HILPERTON driver Paula Walker hopes to take another big step on the journey from reluctant bobsleigher to Olympic medal contender after being handed the chance to lead Great Britain’s World Cup bid this winter.

The 24-year-old, who lives in Paxcroft Mead, will step into the Great Britain 1 drive for the 2010-11 campaign after 2009 world champion Nicola Minichello was ruled out of the season with a knee injury.

Walker, who claimed 11th place in the two-man bob with brakeman Kelly Thomas in February’s Vancouver Winter Olympics despite her relative inexperience, will compete in the eight-race World Cup series and will also drive for medal glory at the Junior World Championships in Salt Lake City in America early next year.

The Army radio systems operator, who is based at Colerne and trains at the University of Bath, is expected to confirm her position as the new national number one in the second round of tests in Riga, Latvia, next month before starting intensive training ahead of the first World Cup event back in the Olympic venue of Whistler, Canada, on November 27.

“The trials are to make sure everybody is on top form,’’ said Walker, who lives with fellow British bobsleigher John Jackson.

“I want to try and be consistently in the top 10 this year and competing in the junior worlds. It’s such a shame for Nicola with her injury but she’ll be back but I’m just looking forward to the season.’’ Walker, whose family are from Blackburn, has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks since an uncomfortable introduction to the sport four years ago.

She admitted: “I really didn’t like when I first tried it. I kept crashing because I was behind novices.’’ Twelve months later, she was in the driver’s seat and, after exceeding expecatations by qualifying for Vancouver, she hopes to make a serious impact at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Partially-funded, although her financial support was reduced before Vancouver, Walker admits her hopes of success on the world stage depend on securing the sponsorship to help her compete at the top level.

She added: “Bobsleigh is a very expensive sport and the biggest costs are for the rent of vehicles and accommodation. For a team of four for a whole season, you’re looking at about £50,000.

“The equipment we currently have is so old and we really need to get that funding to help us keep up.

“I wasn’t expected to get to the Olympics in Vancouver. Sochi was always the aim and we want to build towards that.’’

Anybody who could help with funding for Team Walker can call LJV Sports Management on 07834 523517.