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Bobsleigh duo relive 'wardrobe malfunction'

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Anna Thompson | 20:41 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Question: How do you quickly raise the profile of a winter sport with the Vancouver Olympics just around the corner?

Answer: Become an instant hit on YouTube.

And that's exactly what British bobsleigher Gillian Cooke did, although the "exposure" she gained when her race suit split showing her behind to all and sundry at a World Cup race in St Moritz, Switzerland, was more than she had bargained for.

After hundreds of thousands of hits, Cooke is getting used to the fact her bare bottom, with only a thong covering her modesty, has been seen all around the world.

"It has certainly raised the profile of our sport," she sportingly told me. "I knew straight away it had split but I had to carry on otherwise we would have forfeited the race and I wasn't prepared to do that. My bum was freezing by the time we got to the end of the run, though!"

Ironically the "wardrobe malfunction" occurred while the bobsleigh team were testing high performance body suits to be used at February's Winter Olympics.

Oh well, better for it to happen in St Moritz than in front of a global audience of billions watching the Games, I suppose.

And driver Nicola Minichiello confessed she had suggested Cooke wear a thong as she thought it would be "performance enhancing".

She certainly had a point as the world champions finished seventh - their best result of the season so far.

Nicola Minichiello (left) and Gillian Cooke Minichello and Cooke are dreaming of gold in Canada

They are bubbling up nicely for the ultimate challenge at Whistler Sliding Centre on 23 and 24 February.

"It is all about being ready for the Olympic race," said Minichiello, whose recent eyesight problems have been well documented and she is undergoing more laser surgery this week.

"Last season we hadn't won a race until the world championships - and then we won gold."

She predicts there are five teams all vying for the podium but everything is being put in place for the British duo to "hit peak form in Vancouver".

They were talking at the official launch of the British Winter Olympic team and Adidas kit launch which was held at the spectacular Somerset House ice rink in London.

It was used as a stunning backdrop as the impressive building was transformed into a huge projector for a five minute display with the slogan "impossible is nothing" emblazoned in huge letters.

Not surprisingly the kit suppliers, keen to promote their Techfit powerweb gear, failed to mention Cooke's now infamous incident in their swanky video.

And with genuine medal hope athletes available to talk to the press it became a bit of a media scrum but it was good to see so many newspapers, television and radio (and not forgeting online) journalists dedicating space to sports which barely get a mention unless it's a Winter Olympic year.

The British Olympic Association also wanted to put a positive spin on the team announcement, which including all kinds of skiing and snowboarding as well as women's bobsleigh and luge.

A total of 43 British athletes have now been confirmed with just the skeleton and men's bobsleigh to come at the end of the week. In total, 52 athletes are set to represent Britain - the largest team sent to a Winter Games for 18 years.

The only real surprise for me was slalom specialist Noel Baxter not being picked for what would have been his third Winter Olympics.

I believe the current financial meltdown at Snowsport GB, which forced the men's training programme to be scrapped, has certainly had an effect here as Baxter's form has suffered.

There will also be no British representative in ski cross, which is making its Olympic debut at Cypress Mountain in Vancouver on 21 February. Even though Emily Sarsfield and Sarah Sauvey had satisfied the International Olympic Committee criteria, Snowsport GB's was tougher and both failed to convince they should be included which is a shame.

UK Sport, the funding body, is boldly predicting three medals but hasn't said in which events. My opinion, for what it's worth, is I believe we will win medals in skeleton, curling, bobsleigh and short-track speed skating, which if it does happen would equal the four-medal haul from the 1924 Games, Britain's best Winter Olympics performance to date.

I sincerely hope I'm proved correct - but as as Sir Clive Woodward, who is one of the deputy chef de missions for the BOA at the 2010 Games, says it is all about producing the perfect performance in that one moment of time.

But he added optimistically: "Everything is possible and if they deliver their personal bests the medal table will take care of itself."

Roll on the start of the Games on 12 February!


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