Former sprinter Craig Pickering takes up bobsleigh challenge

With the g-force of a Formula 1 car, travelling at speeds of up to 90mph, bobsleigh isn't a sport for everyone.

But for Craig Pickering, it might just pave the way to a place on the podium at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Beijing Olympian made the switch from athletics in December after injury ruled him out of London 2012, and he has been getting to grips with his new career at British Bobsleigh's training base at Bath University.

"My mindset is: this is for me," said the former 100m runner. "Do what it takes to be good at it. If that takes turning up here every day of the week to be on the push track then that's what I'll do, because I want to be successful at this sport.

"I don't do things just to be alright at it, I want to be the best in the world.

Pickering secures 60m indoor victory

"It's definitely got its risks. I've accepted that I am going to crash and I might get hurt but that's the sport unfortunately.

"The bonus is the better you are at pushing, the better driver you get, so the less likely you are to crash. So that is my motivation to be quite good at this."

After impressing during the squad's mid-season testing event, the 26-year-old has been selected for the next round of World Cup races.

The aim is to break into the team for the forthcoming Bobsleigh World Championships in St Moritz on 21 January.

GB coach Lee Johnston, who has competed in three Winter Olympic games, knows just how big a difference someone with Pickering's raw speed could make to the team.

"At the moment the four-man are currently ranked in the top five teams in the world. Bobsleigh is a sport that separated by hundredths of a second, if Craig can shave off two or three hundredths to that then we could be in the top two or three.

"We want to be the fastest starters in the world next year."

GB Bobsleigh facts

  • British Bobsleigh was formed in 1927 in New York as the UK governing body for the sport
  • Britain have won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at senior Winter Games
  • GB won silver at the inaugural Innsbruck Youth Olympics in 2012

It's an ambitious aim, and although Pickering has a European 60m indoor silver medal to his name, Johnston admits that transferring his speed onto the ice will be a big challenge.

"It's is a whole different kind of ballgame than running 100m on the track," he said. "His winter preparation for summer sports involves staying inside, whereas now he'll be outside training in minus 20 at the World Championships.

"It's a complete role reversal of what he's used to but seeing his attitude now, it's very good, he's very keen to learn and we'll see how he goes."

In 12 months the squad for Sochi will be announced and Pickering will find out if his Olympic mission has been a success.

Should he make it to Sochi then he will become only the third athlete to have represented Britain at both a summer and winter Olympics.

Pickering's switch follows the United States bobsleigh team's recruitment of two-time Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones to their programme.

Alongside pilot Jazmine Fenlator, Jones finished second on her World Cup debut in the US resort of Lake Placid last month.

British track and field athletes to have switched to bobsleigh include ex-sprinters Marcus Adam and Allyn Condon and former GB bobsleigher Nicola Minichiello, who now coaches the Dutch national team and began her career in the heptathlon.

After making the switch she became bobsleigh world champion alongside Gillian Cooke, herself a former long jumper.