Former elite sprinter Craig Pickering is making his full bobsleigh bow in the FIBT World Championships in St Moritz this fortnight and is hoping to make real progress before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Five years ago, Pickering accepted responsibility for a disastrous 4x100m relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Running the last leg, Pickering set off to soon and was unable to take the baton in time, seeing Great Britain disqualified. After back surgery and a loss of funding, he’s now turned to bobsleigh in a last bid for glory at the top level.
The sprinter hasn’t shied away from his responsibilities by taking up an individual sport, as he now has to help two-man bob pilot John James Jackson. The pair have had a shaky start to their partnership in the first two World Cup events of the year. Having hit the ice for the first time relatively recently, Pickering picked up an impressive 19th place, some way ahead of Lamin Deen and his two-man bob. He and Jackson slipped behind somewhat in Igls last weekend, only making it to 21st, but the experience is essential in the run-up to Sochi.
“It’s been made quite clear that I’m going into the World Championships more for the exposure to competition than anything else,” Pickering said last week. “I’ve sort of been thrown in at the deep end. I’m still learning the sport – learning how to push properly and things like that. Although I’m not amazing yet, it’s coming along reasonably well.”
Experience is all well and good, but the pairing want to make a great impression in the last major competition before the Olympics. In the first training round of the World Championships, Jackson and Pickering finished in 21st, 1.31 seconds behind the leaders from the United States. Fellow Brits Lamin Deen and Jim Galvin are some way back in 29th out of 37 finishers, but the real test will be in the main event on Saturday.
The women are in action tomorrow and the team of Paula Walker and Sarah Adams are currently leading the home trio, their training run putting them in 13th. Victoria Olaoye/Lucy Onyeforo and Mica McNeill/Nikki McSweeney are the other sled teams participating this weekend.