Welsh sprinter Simons eyes bobsleigh success in Sochi

Ben Simons bobsleigh

(Pictured: Simons as part of the GBR 2 team)

Welsh sprinter Ben Simons’ journey to the Winter Olympics started with an advert on a noticeboard at university two years ago.

British Bobsleigh were searching for ‘future Olympians’ who could transfer their talent to the ice with the aim of reaching next month’s Games.

Former Welsh 60m champion Simons, who is coached by Denis Doyle, applied and less than two full seasons later he has just been named as part of the four-man GBR 2 bobsleigh team for Sochi 2014.

Simons said: “I remember the advert said, ‘could you be our next Olympian’?

“I applied but I didn’t really ever think it was going to happen.

“I enjoyed athletics, I’d competed for Wales but I knew I wasn’t going to make an Olympic Games so I thought why not try for the Winter Olympics.

“I did some speed and strength tests and thankfully I got through.

“I am the only one from the programme who has made it all the way to the Games.”

The second British bobsleigh team only qualified for Sochi on Sunday after earning enough points from their final World Cup race in Austria.

They had to race nine times in 10 days in order to secure qualification and then Simons faced an anxious wait to find out if he had made the final team that will be heading to Russia.

Ben Simons

 

The 27-year-old Cardiff Metropolitan University student, pictured above, said: “It was a very nervous couple of days.

“At one stage we thought we had qualified but then a few of our rivals did very well in races in North America and it was only on Sunday we got the points we needed.

“We were told we had been selected but we had to wait to tell anyone in case there were any appeals.

“Since then we have done the kit fitting and a lot of media – it’s all been a bit of a blur.”

Simons will line up alongside another former sprinter in the GBR 2 team, 2008 Beijing Olympian Craig Pickering.

Pickering was once regarded as Britain’s great hope in the 100m but injuries have hampered his progress so like Simons he switched to the ice.

“Craig gets more attention than the rest of us put together,” joked Simons.

“But it’s great to have someone of his calibre in the team.”

After the Sochi Simons, who was born in Shropshire, is hoping to make a return to the track and possibly qualify for this summer’s Commonwealth Games.

He added: “My 60m times have actually got quicker since doing bobsleigh.

“So I’m going to have a shot at qualifying for the Welsh team for Glasgow.

“It would be pretty special to compete at a Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games in the same year.”

Also competing in Sochi will be fellow Welshman and former Welsh 200m champion Bruce Tasker.

Former Swansea and Carmarthen Harrier Tasker won multiple Welsh titles as a junior and competed on the track until 2009 before making the switch the to ice in 2010.

"It's exhilarating, it's so new to me, it's my first Games," said Tasker, from Pembrokeshire.

"Up until today we've been trying to keep the excitement to a minimum, because in selection anything can happen.

"But now we can let ourselves sort of relax and really enjoy the moment."

Swansea Harriers British League team manager Dave Jones told the Evening Post: “Bruce was always a quality sprinter.

“It is that explosive speed he has that probably makes him ideal for the bobsleigh event, where the start is vital.

“We wish him and the team well for the Olympic Games.”

 

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