ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 21 (Reuters) - For GBR-1 four-man pilot John Jackson, just to hear “British bobsleigh” and “Olympic podium possibles” in the same sentence made the months of painstaking and intensive rehabilitation from a ruptured Achilles more bearable.
Jackson, a sergeant in the Royal Marines, suffered the career-threatening injury during training in July but after pioneering surgery and a remarkably quick recovery was back competing again at the end of November.
Britain have not won a medal in Olympic bobsleigh since a four-man bronze in 1998 but fifth place at last year’s world championship and Jackson’s first ever World Cup podium finish in December has led to talk of them being lively contenders.
“Anybody having a ruptured Achilles and trying to make an Olympic Games is up against it,” he told reporters after final training on Friday, a day before the competition starts.
”People are talking about us potentially being on the podium - it’s amazing to hear that.
”I made a promise to these guys (team mates) that I would be stood here on the Olympic start line with them and that has driven me on.
“It was a hard summer for all of us. Me, going through the rehab, and for these guys...their Olympic dreams almost fell apart.”
Coming into his second Olympics, the 36-year-old Jackson said British Bobsleigh had come on leaps and bounds - not just with results but in funding.
He finished 17th in the four-man four years ago after his two-man hopes had ended with a bone-rattling crash - but both he and partner Paula Walker, who finished 12th in the women’s bobsleigh in Sochi, had to self-fund their way to the Vancouver Games.
”We’ve made a massive amount of progress,“ he said. ”Now we have the backing of UK sport and all the lottery funding that comes with that... because we have got the results... the fact that people are mentioning in the same sentence British bobsleigh and podium shows how much it has moved on.
“We are at the point where it’s ready to be consistently on the podium, not getting one or two here and there.”
Jackson is under no illusions, however, at the task facing him in what should be a thrilling finale to the sliding events at the Sanki Sliding Centre.
Whatever happens, he plans to show the “good old British fighting spirit”.
”We’re in the mix. But to be on the podium we’ve got to beat the current world champion (Germany’s Maximilian Arndt), the current Olympic champion (American Steve Holcomb), the Russian (Alexander Zubkov) who won a gold in the two-man, the Latvians...
”Just to get in the top six we have to beat people that are consistently on the podium - that’s the challenge we are up against.
“It’s going to be a good race. Whatever the result we’ll hold are heads high.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)