No fear as Amelia takes the fast track to Winter Olympics

Coltman was one of just nine selected for the British Skeleton Talent squad - from 3,500 triallists EMN-170523-175626002
Coltman was one of just nine selected for the British Skeleton Talent squad - from 3,500 triallists EMN-170523-175626002
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Growing up in mild and mountain-less Melton, conquering the Winter Olympics was perhaps not top of Amelia Coltman’s sporting wish list.

Yet after a spur of the moment decision, the 21-year-old university student is now plotting an icy course to Beijing when the global jamboree hits the Chinese capital in 2022.

The former county athletics champion was initially selected for her sprinting EMN-170523-175614002

The former county athletics champion was initially selected for her sprinting EMN-170523-175614002

Having just completed a three-year Sport and Exercise Science degree at Sheffield Hallam University, she heads to Bath in early July for full-time training with the British Skeleton Talent squad.

Coltman was one of just nine athletes cherry-picked for the programme from 3,500 who initially embarked on the extensive set of tests and trials.

“I was trying to improve my CV by volunteering for UK Sport and helping out at Discover Your Gold,” she said.

“And then I realised I had the potential to do well so I signed up to do the test myself.”

Coltman’s sprinting prowess singled her out as a potential slider who need explosive bursts of speed to launch each run.

Just 50 were selected for phase two in Bath, home of the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, where they were tested out on the push track.

The group was cut to 21 for the third trial which focussed on mental strength and included the fearsome prospect of a day of physical conditioning with the Royal Marines.

Just 11 made it through to the two-week trip to Austria for their first trial by ice.

“I was pretty nervous; you have no idea what it’s going to be like,” she added.

“We started from halfway down on our first run and then we progressed really quickly.

“By the end of the first day we were setting off from the top and after my first full run I just wanted to get back to the top and do it again.

“From the top of the run we were getting to 70mph.

“It’s addictive; you just want to go back to the start again and go faster.”

For Coltman and her eight fellow recruits who made the final squad it is all about playing the long game as they set their sights on Beijing and then the following Winter Olympics in 2026.

They will spend the first two years learning their craft and honing their fitness before they are allowed to slide in anger.

Mastering technique and attention to detail, therefore, must come before daydreams of climbing Olympic podiums.

But she will have the toughest possible acts to follow should dreams ultimately come off.

While Britain doesn’t historically boast much of a Winter Olympic pedigree, the skeleton has been highly profitable.

Amy Williams kicked things off with gold at Vancouver in 2010 before Lizzie Yarnold took her crown in Sochi.

Encouragingly for Coltman, Yarnold’s ultimate triumph came just four years, or one Olympic cycle, after joining the national squad.

“I had watched it on TV and saw Lizzie Yarnold win the gold, but I never really thought ‘I would like to do that’,” she said.

“I always thought it looked cool, but it never crossed my mind that I would one day be doing it.”

If the family genes are anything to go by, she will not be short of ambition and drive to reach the top.

Both parents Gary and Theresa were national cycling champions in their sporting prime.

Dad also has a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in his locker and is now performance director for Scottish Cycling after a successful coaching career with all-conquering British Cycling.

“They are really excited, and really supportive as well,” she added.

“They have been there and done it so they know what I’m going through.”

Top sliders will do their stuff averaging just shy of 80mph, while Williams reached speeds of 89mph in winning gold in Canada.

For the vast majority of us who will never hurtle head first down a lightning quick ice chute aboard a thin layer of carbon fibre and steel, imagination is our only flimsy guide.

Perhaps comparing the experience to driving may help.

Hitting the national speed limit on a motorway while sliding on your belly; with your face inches from the floor, straining neck muscles to keep your chin off the ice.

Oh and there are no steering devices or brakes.

One of the first rules for sliders is to relax. Now doesn’t that sound easier said than done?

“You start with an explosive sprint and as soon as you’re on the sled you have to clear your mind and be relaxed,” Coltman explained.

“If you’re stiff on the sled, you will steer too much.

“The steering is pretty tough - you have to dig your knees and shoulders in.”

And with each run lasting less than a minute, and winning margins just tiny fractions of a second, the mind must be as strong as the body.

“Your reactions have to be so fast. If you mess up one corner there is no time to think; you have to be thinking about the next corner.

“No two runs are the same; you need to know exactly what you’re doing at all times.”

It is all a far cry from the comparatively sedate arena of the tennis court where she has spent most of her competitive energies in years gone by.

“It’s tiring because of the adrenalin and the impact the g-force has on your body, but I don’t really worry,” she added.

“It does hurt when you hit the wall, but we made some padding out of camping mats – you don’t want to break anything!”

l Amelia will receive no funding for the first two years, so to help Amelia’s path to glory, please donate at her Crowdfundng page https://www.pledgesports.org/projects/sliding-to-skeleton-success/