From 2006-2009 I competed for Great Britain on the National Bobsleigh Team. I was a brakeman, who is the athlete on the back of the sled, the powerhouse, whose responsibility is to get the sled up to maximum speed as quickly as possible.
A bit about Bobsleigh.
Bobsleigh is often called Formula 1 on ice. Its a fast, exciting and adrenaline fuelled sport, demanding both Power and skill.
The Push Start is vital, to get the sled moving as fast as possible, to generate momentum as the sled travels down the track. The driver and brakeman work together to get the timing perfect to get the most powerful start possible, the driver jumps in first, the brakeman usually running a bit further before jumping in. The driver steers the sled down the track using D Rings to pull the metal runners left and right. Most tracks are about a mile long, generating speeds of up to about 80 miles an hour. Drivers need great visualisation skills and walk the track before driving to mentally prepare for the run. There are limited times a driver can go down the course (time, track availability, financial) so being able to mentally rehearse is vital. While the Driver walks the track, the brakeman usually prepares the sled. The brakeman gets their name as they pull the brakes when the sled crosses the finish line. The brakes are never used during the run.
British Championships at Igles Austria.
I competed on the Europa Cup on the development squad in my first year, before progressing to GB2 Team on World Cup, competing across Europe and North America. In 2008 I fractured my spine in a race day crash and during rehab, it was discovered I had a heart condition (RVOT-VT). This pretty much ended my bobsleigh career as although I managed to hold my place on the team, playing my part in the pre Olympic Year helping Paula Walker to qualify for the Olympics in Vancouver, during the course of the season, my symptoms worsened and I was not fit to make the team in Olympic Year.
After retiring from the sport, I was asked to Coach / Mentor the GB team for the first Youth Olympic Winter Games. I feel honoured to have been part of the support team for a team who brought back a Silver Medal from the Games. The Inaugural Youth Olympics was a very special event, held in Austria in 2012.
Training Videos from the Dry Push Start Facility at Bath University where the British Team Train in the Summer. Athletes practice their starts individually to develop technical skills, then work together as a team to produce powerful starts. Timing is really important.