Laura Deas reveals secret to British Skeleton's Olympic dominance

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Laura Deas won bronze on her Olympic debut in 2018 - now she's the squad veteran (Picture: Rekords)
Deas won bronze on her Olympic debut in 2018 - now she's the veteran (Picture: Rekords)

By Rachel Steinberg, Sportsbeat - 07393 956720

The secret to British Skeleton’s astounding success, suspects Olympic bronze medallist Laura Deas, lies in a strategy that might be called insider training.

Deas medalled on her Olympic debut in 2018, sharing the podium with teammate Lizzy Yarnold, who in PyeongChang became the first Team GB athlete to defend a winter Olympic title.

With Yarnold hanging up her sled after those Games, Deas will take up the mantle of squad veteran in Beijing, leading a new crop of sliders eager to keep Team GB’s five-Games medal streak—including three successive women’s golds—alive.

You might think Deas would be crazy to divulge any lessons learned from South Korea that could give her even the slightest edge over the Olympic debutants, given hers is a sport that comes down to hundredths of a second. You would also, she insisted, be wrong.

“I think that’s something that is quite an integral part of our success as a squad,” she said.

“I think we, possibly unlike some other nations, obviously it’s an individual sport, when it’s you, on the sled, on the ice. But actually, we operate as a team.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why Lizzy and I were able to be successful together. We didn’t keep things from each other, we shared our information on the basis that it might help someone else, and also they might have a thought that might really help you.

“It’s something we continue to work on as a squad. We have a really strong group mentality as to how we go about things.

“Obviously everybody has their own interpretation of how they slide, what their strengths and weaknesses are in the sport.

“But I think we realised that with the six members of the squad, if you all work together you can generate six times as much information which might be useful to us.”

Team GB has reached the podium in every Olympics, and won nine medals, since skeleton was reintroduced at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games after a 54-year absence.

Alex Coomber, racing with a broken wrist, won bronze for Britain, kicking off an astonishing run for British women with Shelley Rudman sliding to Turin silver before Amy Williams took the top step at Vancouver 2010. Yarnold’s double golds cemented Britain as a skeleton powerhouse—a reputation, Deas can sense, the next generation is very eager to uphold.

Team GB could send up to six sliders, three men and three women, to Beijing. Only 25 athletes per gender will compete, so results in upcoming qualification events including World, Europa and Intercontinental Cup competitions are critical.

Former heptathlete Brogan Crowley and Leicestershire’s Amelia Coltman are among the GB contingent hoping to debut at a dazzling new, dragon-inspired Beijing track Deas dubbed an “architectural masterpiece” after getting her first runs in at a test event last month.

And the squad is already thinking ahead to 2026. Seven young women, aged 17-24, have made it through the most recent phase of the sport's talent ID programme. Four athletes chosen from that group will continue full-time training and enter the international race circuit next year, with the aim of eventually qualifying—and reaching the podium—at Milano Cortina.

“It’s incredible to see that more than ten years on it’s still going strong, and we’re building on the success that was already in place when I started,” Deas said, adding: “if we all qualify, it will be everyone else’s first Games experience.

“I love drawing on that. The hunger and the motivation that they have to reach their first Olympic Games, because it’s something that I remember very vividly as being very particular.

“It’s such a strong driver to want to join that club, to become an Olympian, so actually I’m drawing a huge amount of motivation and energy from what they’re bringing to the team as well.”

Deas believes sharing information between team-mates has been key to Great Britain's Winter Olympic dominance (Picture: Rekords)
Deas believes sharing information between team-mates has been key to Great Britain's Winter Olympic dominance (Picture: Rekords)

Perhaps she’ll remember more of these Games. The bronze medal-winning moment, said Deas, is something she’ll “never forget” but the rest of it, well…

“There’s a lot of the Olympics which is actually a blur,” she admitted. “Or, I don’t have many memories of, I think just because of the pressure and the focus that you’re under at that time.

“But from the moment the last athlete crossed the line and we knew where we’d finished, I’ve got incredibly clear memories of just staring up into the crowd in that stand, which was full of friends, family, Brits, and the place just went absolutely wild.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that. I still get goosebumps if I think about it.”

There is only one woman in the world in possession of 2018 Olympic skeleton bronze.

But even standing on that PyeongChang podium, said Deas, invoked the superpower of the secret-swapping sliding sisterhood, their bond singular to Team GB, that’s fuelled the squad’s near two decades of dominance.

She added: “The fact that I was with Lizzy, we’d started our skeleton careers on the same day.

“And there we were together, for so many years on, doing that.

“It was incredibly special. Something that I’m very aware that not many people will ever experience.

“I’m extremely grateful for that.”

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