Ice queen Victoria Olaoye aims to fulfil Olympic bobsleigh dream
The freezing unseasonal weather has affected most sports over the last few weeks – but it’s nothing out of the ordinary for British bobsleigh champion Victoria Olaoye.
The 29-year-old from Stroud Green spends most of her time heading for the frozen peaks of the world’s most famous ski resorts, and in particular the icy bobsleigh tracks on which she and her fellow athletes reach speeds of over 100km per hour in the quest for glory.
For former sprinter Olaoye, the glory came earlier this month when she won the British title in the two-woman sled in Igls, Austria to crown her rapid rise since taking up the sport three years ago after switching from the athletics track to the bobsleigh.
Now she has her sights set on competing for Great Britain at next year’s Winter Olympics in Russia, a far cry from when she considered giving up her sporting dream in 2009.
“I was doing athletics for a long time and I wasn’t sure if I should carry on or do something different,” admits the former Montem Primary School pupil from Crouch Hill.
“The doubts were there in athletics, there were younger people coming through and while I still haven’t totally given up on that dream, this has been a great new challenge.”
How the challenge came about was another surprising story. Olaoye was spotted by a Talent ID programme run by GB Bobsleigh.
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The 100m and 200m specialist showed she had the right abilities they were looking for after some testing over short-distance sprints and then pushing a makeshift bobsleigh around a concrete track. All they had to do then was persuade her to make the switch.
“I got into the top four of the Talent ID competition and that was that, I knew I wanted to do it,” explains Olaoye. “It’s an easier transition from doing another sport – the track and field background I had made it so much easier to switch.”
That was the simple part. Next came a trip to the German resort of Winterberg, and the small matter of hurtling down an ice chute for the first time.
“It was the scariest thing in the world doing it for the first time, like being on a roller-coaster that nobody has any control over,” adds Olaoye. “I had done a few warm-ups but nothing can prepare you for that first one – but I came out of it thinking I liked it.
“It’s funny because I always hated the cold, but I am loving it now, it doesn’t bother me at all. I was never interested in winter sports before, I’d never even seen the bobsleigh event.
“A few of my family were surprised but my mum is happy because she knows I am doing something that I want to do, and that I wanted to try something different.
Despite the lack of ski resorts and bobsleigh runs in this country, Great Britain has a growing reputation in winter sports, and especially among its female athletes.
Reigning world skeleton champion Shelley Rudman came to national attention when she won a silver medal at the 2006 winter Olympics in Turin, while Amy Williams went one better and won gold in Vancouver last time out in 2010.
At the world championships in 2009 Great Britain’s women won gold in the bobsleigh, and since then Mica McNeil and Jazmin Sawyer won a silver medal at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics in Austria last year.
British bobsleigh has also appointed former Swiss team boss Dominik Scherrer as its new head technical coach through to the winter Games in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi next year, where Olaoye wants to be the first British woman to win an Olympic medal in the bobsleigh.
The qualification criteria for the 2014 Games next February are fairly simple – the British pair need to be ranked in the top 14 in the world by the cut-off point of January 19, 2014.
The current racing season is coming to an end, and Olaoye will be training hard throughout the summer to be ready to challenge in the World Cup and Europa Cup races in America and Europe, in which she can gain ranking points later this year to ensure qualification.
“It’s all about the winter Games in 2014 for me now,” says Olaoye, who reached professional athlete status in 2011 when she first competed at World Cup level – but she admits survival is still a struggle.
“I do get some funding now but it’s not much really,” she added. “It is an expensive sport and there is a lot of travelling involved, but I want to give it my best shot for Sochi. That’s my goal. I want to get there first and then see what I can do.”
Victoria Olaoye is looking for sponsorship to help her Olympic bid.