December saw 51 athletes who were recruited via the Girls4Gold talent identification campaign assessed for their suitability for the winter Olympic sport of bob skeleton at the University of Bath.
The main aim of this phase two Girls4Gold talent assessment event was to test each athlete’s sport-specific attributes, such as speed, power and strength, with a view to making a judgement on their potential for world class skeleton performance. Athletes also had the opportunity to hear from current world class athletes and their coaches about what it takes to be a top slider.
After consideration of the girls’ performance at phase two by the talent team in partnership with the skeleton coaches, 19 athletes were invited to a phase three talent assessment camp in January. This group included two girls who didn’t quite make the grade for sprint cycling at phase two, but appeared to be more suitable for skeleton.
The day was spent on the University of Bath’s state of art dry push track allowing replication of the required skills in skeleton. Here, athletes received coaching on the technique of the push-start, and only a few hours later went head-to-head in competition. As a result, a select few have been identified for a more intensive talent confirmation programme, which could see them take to the ice in Europe and North America within the next 3-6 months, along with the male athletes recruited via the Pitch2Podium programme.
Leanora Harper, one of the Girls4Gold selected to take this next step, said: “My dream has always been to compete at the Olympic Games and through Girls4Gold I have a genuine chance to try and make this a reality in a sport I had never even heard of, and otherwise would never have had the opportunity to try.”
Great Britain skeleton coach, Danny Holdcroft, said: “Girls4Gold is a great initiative. It has given us access to a large number of high quality athletes that we may never have otherwise seen. The performances from the Push Camp have been very impressive, with a number of the girls achieving world class standards after only four hours of sled work. This is a tremendously exciting place to start. Our track-record of transferring athletes into skeleton from other sports to produce World and Olympic medals in short time-frames, suggests some exciting prospects for these athletes.”
Girls4Gold ambassador and bob skeleton athlete Shelley Rudman was recently crowned European Champion in St.Moritz, a great start to her first full competition season back since having a baby. Rudman won an Olympic silver medal at Turin 2006, less than four years after trying the sport for the first time, when she transferred from athletics to bob skeleton aged 21.