Skeleton athlete David Swift has today been named in the British team for next week's world championships in Winterberg, Germany. SportsAid caught up with him today to talk about his selection, his gold medal at this year's Intercontintental Cup and the support he's had from the charity in recent years.
How does it feel to be part of the team for Winterberg?
“It is the first world championship team that I’ve made so I’m over the moon about it! It’s a culmination of everything that’s gone before. I’ve been to the world juniors before but this will definitely be the biggest race that I’ve made so far.”
Is there anyone in particular we should be looking out for?
“The GB women are the strongest nation by some margin at the moment and the men are picking it up as well. Dom [Parsons] has had some good results and I managed to step up in Igls and put in my career best result there and Ed [Smith]’s been pretty consistent too. When the whole sport is doing well we feed off that. Even though we’re competing against each other it’s still very much a family environment and it all seems to work.”
Will it be Lizzy Yarnold’s year?
“For Lizzy it’s the one thing on her radar that she wants. To hold the world title at the same time as the Olympic title and European title. And she’s more than capable of doing it. The results this year show she’s in good form and Winterberg is a track that she’s good at so she’s definitely one to watch. I would also say Laura [Deas] is one to watch because she’s got a good push on her.”
What about the men’s race?
“In the men’s race outside of the usual candidates, like the Dukurs from Latvia and Alexander Tretiakov from Russia, I’d obviously like to do as well as I can but another one to watch is the Korean Yun Sung-bin who in the last few years has really come from nowhere. The men’s field is tough but it’s one of those sports where anything can happen so we’ll give it our best.”
And what about your goals for Winterberg?
“For me it’s about getting the experience from it. My ultimate goal is the 2018 Winter Olympics so this experience is going to be really valuable. I believe a top-ten is doable. Having that result in Igls has given me a lot of confidence but as I say it’s one of those sports where anything can happen so as long as I put in the best performance I can then I’ll be happy. I’ve competed there quite a lot in the eight years I’ve been around, probably ten or twelve races, and I’ve had some good results there. It’s very much what we would call a pushers track so the push start will count for a lot and I’m one of the maybe top four, top five pushers so I’d like to think that will put me in good stead.”
What was it like to make it a double gold for GB at the Intercontinental Cup this year?
“It was great, nice to hear the national anthem twice and it shows the strength of the programme. We’ve got more great athletes coming through as well which drives us all forward.”
Is there anything you’ve learnt this season that you’ll take into the world championships next week?
“It was a frustrating first half to the season because I’d been training faster than I’d raced but I had a very open conversation with one of my coaches over Christmas and we managed to identify a couple of things that have been a really big step forward for me and I’m finally racing faster than I’m training. The last half of the season has been really encouraging and I feel like the momentum is rolling forward and I’m coming into form at just the right time. It was enough to pick up the ICC title and it feels like I’ve been putting the performances in that I’ve known I’ve been capable of.”
Looking back at the support you’ve had from SportsAid in recent years, what impact has this had on you?
“It makes a massive difference. There are so many things we have to do on a day-to-day basis, just keeping fit and healthy, paying to get to training, and ultimately we have to pay for some parts of our own equipment as well, so that financial support is crucial to putting us in a position where we can compete. It’s especially difficult when you’re at the top end of your sport and balancing a work life with your training so any help you can get along the way is vital. People assume you’re on a footballer’s wages as soon as you put a GB vest on but it’s not like that.
“It’s not just the financial support. SportsAid has had a lot of success with the people you have backed and it’s encouraging, confidence-boosting. The more support you have the better the results you can get. Nurturing the next generation is important and something that needs as much support as possible because there are a lot of people out there with potential and we need to get them to the world stage.”