The World Cup season starts for both bobsleigh and skeleton this weekend as the British squads compete in Canada.
Olympic Champion Lizzy Yarnold returns to the international skeleton circuit for the first time since winning World Championship gold in Winterberg in March 2015, while bobsleigh pilots Bruce Tasker, Lamin Deen and Mica McNeill will all be looking for strong starts with the next Winter Olympics now just 14 months away.
Dom Parsons, who was fifth in the World Cup rankings last season, and Laura Deas, who won gold and bronze medals in 2015/16, join Yarnold and new World Cup squad member Jack Thomas, who is set for his second skeleton race on the top tier.
“I’ve come back feeling refreshed, recharged and ready to give it my all again,” said Yarnold, who won all four major skeleton titles in the space of just over 400 days before her season away from the ice.
“I needed a break last season but I was always determined to come back and try and retain my Olympic title. I hope this is the first step on that journey.
“I know how difficult that challenge will be as so many women slid so well last season but I’m really looking forward to that.”
“The team worked incredibly hard over the summer and I know they have been itching to compete again,” added GB Skeleton Performance Advisor, Andi Schmid.
“The atmosphere within the squad is great. We shouldn’t go into the race with too high expectations but it is important to have a solid start to the season on what is a difficult track.
‘We’ve had some good performances in training and on the other circuits so far but this is our first chance to see where we are at the highest level. It’s made even more exciting by the fact that Lizzy is returning and Jack is ready for a great World Cup experience, plus we’re now only 14 months away from the next Winter Olympics.’
Deen leads the GB 4-man bobsleigh crew, with Andrew Matthews and Tremayne Gilling joining summer Olympic gold medalist and World Cup debutant Mark Lewis-Francis in that sled at the world’s fastest track.
Tasker, who achieved the nation’s best World Championship 2-man result for half a century in February, will be joined by ex-England Rugby Sevens star Sam Blanchet, with Deen also piloting a 2-man sled and his brakeman to be confirmed on Friday morning.
McNeill teams up with Wales international sprinter Mica Moore for the women’s race after the duo and reserve brakewoman Anya Kay won four successive medals on the second-tier North American Cup circuit in recent weeks.
“World Cup One is always an exciting week,” said GB Bobsleigh Performance Director, Gary Anderson.
“It’s where you see what everyone else in the world has done and where they sit and it’s great to pitch yourself against the world’s best. That’s what we have to do week in, week out now.
“The message I’ve got from other nations is that they are looking to see what Great Britain have done and they want to pitch themselves against us. That’s very positive news for me.
“We’re very happy with how our preparation in North America has gone. The purpose of going there early was to get time on the tracks that we don’t always get access to. We did very well in terms of results and, perhaps more importantly, we picked up lots of experience. That was particularly important in Whistler because it hasn’t been on the World Cup circuit for the last few years and that meant that our newer pilots had never driven the track. They’ve done very well and we’re looking forward to seeing how they go this weekend.”
Bobsleigh & Skeleton race times (all times are GMT)
Fri 2 Dec
Women’s Skeleton 10pm
Sat 3 Dec
Men’s 2-man Bobsleigh 2am
Men’s Skeleton 6pm
Women’s Bobsleigh 10pm
Sun 4 Dec
Men’s 4-man Bobsleigh 2am