GREAT Britain bobsleigh crewman Bruce Tasker has hailed the "miraculous" recovery of Trowbridge pilot John Jackson who has been named in the nation's 56-strong team Winter Olympic squad just six months after suffering a career-threatening injury during summer training in Bath.
Jackson ruptured his Achilles tendon after falling awkwardly during a sprint session in July and Tasker recalled the moment his shocked teammates feared their dream of winning a medal in the 50th anniversary year of Tony Nash and Robin Dixon's famous triumph in Innsbruck in 1964 was over.
Tasker said: "I was standing right by the hurdle where it snapped and it was horrible - it sounded like someone had thrown their shoe down on the floor.
"It was awful to see our pilot stricken by suck a terrible injury and we thought our dream was over, but John has made a miraculous recovery which is testament to his motivation and his passion for the sport.
"Even while he was laid there on the ground he said straight away, 'I will be with you on that line in Sochi'. He was confident right from the word go and from that moment on we never doubted him."
Not only did Jackson, a rehabilation instructor in the Royal Marines, fight back fast enough to return to the start of the World Cup season, but he capped his recovery by steering his four-man sled to a silver medal in Calgary shortly before Christmas.
It was a result which emphatically underlined Jackson's return to realistic medal contention, and the newly buoyant mood around the British bobsleigh programme was heightened this week with the news that fellow pilot Lamin Deen had scraped through qualification to ensure there will be two British four-man bobsleighs at the Games for the first time since 2002.
As befitting a man who has encountered plenty of difficult tests in his sport and career - including overturning both his two-man and four-man sleds in the course of a tumultuous Olympic debut in Vancouver four years ago - the 36-year-old Jackson took his latest setback squarely in his stride.
Jackson, who lives in Paxcroft Mead, said: "I was probably the most relaxed out of everybody because I knew exactly what had happened and there was no point panicking.
"I started to get my head round it and use my experience as a rehab instructor. Ten years of doing that job really began to pay dividends, and I was able to focus on getting fit.
"Obviously, it was a bit of a setback. Our aim was always to win Olympic gold but we had to change that goal for a while and focus on getting back fit. Now we are back to where we are and I believe we are back on track for a medal."
Jackson will be pushed by the trio of Tasker, Stuart Benson and Joel Fearon, all of whom switched crews to help Deen over the line in their penultimate World Cup of the season last weekend. Deen's 11th place finish in Igls secured Olympic berths for his crew of Ben Simons, John Baines and former Beijing Olympian Craig Pickering.
In addition, Jackson's partner Paula Walker will go to her second Games as pilot of a promising women's team along with brake-woman Rebekah Wilson.
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