Former Olympic sprinter Craig Pickering says bobsleigh has taken over from athletics as his number one priority – and he’s adamant that a medal at the Winter Games is a realistic prospect.
After undergoing surgery to resolve a long-term back problem last year, the 26-year-old’s best days on the track are probably behind him.
However, the former European indoor silver medallist – who ran alongside the likes of Usain Bolt in the 100m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics – has discovered a new sporting passion, which looks set to see him compete at Sochi 2014.
Although he wasn’t part of the team, Great Britain’s four-man GB1 crew booked their place at the Winter Olympics in Russia after finishing fifth at the World Championships in Switzerland in February.
While they were edged out of a medal place by the sport’s powerhouses of Germany, Russia, the United States and the hosts nation, Pickering was on track for a 19th place finish in the two-man event – less than two months after taking up the sport.
However, with at least one Great Britain place booked for Sochi, Pickering’s training is now geared towards being a part of that team, and athletics comes second.
“I hope to be as quick, or at least nearly as quick, as I was a couple of years ago,” he said. “Bobsleigh is now my priority now, but the training involves being as fast as you can, so it’s the same as athletics really.
“I’d still like to make the relay team for the athletics World Championships in August, but I’m thinking about the Winter Olympics next year and winning a medal. I think it’s a realistic ambition.”
With the two main ingredients of any good bobsleigh racer – speed and strength – Pickering is well equipped to challenge for a place in the team, and impressed British Bobsleigh performance director Gary Anderson from the time of his first ‘dry run’ in Bath in December.
Pickeirng, who won 4x100m relay bronze at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka – the same year as his 60m indoor success in Birmingham – describes the bobsleigh experience as ‘like being on a fast rollercoaster, only more dangerous.’ But he’s delighted to have something to look forward to again after a nightmare 2012.
“I couldn’t do anything last year, so it’s good knowing that I’ve got a few things to work towards this year, in bobsleigh and athletics,” he said.
“I had nerve damage, so I’m probably about 95 per cent now. I still get a little twinge every now and again but it’s getting better.
“I’m concentrating on winning a medal at the Winter Olympics now. All I can think about is being in that GB1 team.”