PAULA Walker is convinced she’s witnessed a miracle as she and partner John Jackson both drive for glory in Sochi.
Paxcroft Mead pilot Walker admits she had her doubts over whether Jackson would be joining her on the plane to Sochi, when the Great Britain number one men’s driver ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session in Bath last summer.
Months of painstaking rehabilitation followed for her man as he battled to keep his dream of leading Britain’s four-man crew into Olympic battle alive.
Remarkably, the multiple sessions at the British Olympic Association’s medical institute at Bisham Abbey did the trick.
Jackson not only arrived ready to race alongside he crew for the start of the FIBT World Cup season in Canada, but then piloted them to a silver medal at the Lake Placid round in America shortly before Christmas.
Walker never had any doubts about Jackson’s determination and conviction to reach his second Olympic Games, but she did worry about the tight timeframe for him to get himself back into shape.
“I was quite sceptical about it,’’ she told the Wiltshire Times.
“I knew John would do everything possible to get there, but in the back of my head I thought ‘it’s going to be close’.’
“But he built up a bit of confidence and it went from there. I don’t believe in miracles, but this is one.’’
That determination to succeed is a hallmark of both Jackson and Walker, who admits healthy competition is a key component of their relationship.
“Me and John are really competitive whether it’s running up the stairs or whatever, but we keep spurring each other one,’’ she said.
“We’re super-competitive and obviously we compete against the rest of the world but most of all we compete against each other.
“We are also super-proud of each other and if John or I bring a medal back and the other one doesn’t, it would still be hung up in the house. If it’s his I’ll just pretend that it's mine.’’
Walker has reunited with brakewoman Rebekah Wilson, with whom she won the 2011 Junior World Championships, for her second Olympic appearance in Sochi, having finished 11th four years ago.
Four top 10 finishes in the World Cup campaign this season point to a promising outlook for the Games and the Trowbridge pilot admits she has learned a lot from her last two seasons.
“I think I learned the hard way last season,’’ she admitted.
“I had a really good start, then I got injured (knee) and my performances went downhill.
“This time it’s about making sure the pinnacle comes at the Olympic Games.
“It’s quite a hard feat to manage old injuries, but I think we’ve done a good job.
“Consistency is always the key to getting a good result but we’ve had to go through the process of getting the right brakewoman and the equipment set-up we think we’ll need.
“I didn’t ever intend to come out of the top 10 overall (she was 12th in the World Cup campaign), so in that respect it’s not gone to plan.
“But we’re not too far off the pace and we’re quite happy.’’
The partnership with Wilson, who will be making her Olympic debut in Sochi, is also a happy one.
“We’re good friends as well,’’ added Walker. “I think that when there is that chemistry, it can go a long way.
“Four years ago (in Vancouver) I was the little rookie, but I think that it’s brilliant for me that I can help guide Bex through her first Olympics.’’
What is bobsleigh?
- Bobsleigh entered the Olympic Winter Games program in 1924 in Chamonix, with the competition between four-man bobsleds (sledges).
- In 1932 (with the exception of the Games in Squaw Valley in 1960, where there was no luge and bobsleigh track) a two-man competition was introduced.
- Women’s bobsleigh was added to the Games programme for the Salt Lake City Games of 2002.
- Bobsleigh involves high-speed mountain descent on special artificially made ice tracks on controlled sledges (bobs).
- The sleighs consists of a main hull, frame, front and rear axle, and two sets of independent steel runners. The driver controls the sled with his hands and fingers, using rings that are attached to a steering mechanism by ropes.
- The competitors wear a specially-made high-tech plastic composite helmet and synthetic material shoes with spikes on the soles for traction during the push start.
- The Olympic competition consists of four runs held over a two-day period in men’s two and four-man and women’s two-man events. The winner has the lowest overall total time for the four runs.
- The women’s two-man event (Paula Walker) takes place on Tuesday-Friday, February 18-19. Heats one and two are on day one at 3.15pm and 4.23pm (British time), with heats three and four on day two at 4.15pm and 5.23pm (British time).
- The men’s four-man event (John Jackson) takes place on Saturday-Sunday, February 22-23. Heats one and two are at 4.30pm and 6pm (British time) on day one and 9.30am and 11am on day two.
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