Growing up, Laura Deas excelled in a wide range of sports such as equestrian, netball, hockey and even tetrathlon. However, after being discovered by UK Sport’s 'Girls4Gold’ talent ID scheme back in 2009, she turned her attention to skeleton and has never looked back.
“My brother heard about the ‘Girls4Gold’ scheme on the radio and tried persuading me to give it a try as it could lead to competing at an Olympic games. At first I wasn’t very keen due to various horse riding commitments but, without my knowledge, my mum applied for me!
“My competitive nature got the best of me and, before I knew it, I was travelling to Manchester to take part in the testing phase. Due to my background in horse riding I thought there was a chance I would be chosen for pentathlon but, in the end, it was skeleton who got in touch!”
Without a track in the UK, Laura would be the first to admit that, simply ‘giving skeleton a go’ is easier said than done. However, she also believes that there are a number of promising avenues for talented sportsmen and women to explore.
“We don’t have a club based skeleton system in the UK so, first things first, I would advise anyone interested to contact our programme – the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association. Also, keep on the lookout for talent ID programmes, such as the Girls4Gold project, run by UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS) that I came through.
“Talent programmes such as these provide a great opportunity to try a wide range of sports that you wouldn’t normally have access to. I loved skiing but, honestly, I had no idea what skeleton was at first. Give everything a go and, who knows, you may find that you’re suited to a sport that you may never have even considered– just like I did!”
Following a breakthrough 2014-2015 season, in which she claimed two medals and finished fifth overall in the Skeleton World Cup, Laura is now focused on the 2016 Skeleton World Championships in Austria.
“It’s been a really good season for me so far. Opening with a Skeleton World Cup win in Altenburg, in November, was great. To be able to beat the German team on their home track sends out a really strong message and I was really pleased to do so.
“My coach and I have been continuing to work on a number of key areas and building towards the impending World Championships in Austria as well as the Olympics in Pyeongchang in two years’ time. Everyone is going to be pulling out all of the stops next week but I’m gunning for a medal.”
In recent years British women have become world leaders in the sport of skeleton with Amy Williams and Lizzy Yarnold claiming gold at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics respectively.
However, Laura takes inspiration from the nation’s pedigree on the world stage and has confidence in the ‘world class’ skeleton programme at the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA).
“We have won an Olympic medal every time out so there is a sense of expectation but, at the same time, it brings a lot of confidence. The programme that I’m a part of has produced a lot of success so I can take confidence that we are working on the right things and moving in the right direction.
“One of the great things that our programme does is promote internal competition. We wouldn’t have achieved the success that we have without it and without such a strong group of athletes to choose from. Even to get onto our World Cup programme, for example, you have to beat a lot of top British athletes so it sets us up really well for competition on the world stage.”
Laura will merely be a spectator for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio but admits that they are a source of inspiration for her own Olympic preparations ahead of the Winter Games in 2018.
“The summer games marks the half-way point so, as soon as Rio is over, it feels like it’s downhill to Pyeongchang and that will go very quickly. It’s great to watch, and be inspired, by everyone’s performances. We train with a lot of athletes who will be at the games so we have quite a personal connection with it and hopefully can take that momentum on ourselves!”
Laura will compete as part of a four-strong mixed squad at the 2016 World Championships. For more information please visit the BBSA website.
UK Sport today announced the Milestone Targets (MSTs) for all funded Winter Sports.