Crawley born sportsman Craig Pickering will represent the Team GB bobsleigh team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi this February. Here he chats about his career with Emily Davis
You know how it is. You get bored of one Olympic discipline so you take up another. Or at least you do if you’re Craig Pickering.
A sprinter in his past-life, the Crawley born sportsman last graced terrestrial screens in 2008, when he ran the 100m at the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately, a back injury and subsequent operation stopped Craig from competing again in 2012, and his funding was swiftly withdrawn.
“I had two options really,” says Craig, who’s managed to take a short break from last-minute training for the Winter Olympics to chat to me.
“I could try and get a full time job to support myself, or I could find another sport that might be able to give me some money. So I considered my options and I thought bobsleigh would be a great idea.”
As you do.
“I mean people worry about bobsleigh being dangerous. Well actually, it is very dangerous. But you won’t die or anything. The last death was around 13 years ago, and that was a freak accident.”
“So anyway,” continues Craig, “I asked them to give me a go and I came along and did some trials. I was quite good, so they threw me into the team and I just carried on from there really!”
Believe it or not, that was only 13 short months ago. So I asked Craig the obvious question: how on earth did he get so good so quickly?
“Well I think the main thing is I've been doing athletics for quite a while, so I was already at quite a high-level physically. I just needed to understand the technical skills bobsleigh, so it's taken me about a year to get to this point. But in terms of physicality, that's been there for quite a while now.”
I guess some men are born champions. Now a member of this year’s GB bobsleigh team, Craig will once again represent his country, in an entirely different Olympic sport.
“The Olympics are the pinnacle of any athletes career. I keep reminding myself that I'm quite lucky to have gone to one Olympics, so to be going to two is a massive bonus” says Craig.
“The thing is, I don't think I took the full advantage of the situation in 2008. I mean I enjoyed it and everything, but I think really I was just reveling in the attention. I kept thinking things like 'oh we get to go and get our kit now! That’s exciting!' I think that now I've been to the Games once before I understand more what it's all about. I think I'm in a much better place this time around.”
It wasn’t just a sense of occasion that got in the way of Craig’s success back in 2008. Also a member of the relay team, Craig started his run too early when running the last leg of Great Britain's 4x100m relay. As a result the baton was not passed properly and the team were disqualified.
“I was massively disappointed because it was more or less my own fault, so that was very hard to take” confesses Craig. “But I suppose in sport you have to get used to things not going your own way. I just had to move on and get back into the rhythm of it.”
Fingers crossed things go his way this year then. But happily enough, it does seem lots of positives have come out of the misfortunes that led Craig to change sports. Indeed, he says that at the moment he prefers bobsleigh to sprinting.
“This is a new challenge and it’s really invigorating me. I did sprinting for so long and I was bored of it. You find especially in this country and in some other countries no one grows up wanting to do bobsleigh racing. They’ve done another sport and they come across into bobsleigh because they haven’t been the success that they would have liked.
“As a result the people are amazing. No one takes themselves too seriously, we have a lot of fun and there are no egos. Right now I much prefer bobsleigh to sprinting. ”
Craig, who leaves for Sochi next Friday, will represent Great Britain in both the two-man and four-man bobsleigh. We wish him the best of luck!
Visit teamgb.com to find out more about Craig and the rest of the Team GB