Gillings aims to avoid a wipeout in medal hunt

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ZOE GILLINGS hopes she can stand on the start line in tomorrow’s snowboard cross qualifying knowing she is as ready as she possibly could be, writes Nick Westby.

That is the only way, she believes, she can counter the unpredictability of snowboard cross, as whacky as winter sport gets with six snowboarders hurtling down a narrow course of jumps, twists and turns.

The 28-year-old Leeds resident is contesting her third Olympics in the event, and after finishing 15th in Turin and eighth in Vancouver, similar improvement could yield the ultimate reward in Sochi.

To develop the peace of mind that gets her off on the right footing, Gillings has had her own start gate built that she practices on in her own back garden. But even that cannot combat the uncontrollables of her sport.

Already this season she has been wiped out from behind in a World Cup race, so she knows the pitfalls that await.

“On the day, I’ll be incredibly nervous,” said Gillings. “All I can do to combat those nerves and give myself the best chance possible is be as ready as I can be.

“I’m confident I’ll be able to stand on that start line knowing I have done everything I possibly could.

“It’s quite a big course and that suits me. I tend to do better on the bigger, scarier, faster kinds of courses. I just need to get down it as fast as I can but in one piece.

“The ideal conditions are freshly fallen snow but that’s probably not going to happen. We will deal with the conditions, it’s not that big a deal.

“A bit better results this season would have given me some extra confidence but every event has been training for the Olympics, this is the only competition that matters to me and this is the one I care about.”

The seeding race is scheduled for 7am (British time) with the final at 9.40am. Beating favourites like Lindsay Jacobellis out of the start gate could be key to Gillings’s chances.

Gillings said: “I sometimes manage to do that but just not as often. Cracking her and the other fast starters is a challenge but they are not invincible, they definitely do make mistakes.”

Thirsk’s John Baines goes in the first two runs of the two-man bobsleigh tomorrow afternoon.