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SKELETON BOB: Focused on the ultimate goal
WITH age comes wisdom, said Oscar Wilde, and, with her skeleton bobsleigh career in its second decade, it’s a saying that has rung true for Shelley Rudman.
A sliding career peppered with multiple World Cup wins, an Olympic medal and latterly a world championship title is testament to the Pewsey athlete’s consistent excellence since she first took to the ice in 2002.
But the 32-year-old mum of one also hasn’t forgotten the lessons from some of her disappointments, including an injury-affected build-up to the Vancouver Olympics of 2010 that hit her medal chances.
Even last season, which ended on the glorious high of that global title win in St Moritz, Switzerland, in February, had its low points as her World Cup campaign was ravaged by illness midway through.
Pacing herself to the demands of a hectic schedule has been one of Rudman’s bigger learning curves.
“I used to go into a World Cup race and want to challenge in each one,’’ she told the Gazette & Herald.
“But you do fatigue quite extensively during the course of a season because it is really exhausting.
“You need to sacrifice a few races to test equipment, or different components of your driving, and the only time you can do this is during races.
“You’re competing every week and then there is probably a day or two travelling to get to the next venue.
“You’re also loading and unloading approximately 500kg of tools and race equipment at each location, plus there is a whole load of work to do on things like your sled to get it ready for training before you even start the competition.
“I think if Usain Bolt had to compete every week at 100 per cent he would start to struggle and break down.
“You have to be physically really fit and healthy and a little niggle can get soon grow into something bigger, so you also have to be very smart with your body and know when to ease up and then build yourself back up again.’’
Hitting peak performance at the right time is the holy grail for any elite athlete and Rudman hopes her pre-selection in Britain’s squad for the first half of the World Cup series, confirmed last week, will prove a significant help.
“It’s quite rare to be pre-selected for the World Cup squad and it’s because of my previous performances over the past three seasons where I have consistently challenged or won championship titles,’’ she added.
“It gives me leeway to prepare a bit differently. It means I don’t have to peak for the selection races, then taper off ready to peak again for the World Cup races, and then again for potentially the Olympics.
“I’ll be able to have a steady build-up to get me in the right shape throughout the World Cups.
“It’s also about trying to qualify for my third Olympics which, if I did it, is an achievement I’d be really proud of.’’
Based in Sheffield, Rudman has worked hard during the summer getting into peak physical condition working with strength and conditioning coach Mark Campbell as well as the more technical aspects of the sport with Bromley Technologies, the company run by her partner and fellow GB slider Kristan Bromley.
Rudman is now preparing for a forthcoming training spell in Sochi and the start of the World Cup series in Calgary, Canada, next month.
She said: “I’ve got a couple of sponsors on board this season and that has been really helpful alongside me going into the A category (top category of lottery funding) based on my World Championship win this year.
“I’ve also been doing a work placement in London with Visa-Europe during the summer and all that has really helped to have that security but also keep my career going outside of the sport.
“This year I want to be ready and prepared for all eventualities.’’
Britain’s Olympic places for the skeleton will be decided after the seventh World Cup round in Igls, Austria, on January 18, with the rankings determining whether GB will have two or three places in both the men’s and women’s events in Sochi.
Nigel Laughton, British skeleton performance director, said: “Given Shelley’s consistency and world class performances, including her World Championship win earlier this year, we felt it important to give her the flexibility for the season.”
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