has been selected for the Team GB bobsled team, to hear his thoughts on this huge achievement.
Craig, Congratulations on qualifying for Team GB for Sochi 2014. What did you do when you heard you made the Olympic Team?
I was just relieved to have made it! I knew that once our second 4-man sled had qualified for the Games that I was almost certainly going to be selected, and so that was the major hurdle to overcome. We qualified in the last possible race, so it was quite a stressful few weeks, but in the end it all turned out fine.
It's not your typical British Saturday morning sporting activity, how did you get into bobsledding?
I used to be a sprinter, and I needed a back operation in March 2012 which ruled me out of the 2012 Olympic Games. Due to this, I lost my lottery funding, and so I needed to either get a job or find a sport that would provide me with some funding. I wasn't at all keen on getting a job, so the best option seemed to be finding another sport. My athletics coach and one of my training partners were already involved in the bobsleigh set up, so they put me in contact with the Performance Director, who was keen to give me a try out. I went to a few testing days and did very well, so the next step was to do some racing, and I haven't looked back since.
How have you found the transition from summer to winter Olympics?
Physically it hasn't been too difficult, as I was already a high performance athlete. The hardest thing physically has been putting on weight - I'm currently 16kg heavier than when I ran my best 100m time. This requires eating a lot of food and spending time in the gym. It can be really hard to eat enough food, as you are always full and it becomes hard work. The most difficult aspect has been the technical transition. It’s quite difficult to learn a new skill quickly, especially when there are three different positions in bobsleigh that I could possibly race at, but I have tried my best to become proficient at all of these positions.
Tell us about the fundraising efforts made for the team?
I'm fortunate enough to be supported by UK Sport and Lottery funding, so I haven't had to do any fund-raising efforts this year.
Have you always had an interest in winter sports?
I've never really been into winter sports before. As a professional sports person it’s probably not a good idea to ski or snowboard as there is a pretty high risk of injury. My girlfriend likes to snowboard, so once I retire I expect I’ll do some of that with her.
Do you have a favourite ski resort?
St Moritz is excellent as it’s the only natural bobsleigh track in the world, so it’s quite a different experience.
What other Olympic events are you looking forward to seeing?
I enjoy watching ice hockey, so will try and watch a few of those games. I also know a few of the bob-skeleton athletes so will be following their progress closely too.
How many times a day are you faced with references to Cool Runnings?
It happens quite a lot! I guess as it’s the only thing Joe Public knows about bobsleigh it’s going to happen quite a bit.I just smile and nod.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Craig as he prepares for the first Winter Olympic experience. The Sochi 2014 kicks off 7 February 2014 with Craig and the rest of the bobsled team hitting the track 16 February. We wish the team the very best of luck and look forward to a month of gripping winter entertainment.
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