“How about giving bobsleighing a go?” asked a former British Olympic bobsleigher as I came off the rugby pitch on a wet Autumn’s day in 1984.
I had just joined my regiment – The Queen’s Dragoon Guards – a regiment which had supplied various nordic skiing, equestrian and bobsleigh Olympiads over the years. My Troop Sergeant Howard Smith had earlier that year returned from the Sarajevo Winter Games and I thought the offer was too good to miss. He reckoned a (fairly) fast, chunky winger would do well as a bobsleigher.
So, after a few weeks of sprint training, I found myself bound for Lake Placid, New York, for training camp.
“Which of you two Brits is the driver and who is the brakeman?” “Neither” answered my fellow officer Richard Goldsbrough. So we tossed a coin and minutes later found ourselves uncontrollably hurtling down the ice. Exhilarating was only the half of it.
Two weeks later we were off to St Moritz. The flags were at half-mast when I arrived so I asked why? “A Swiss Olympian died earlier this week on the track”.
Every morning we would get up early, prepare our bobsleigh blades and prepare to meet our maker. Richard and I alternated between driving and braking (or pushing – the only braking (unlike in the Cresta Run) is when you finish!).
We became adept at learning the lines of the ice track so that we would pre-empt the turn. This worked well until, towards the end of our 2nd week in Switzerland, we got the timing wrong and found ourselves upside down hurtling along at 80 mph. Every bobsleigher crashes at some point but sadly on this occasion I managed to break my kneecap in the process. My short-lived bobsleigh career was over and with it my hopes of Olympic glory. But I had a good year of boring my mates about it!