Many still see the skeleton as ‘Eddie the Eagle’ niche despite nearly two decades of Team GB Olympic dominance, believes Pyeongchang bronze medallist Laura Deas.

The 33-year-old from Wrexham will be the lone veteran on the Beijing-bound skeleton squad in February, with fellow 2018 bronze medal-winner Dom Parsons and Lizzy Yarnold — the only Winter Olympian to defend a title for Team GB — among those hanging up their sleds after South Korea.

Athletes from Britain have reached the podium at every Olympics, and won nine medals, since skeleton was reintroduced after a 54-year absence at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Though the current crop doesn’t have an ice track in the UK, their state-of-the-art facilities at the sport’s University of Bath HQ include an innovative push-start track, opened the same year as those Utah Games, that has clearly proven a more than suitable training ground.

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Deas, one of more than 1,000 athletes able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding, said: “I think skeleton has a slightly unique feel.

“In the one sense, we’re a very well-funded professional programme, we’re at the cutting edge of technology, we’re doing everything to the best of our ability.

“But on the flip side, we still have a slight sort of Eddie the Eagle-type perception from the British public, that they think we’re all nutters throwing ourselves off the side of a hill, and why on earth would you want to do that?

“I really enjoy the attention that the sport gets once every four years, because it’s not something that’s in the public eye all the time.”

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Deas pictured with double Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold

She continued: “It’s really nice when the Winter Olympics rolls around and you get all these incredible winter sports in the limelight for a little while.”

For Deas and the rest of her thrill-seeking squad, who launch themselves down an icy track, head-first, at more than 80mph, the next few months will be critical in determining if Team GB can take a full complement of sliders, three men and three women, to Beijing.

Only 25 athletes per gender will compete, so results in upcoming qualification events including World, Europa and Intercontinental Cup competitions, which will determine their rankings, are critical.

Former heptathlete Brogan Crowley and Amelia Coltman are among the GB women hoping to build on the podium legacy established by Deas, Yarnold, Shelley Rudman, Amy Williams and Alex Coomber.

Deas still “gets goosebumps” thinking about her first Olympic experience.

“If we all qualify, it will be everyone else’s first Games experience,” said Deas.

“I love drawing on that. The hunger and the motivation that they have to reach their first Olympic Games, because it’s something that I remember very vividly as being very particular.

“It’s such a strong driver to want to join that club, to become an Olympian, so actually I’m drawing a huge amount of motivation and energy from what they’re bringing to the team as well.” 

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