Rudman plotting ahead in bid for Sochi gold

British athlete Shelley Rudman speeds down the course during the third run of the women's skeleton World Championship in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last week.
British athlete Shelley Rudman speeds down the course during the third run of the women's skeleton World Championship in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last week.
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Within hours of fulfilling a lifetime ambition to become world champion, Shelley Rudman was on a plane bound for Sochi and the next big challenge in her career.

Rudman is that all too rare a breed of British snow sports specialists in that she owns a medal from a Winter Olympics.

Only eight Britons have earned such an honour this century, and five of those made up the curling team that triumphed in Salt Lake City 11 years ago.

As the countdown to the next edition of the Winter Olympics reaches one year to go today, Rudman’s achievement in winning a first world title in St Moritz last week marks her down as a genuine contender to repeat or even better the silver she won in Turin in 2006.

However, while medal threats from an island that grinds to a halt at the merest hint of snow have been few and far between in the past, we may well be spoiled for choice next year in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

And just as at the London Summer Games, Yorkshire folk could one again be to the fore.

Sheffield’s James Woods is one to watch, with the 22-year-old freestyle skier the No 1 ranked athlete in the world and an exciting talent to watch in what will be the Olympic-debuting slopestyle next February.

Leeds-based snowboard cross star Zoe Gillings is hoping to go to her third Olympics and continue an upward curve that saw her finish 15th and eighth at the last two Games.

There is also a smattering of late teens and twentysomethings from Yorkshire – freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes, halfpipe expert James Machon and cross-country skier Fiona Hughes – who have utilisied the dry ski slopes at Sheffield and Xscape at Castleford to put them within touching distance of the Olympics.

But it is Sheffield-based Rudman who has the track record.

She also has the hunger, if her determination to put world title celebrations on hold to conduct a reconnaissance mission at the track she hopes to reign supreme on next year is anything to go by.

“My trip here is purely to learn everything about this track as fast as possible, so that if I qualify for the Olympics I am ready to race and not feeling unprepared for it,” said Rudman, 31, who contests the final World Cup skeleton race of the season in Sochi next week.

“Next week’s race I will be treating purely as an extra two training runs for next year to keep learning the track.”

Swindon-born Rudman was accompanied to Sochi by her husband and former men’s world champion Kristan Bromley, the man known in the sport as Dr Ice.

A Lancastrian by birth, Bromley moved to Sheffield to harness the industrial knowledge around his company’s base at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe. His company, Bromley Technologies, make sleds that are more aerodynamic and faster than their opponents’.

It has worked to the extent that both Bromley and Rudman are annually in the hunt for medals at races across the globe.

Bromley won the triple crown of world, European and World Cup titles in 2008 but struggled to match the expectations at the Vancouver Olympics where he finished sixth.

Now 39, he is back for one last shot at Olympic glory in Sochi, alongside his wife.

“If that happened it would be incredible,” said Rudman of the prospect of a family double in Russia.

“If we are there we will be trying to achieve the best result possible that’s for sure.

“Right now my goal is to qualify for the Olympics and if I do that, I hope to arrive there fit and healthy.

“I can’t believe how fast it’s come around, and to think that this time next year I could have qualified for my third Olympics! But I’m also wise enough to know that between now and then anything could happen and you can’t take anything for granted.

“I still have so much room for improvement to make me a faster slider, so that will be my focus between now and the start of the qualifying process.”

No matter what happens a year from now, adding a second world title to the Bromley trophy cabinet is enough cause for celebration.

It was a masterful performance from Rudman on the only natural skeleton course on the circuit, at the stunning St Moritz.

She won by more than half a second, with further encouragement for British prospects in Sochi coming in the form of Lizzy Yarnold, who took bronze.

Rudman said: “It’s incredible. It was the only medal I hadn’t won in the sport, so I set it as a target two years ago and it’s something I’ve been working towards.

“Everything clicked on the day and the result came.

“Everything I did was geared towards arriving at St Moritz feeling healthy and happy and knowing exactly what my game plan was.

“I was thrown off course slightly when I came down with a chest infection and the flu over Christmas, but fortunately the week’s break before the world championships was enough for me to recover so I could race well.

“I couldn’t have done it either without my sled engineer Richard Bromley (Kristan’s brother).”