Skeleton star Jack Thomas is one of Britain’s brightest prospects for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics and has his sights firmly set on the Games next year.
The 26 year old from Liverpool is one of the world’s top skeleton athletes but reveals his path into the sport is a rather unorthodox one as his career began with a search on Facebook back in 2011.
“I’d just got back from doing Camp America and I didn’t want to go back into [my previous job in] plumbing,” he explained.
“I was on Facebook wasting time and saw one of my friends had applied to a Talent ID event called Power2Podium, so I emailed UK Sport to apply.”
Power2Podium was UK Sport’s pioneering multi-sport talent search programme that looks to introduced talented athletes to new sports where they might have Olympic potential.
Jack had been a promising former sprinter and therefore demonstrated good basic credentials for skeleton athlete but knew nothing about the sport other than having seen it on TV at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
“UK Sport invited me along to a pretty gruelling testing day up in Leeds,” he said.
“While I was there, one of the performance scientists asked me if I’d ever thought about Skeleton.”
“I knew that you had to be quite quick at the start. As a sprinter, I was always best over the first 20 or 30 metres – so I suppose I was well suited to it.”
He also admits that he was “nervous” to begin with.
“I used to ski, but this is definitely the most dangerous thing I’ve done. The first time I did it, I wasn’t prepared for how quickly the sled would pick up speed and how the g-force would push my head into the ice. Once I’d got to the end, though, I just wanted to do it again.”
Fast-forward to 2017 and Jack has his sights firmly set on becoming an Olympic Champion. He is training at the University of Bath and working with coaches Eric Bernotas and Ed McDermott to be “consistently in the top 15 in the world” as he looks to rise through the ranks.
He notes his rivalry with friend and teammate Jerry Rice, who he lives with while training in Bath.
“Neither of us want the other to beat them. It means we can really push each other.
He also cites UK Sport and Lottery funding as one of the driving reasons behind his success. “Without that funding, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.
“Funding benefits us massively – if we didn’t have UK Sport and Lottery players we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. They are the biggest people we need to thank and are helping me every step of the way on the journey to the Olympic Games.”