The four-man bobsleigh event seems to be another one that Great Britain could add to a growing list of “potential Olympic podiums” as John James Jackson led his team to a personal best of fifth place in the FIBT World Championships.
Joined by Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon, Royal Marine Commando Jackson found himself just 0.66 seconds behind Germany’s gold medal-winning team and an agonising 0.07 seconds off a medal. Even so, when coupling it with Jackson’s season so far in the World Cup, fifth place is definitely cause for celebration and an excited glance towards 2014.
After eight events, Jackson lies fifth overall in the four-man standings, albeit some way behind Latvia’s Oskars Melbārdis in fourth. Earlier this season, Jackson and his team equalled their World Championships performance here at the Whistler Sliding Centre to cap off a terrific start to the year. Unfortunately, results have tailed off since then, falling to a low of 11th in Altenberg this January. Things have been even worse in the two-man event, with the hyped arrival of sprinter Craig Pickering doing little to hide performances that have barely scraped them into the top 20.
It seems, then, that there is little to celebrate. In this country, however, you have to celebrate every minor Winter Olympic success you can get. After the second run in St. Moritz, Jackson’s team had set the fastest run of all 34 teams to put them in eighth overall. If they can transfer this into some consistency and eradicate the jitters that may have put them in 13th after just one run, they might be in for a chance of a medal.
Consistency certainly is the word and the whole team could benefit from it. Just four weeks ago, Jackson’s 11th place finish in Altenberg was part of a foursome that also included Andrew Matthews, Henry Nwume and Jim Galvin – obviously none of Jackson’s team in the Worlds this weekend. They have all since joined Lamin Deen’s team, with Matthews, along with Ben Simons and David Coleman, being part of Deen’s team that achieved 23rd place on Saturday. If Jackson can keep his three men together until Sochi, they have the real chance to progress up the rankings.
Speaking of Sochi, the final leg of the World Cup moves to Russia on the 15th February. I don’t have any idea of the teams yet, but Jackson will be hoping to use the momentum gained from the World Championships to have an ideal finish to his season. Conversely, two-woman skip Paula Walker will want to get over a poor Worlds showing and get back on track. Paired with Gillian Cooke, Walker had a terrible start to the year by finishing last in Altenberg, but has since improved with two consecutive seventh-place finishes. After a 14th place result in St Moritz that was 3.79 seconds off the overall pace, Walker may see Sochi has a chance to redeem herself.