Brad Hall knows all the media attention is on the British bobsleigh team which features Greg Rutherford - and he says his crew is just fine with that.
The London 2012 long jump gold medallist will make his World Cup debut in Innsbruck this weekend, in a team which is piloted by Lamin Deen. The friendly rivalry between the two teams is very real - but it is Hall’s crew who are showing they are the ones to fear, so far.
At a recent Winter Olympic test event in Beijing, Hall and Greg Cackett pulled off a surprise silver medal in the two-man - and they will be looking for another positive performance in both the two-man and four-man in Austria.
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“When you get to Olympic season and you're on a brand new Olympic track, it's always quite exciting, because it levels the playing field especially against the powerhouse nations, like Germany, who have superior equipment because they have a lot of funding going into the research,” Hall told Eurosport.
“Everyone's trying to work out how to drive the track and it proved that we did a pretty good job of that. We had a couple of good rounds and finished with a silver medal in Beijing. It's still early days, we've got a lot of work to do from now until then so it's not time for us to relax. There's a lot of work to do but it's a reassuring start to the season for sure.”
The result was incredibly impressive, but Hall is not getting too carried away. He says the squad he has assembled, which includes Cackett, Nick Gleeson, Sam Blanchet, Taylor Lawrence and Luke Dawes, are in the best shape of their lives. Only recently have UK Sport injected cash to help them on the road to Beijing, and most of their journey over the past few years has been self-funded.
It has been a rocky time for the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, which was cleared in the summer of racism and bullying allegations following an independent investigation. Hall hopes there is now light at the end of the tunnel, and that positive performances this season could lead to more public funding in the sport - but for now, they are doing it their own way.
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Brad Hall and Greg Cackett celebrate at a World Cup event in Koenigssee
Image credit: Getty Images
“Two-man is always going to be a struggle because we know the German sleds are incredibly fast. We placed ahead of two of the Germans sleds so we did a very good job, but that's not to say that the same will happen come the Winter Olympics.
“In the four-man, everyone's a bit more on a level playing field. Everyone's got very similar sleds, the Germans had their own sleds, but they're not as far ahead as the two man.
The four-man is where we are looking to push a lot faster and come down better. We couldn't afford to bring our four-man out to China because of the funding struggles and the cost of getting out there.
“Over the last couple of seasons, a lot of nations have been seeing us coming up and we've just been dealt with a lot of bad luck, especially last year with all of our injuries so we never got to reach our potential.
“I know I'm driving well, our equipment's running well, and the guys are in good shape, everyone's fit and healthy at the moment.
"I think because of all the bad luck and all the injuries from last year, everyone's a lot more cautious this year, everyone's a lot more sensible. We're taking less risks that we don't really have to, to keep everyone in good shape and avoid any injuries that may come up during the season.”
Beijing 2022 is less than three months away, and it will come around quickly with Hall’s team looking to compete across the entire World Cup season. The Games are always at the back of every winter athlete’s mind - and Hall is no different.
“Sometimes you do dream about it a little bit,” he said.
I don’t think about it all the time but I know I need to be mentally ready if I am in a position to win a medal after the third heat, and we've got one more run to go, what it'll be like to be in those medal positions, one run before the end of the competition, and to see how I can keep my head and control my emotions in that sort of situation.
“Also, to imagine what it would be like to take in all the emotions of winning that medal as well, all the hardships that we've been through, the sacrifices we've made over the last few years and for it all to be worth it.
“Even if we do come away from the Games without a medal, we know that we've done everything we can, sport is unpredictable. If everyone knew what was going to happen, it would be boring.”
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