Skeleton athlete Laura Deas has today been named in the British team for next week's world championships in Winterberg, Germany. SportsAid caught up with her today to talk about her selection, her first World Cup medals during her debut season and the support she's had from the charity in recent years.
How does it feel to be part of the team for Winterberg?
“It’s the icing on the cake for my first season on the World Cup and great to be going into the world championships with that momentum I’ve got from this season. I feel like it has been a breakthrough year for me first getting onto the World Cup and then demonstrating that I can win medals at the highest level.”
Tell us about the first medal you won this season in Canada.
“The week had gone well in training and because it was a new track for me there was no expectation or pressure so it meant when I stood on the blocks to go, especially on the second run, it was just a case of sliding as I had been all week in training. Only the week before had been my first ever World Cup race in Lake Placid which was a whirlwind of getting used to all the people and TV cameras and everything so it was really nice in just my second race to be able to concentrate on sliding."
Is it an exciting time to be in the sport?
“In the wake of the Olympics it would have been really easy for the sport to go back into obscurity so I’m really pleased that we’re still at the forefront of people’s minds and the fact that the three of us are in the top ten in the world probably helps with that but it’s really good to see how much the British public are supporting us and engaging with the sport. It’s all really positive."
"The difference from when I started in skeleton of how much people know about the sport and who we all are is really quite incredible so it feels like a really good time to be in the sport. [Lizzy Yarnold, Rose McGrandle and I] have all known each other a long time and it’s really nice that we’ve all been reunited on the World Cup circuit this year. But there’s a lot of new athletes across the board and a lot of talent up-and-coming around the world. So that strong internal competition is really a positive because we can’t ever sit back on our laurels, we keep pushing each other forward and I think we’re in a really good place going into the world championships. It would be great for Great Britain to retain the title."
How well prepared do you feel for the race in Winterberg?
“I won the selection race there at the start of the season so historically it’s been quite a strong track for me so I’m really excited to go back and compete there even though I’ve not competed at this level there before. I feel like I know it quite well. But at the same time the bar has been raised this year with both the push record and the track record going there so I know there are a lot of people out there who know it as well and are as hungry as me for a medal."
What do you hope to achieve there?
“I’ve exceeded my own expectations already this season, I wouldn’t have expected two medals in my first season, so if I can just continue at the level I’ve been competing at and just build on the momentum from this season I’ll be happy. As long as I feel like I’ve been consistent and done myself justice over the two days I’ll be happy."
And what about Lizzy Yarnold’s chances?
“Lizzy has had a fantastic season and there’s obviously a lot of confidence that comes from being the reigning Olympic and European champion so I think she’s in a great place to get on the podium but it’s a race where anything can happen so you never quite know for sure on the day."
Anyone else we should look out for?
“I know Canada’s Elisabeth Vathje could be a threat as she broke the track record this season but really it could be anyone. The new German junior world champion will be there and it’s her home track and the Russians are always very strong at the world championships so for us we just need to stay focused on what we’ve been doing all season and not get distracted because we know we’ve got a winning formula."
Looking back at the support you’ve had from SportsAid in recent years (thanks to the Jaguar Academy of Sport programme and a donation from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), what impact has this had on you?
“It’s been absolutely vital to have that support not only from a financial point of view but also to have the confidence that someone is backing you – particularly the support that came with the Jaguar Academy of Sport. The workshops we had all added to that feeling of being backed and that people believed in you. It’s difficult to quantify it but it’s extremely valuable. The money is very important from a practical point of view but it’s also the feeling of knowing that someone has noticed the work you are doing and that you will get there, it’s only a matter of time. There’s maybe a bit of a misconception that maybe athletes don’t need the help but speaking personally it’s been extremely important to me and to know that people are going out of their way to raise money to help the next generation of athletes that’s really important and I’m extremely grateful that people are taking the time to do that because it does make the difference between being able to pursue your dreams and do sport at the highest level and not being able to do that.”