The British Skeleton Team’s World Cup hopefuls arrived in Winterberg, Germany, to take part in selection races for the World Cup squad for the first half of the 2014/15 season. After a summer of trials for new hopefuls, this was a chance for the new names to pit themselves against the established stars and for the hopefuls to make a name for themselves. … 

Deas posted the fastest Woman’s times finishing four tenths ahead of McGrandle after the last timed run. In the Men’s races there was not much to choose from on the third run with just a tenth of a second separating the top three contenders. On the aggregate times it was even closer with David Swift edging out Ed Smith by just two hundredths of a seconds.

Strong wind and heavy rain on their planned first day of training meant that ice-time has been at a premium for this crucial pre-season event.

With places at stake at World Cup level, the GB sliders raced against each other on Thursday and Friday.

Three World Cup places have been allocated to the women’s side of the squad this year, and two for the men, based on last season’s results. With one spot already taken by 2014 Olympic & World Cup Champion, Lizzy Yarnold, who has been pre-selected, competition in Winterberg will be fierce.

Donna Creighton, Rose McGrandle and Laura Deas battled it out for the two remaining places in the women’s squad with Dom Parsons, David Swift and Ed Smith vying for the two men’s places.

Creighton, 29, is one of the most experienced members of the British Skeleton Team, having started sliding in 2004. Over the course of last season, Creighton competed in both the World Cup and Intercontinental Cup, recording two top-five finishes in the ICC competition.

Ahead of the selection races Creighton said: “It’s been great to get back on the ice and to start putting into practice the processes that I’m hoping to develop throughout this season”.

McGrandle has enjoyed consistently excellent performances in the Intercontinental Cup in recent years, winning the competition in 2011/12, and placing third overall in 2012/13. Over the course of last season, McGrandle initially competed in the ICC before the Christmas break – coming first at the event in Igls, Austria – before being selected for the World Cup squad in the new year. The 27-year old will be hoping to retain her position in the squad for at least the first half of the 2014/15 season.

Deas is the only Welsh slider in the Team, coming from Wrexham, and the 25-year old had a tremendous season in the Intercontinental Cup last year, winning an overall bronze medal in the competition – outstanding performances coming in the form of a bronze medal in Igls and a silver medal at Park City. Having made such progress last season, Deas is another athlete who is very much in contention for one of the two remaining women’s World Cup places.

Competition promises to be equally intense for the two available World Cup spots for the men’s squad, as Parsons, Swift and Smith line up against each other this week.

Parsons finished last season ranked 13th in the world, with Kristan Bromley the only male GB athlete to finish higher. The 27-year old raced in the World Cup throughout last season, producing several excellent performances including a bronze medal at the Calgary World Cup. He then placed 10th out of 27 athletes at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, and with Bromley missing the initial part of the season through rehabilitation from injury, Parsons will be hoping to fill his shoes as Britain’s premier male slider.

Smith competed for Great Britain in the Intercontinental Cup for the majority of last season, securing five top-ten finishes. The 28-year old will be hoping to add to his appearance in the World Cup competition in Königssee in January earlier this year, by gaining selection for the squad for the first half of this season.

Smith commented on the difficulties the team has faced due to the weather, not just in Winterberg, but at their training camp in Lillehammer: “ Some very warm weather over the last few weeks has been entertaining given the nature of our sport but it has provided an interesting challenge. I’ve made lots of changes in my approach to this season and I’m looking forward to seeing what this next Olympic cycle has in store. It should be an exciting year”.

Swift, 29, is one of Britain’s most experienced skeleton athletes in the current squad, having started sliding in 2006. He had a consistent season racing in the Intercontinental Cup last year, and will be looking to hit his straps early this season to ensure a World Cup place.

The races follow the World Cup format, whereby each athlete will have four runs on the ice track – the athlete with the lowest combined time over the four runs is the winner, the next lowest will be second, and the athlete with the highest combined time will finish third. The two athletes that will miss out on World Cup selection will race in the Intercontinental Cup, which kicks off in Lillehammer on the 18th of November.

In spite of the competition for places in Winterberg, British Skeleton Performance Advisor, Andi Schmid, spoke about the positive atmosphere in the camp, saying: “The whole squad are in good shape and in good spirits – the team spirit between the squads is excellent. All the athletes used the training camp in Lillehammer well, developing their relationships with each other and the new coaches, as well as growing accustomed to the new coaching style”.

He added: “All the athletes aiming for World Cup selection look to be in good form, so the races this week should be really interesting”.

BRITISH SKELETON – COMPETITION DATES 2014/2015

18/11/2014 – 22/11/2014 – Intercontinental Cup & Europa Cup, Lillehammer, Norway

25/11/2014 Р29/11/2014 РIntercontinental Cup & Europa Cup, K̦nigssee, Germany

2/12/2014 – 6/12/2014 – Intercontinental Cup & Europa Cup, Winterberg, Germany

8/12/2014 – 13/12/2014 – World Cup 1, Lake Placid, USA

15/12/2014 – 20/12/2014 – World Cup 2, Calgary, Canada

5/1/2015 – 11/1/2015 – World Cup 3, Altenberg, Germany

11/1/2015 – 15/1/2015 – Europa Cup Skeleton, St. Moritz, Switzerland

12/1/2015 – 17/1/2015 – Intercontinental Cup, Whistler, Canada

12/1/2015 Р18/1/2015 РWorld Cup 4, K̦nigssee, Germany

18/1/2015 – 23/1/2015 – Europa Cup Skeleton, Igls, Austria

19/1/2015 – 25/1/2015 – World Cup 5, St. Moritz, Switzerland

20/1/2015 – 25/1/2015 – Intercontinental Cup, Calgary, Canada

26/1/2015 – 1/2/2015 – World Cup 6 & European Championships, La Plagne, France

2/2/2015 – 8/2/2015 – World Cup 7, Igls, Austria

10/2/2015 – 15/2/2015 – World Cup 8, Sochi, Russia

23/2/2015 – 8/3/2015 – World Championships, Winterberg, Germany