Great Britain has a remarkable Olympic record in skeleton over the past few decades, but the gold medal success has come on the female side of competition - that could be about to change in Beijing.
Matt Weston became the first British man to win a skeleton World Cup gold in almost 14 years when he came first, in a three-way tie, at last week’s event in Igls, Austria. The result was all the more remarkable given he is fairly new to the circuit, certainly in comparison to most of his rivals.
The 24-year-old entered the sport roughly five years ago after a back injury put an end to a promising Taekwondo career. Like double gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold, 2010 champion Amy Williams and 2018 bronze medallist Laura Deas, he is another athlete who has been successfully integrated into skeleton having come from a different sport.
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Deas is still in the setup and looking to upgrade her podium position in Beijing, and Weston says his rapid improvement is in part down to her advice.
“The prep we do leading up to the Games is unreal, it's like nothing I ever imagined, it's mind-blowing to me.” Weston told Eurosport.
“Having people like Laura around and being in contact with Lizzy (Yarnold) and people like that, I think it's invaluable.
You can't really have anything better than having an Olympic medalist in your team, who's been through it all, who has had all the experiences that I'm going through in the build-up to the Games.
“It's so useful to have people like that around that can help steady the ship and bounce ideas off. Training with an Olympic medalist every single day and being part of a successful programme, fills me with a lot of confidence and excitement as well.”
Weston’s victory in Igls came after recording the exact same time as China’s Wenqiang Geng and Germany’s Christian Grotheer - a freak event which is rarely seen in the sport.
“I've always known that we, as a team, had the potential to have those really good results,” he said.
“It just had to be in the right place, at the right time. I'm completely over the moon that it was me to do that. When I came across the finish line, I realised that I'd won, it was absolutely crazy. (Team-mate) Marcus (Wyatt) actually told me it was a three-way tie and that made it a bit more surreal - I've heard of ties before but never three-way ties.
“They gave me the medal first, and I basically just didn't let go of it. So I've got the original one, and the other guys are having to have it shipped out to them. I was never letting go of that.”
Weston has described the victory as an “added bonus” as he builds up to Beijing. Coincidently, it also came on the first-ever track he experienced on ice. With two months to go, it is all about peaking at just the right time, and World Cup events are very different to the Olympics - where the number of runs down the track is doubled.
“Sometimes I forget how new I am to the sport, I've only been sliding for five years and only been racing... well, this is my third year,” he said.
It's quite nice to be up and competing with those guys so quickly. It gives me a bit of confidence. But at the same time, I really don't feel like I'm where I can see myself, I've still got a lot of potential and I don't feel like I'm maxing out at the moment, which is a good thing to take into the Games.
“I can't really put into words how excited I am about the Olympics to be honest, because when I first came in my goal was the 2026 Games, but Beijing is very real now. I should be there, all things being well.
“I've already been on the (Olympic) track earlier this year, and I loved it. It's such an amazing structure compared to all the other tracks, it just blows everything out of the water. It's absolutely unreal. I can't wait to get back there and be in the Games environment, which I've heard so much about.”
This week, Weston will be trying to repeat the trick with another podium spot in Altenburg, as the relentless circuit moves on.
“We are doing things right in the right way. But it is a long process, it's a long World Cup. It's very intense week in, week out racing.
“Although I had success last week, I'm really trying not to get caught up in it. I can't sit back - let's just keep chipping away.”
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