Tremayne Gilling’s entry into bobsleigh is becoming all too familiar.
Of the eight men selected to represent Team GB at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, three of them have a background in track and field.
Joel Fearon, Greg Cackett and Toby Olubi are all ex sprinters representing Britain in South Korea who decided to make the switch from the track to the ice.
Gilling, meanwhile, has a 100m personal best of 10.25 seconds, but narrowly missed out on Olympic selection for this month’s Winter Olympics.
For the moment he is focusing on his sprinting wrapped up in his GB bobsleigh jacket performing drills at the Mile End athletics track.
In 2016, Fearon set a new personal best of 9.96 seconds in the 100m after taking a break from the sport. Indeed, despite his time away Fearon was the fastest man in the UK for that year and Gilling realises that a good season on the track will carry over to the next bobsleigh season.
He explained: “My best couple of seasons in bobsleigh was coming off a good athletics season, so what I’m going to do is get back to athletics, get myself in good sprinting shape, as I was four, five, six years age.”
“I know the bobsleigh technique now, I know what I need to do to make a team and now I need to put the two together and hopefully in four years’ time I’ll make the Beijing Olympics.”
But Gilling has already impressed greatly in the bobsleigh having reached the World U26 Junior Championships which does seem quite old to be a junior. This bodes well for him as he will be 31 when the Beijing Olympics come around in 2022.
He clarified: “You don’t get to the top of your sport until you’re a little bit older so I think that’s the reason but it is quite old for a junior.’’
At that competition Gilling achieved a fifth place finish in the 2-man bobsleigh with his driver Bradley Hall, who came 12th alongside Joel Fearon in the two-man bobsleigh in Pyeonchang.
In much the same way that Gilling believes that sprinting can help your bobsleigh, he feels that Fearon’s sub-10 100m clocking was thanks in part to his career as a bobsledder.
“Doing bobsleigh stuff gets you very robust, it gets you very powerful and I think the transfer for bobsleigh really helped him in his [Fearon’s] first 30-40 meters and as you can see he gets out very well and then the top-end speed is from his athletics training. I think the combination works very well.
“Coming into athletics now, doing bobsleigh, it’s made me a stronger person because even though the training’s different – we don’t do as many longer runs – I think I’ve developed as an athlete, so coming back to athletics now I think I’m ready to move on, so it’s helped a lot doing bobsleigh.”
Also, on Gilling’s CV is a fourteenth place finish in the 2017 European Championship and multiple World Cup finishes.
Despite his extensive experience in such a short space of time, he had mixed feelings about the bobsleigh when he first stepped on the track.
“My first trip down a bobsleigh I was questioning why I was doing that sport because it wasn’t a comfortable ride, it wasn’t nice at all but after when you get down there and you’ve finished the run, as much as you hate it, it’s like ‘actually I wanna go again.”
The switch into bobsleigh came when Gilling’s coach Lloyd Cowan suggested he look into the sport after having been frustrated by injuries – his training partner Simeon Williamson had already gone into the sport.
With bobsleigh being a winter sport and athletics being held in the summer, he would not have to give up his first love. But just starting was a pathway into the unknown. Prior to taking it up, Gilling had never watched a race and his only knowledge of the sport was from the popular film Cool Runnings which is based on Jamaica’s first ever appearance at a Winter Olympics in 1988.
The belief that sprinters would excel in the bobsleigh was held by two Americans, George Finch and William Maloney, who in 1970, went to Jamaica to recruit talent. Having not managed to persuade any athletes, they instead turned to the military to find their sledders.
Nonetheless they were proved right as many sprinters today alternate between the two sports.
However, Gilling concedes that it will always be a struggle to promote winter sports in the UK.
“I think it’s always going to be difficult because we don’t have many winter facilities in this country like for bobsleigh we train on the dry slope in Bath, we train on a track,” he says.
He adds: “I think because we don’t do it in school, or we don’t do it growing up, it’s not really a part of us.”
With no ski resorts and a general lack of facilities, it is unlikely that Britain will be able to compete with a country like Norway who currently top the Pyeongchang medal table. But with the rise of British sprinters excelling in the sport, bobsleigh just might become a forte of Team GB’s Winter Olympic charge.
Featured image: Tremayne Gilling.