Laura Deas grateful to be back on the ice as six-strong British Skeleton team get set to begin 2020-21 IBSF World Cup season
Olympic medallist Laura Deas has thanked the University of Bath for helping British Skeleton maximise their preparations for the new season as the squad prepare to begin their 2020-21 IBSF World Cup campaign in Latvia on Friday.
The skeleton athletes were among the first elite sportspeople able to return to training at the Team Bath Sports Training Village during the summer under Covid-compliant conditions, meaning they have had five months to get in shape for the new campaign.
Deas, who won bronze at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, will be joined in the women’s race at 8am GMT by 2016 Youth Olympic Champion Ashleigh Pittaway and World Cup debutant Amelia Coltman, who won the overall Europa Crown in her very first season of competition last time out.
Craig Thompson, Matt Weston and Marcus Wyatt then go for GB in the men’s event at 1pm, with all three having recorded personal bests during the 2019-20 campaign.
“It’s always a long wait between the last race of the old season and the first one of the new campaign but it’s felt even longer this time because of everything that’s been going on in the world,” said Deas, whose most recent race was the World Championships in Altenberg almost eight months ago.
“The coaching staff and the University of Bath did a great job in helping us to train as best we possibly could during the Covid-19 restrictions but there’s definitely an even bigger sense of excitement to get back racing given that there’s been so much uncertainty over what might happen this season.
“We feel lucky to have the opportunity to compete and I think that’s made all of us even more determined to make the most of it. We’ve had a good few days of training since we arrived back in Sigulda on Friday and the aim now is to start the season strongly.”
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has seen the North American legs of the sport’s top circuit switched to Europe but it hasn’t resulted in a reduction of races in the third year of the Olympic cycle. Instead, the season will see two double headers before Christmas, with races in Sigulda this week and next followed by back-to-back competitions in Igls in Austria on December 11 and 18.
But while the race list looks remarkably similar to previous seasons given the circumstances, the decision not to award ranking points for the new campaign presents a very different opportunity for the British team as they continue to build towards the next Olympic Winter Games in Beijing in just 15 months’ time.
With quota places for the 2021-22 season set to be awarded based on 2019-20 results, the coaching team have been able to build the season around the best development options for individual sliders rather than focusing simply on securing the results needed to keep GB’s place at the top table.
“The freezing of the ranking system means we’re able to approach the season in a new way,” said British Skeleton’s Performance Director, Natalie Dunman.
“Rather than selecting a squad that will race on the World Cup circuit and others that will race in Intercontinental Cup and Europa Cup competitions, it means we’re able to pick and choose who goes where throughout the season.
“While we obviously want to do as well as we can this year, our ultimate aim is the 2022 Olympics in Beijing and then the 2026 Games in Milan Cortina. The change in system this season allows us to plot the best path to success at those Olympics.
“That means our best athletes will be given a bespoke programme to help them arrive in Beijing with the best chance of winning a medal and it means others will be given the chance to maximise their development by experiencing a wide variety of tracks and top-level competition early in their careers.”