Team GBR Make it into the GRM World Cup round World Cup 2013/14 Natural Luge

It was a weekend of firsts for team GBR at the 2nd GRM – World Cup Natural Luge January 4th/5th, 2014 at Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi (ITA). Four athletes from the GBR Team entered the race; SAC Lizzie Driver was the first female ever to be selected for the GBR Team & SAC Ben Mackintosh made it into the GRM World Cup Round and slid against the World Champion Patrick Pigneter.

The organisers expected a record number of participants in the first parallel race in ten years. Almost one hundred athletes from nearly twenty nations entered the race. Not many of today’s stars in the Natural Luge had been around for the last parallel race, but they all agreed: anything new in the Natural track World Cup was great. The parallel race has been reintroduced to make the Natural Luge more exciting for the spectators and to prove that tracks can be made anywhere, making it more desirable to become an Olympic sport. The fifty men, thirty woman and approximately fifteen doubles competed in a direct elimination table after one run on the red side and one run on the blue side of the track. The position in the table depended on the rank in the qualification. The fastest meets the slowest and so on.

SAC Ben Mackintosh slid his way into the World Cup and came 30th overall which was a fantastic achievement and was cheered on by the Novice Sliders who were out on the RAF Novice Natural Luge Championships. Unfortunately, SAC Sam Budd was disqualified after a crash in the second qualification run which bent the finger guards out of shape on his sled. SAC David Clayton battled the elements and battled through several rounds , although did not make it through to the World Cup rounds and ended up thirteenth in the Nations Cup. Lastly, SAC Lizzie Driver overcame her nerves and came thirteenth in the Nations Cup. Coach Flt Lt Eddy Dunlop spent time with the group training them to give them the skills and confidence to slide in the parallel race, working specifically on correct lines to extract more speed and avoid crashing. He said ‘All four athletes have trained hard and impressed me in training. However, the race is something else and all had to overcome pre-race nerves and deal with the ever probing TV cameras in the start hut. Sam learnt a valuable lesson by not checking his sled after his second run and that cost him, as he got disqualified on a technical reason. Lizzie and Dave stuck to the game plan and put in a solid and safe finish in the Nations Cup. The plan is to build up their track and ice time and not get injured, the speed will come naturally. Ben has weeks left in the RAF and this could be his last   appearance for team GBR which is a shame as he had good potential and to his credit he demonstrated this on the ice qualifying for the World Cup. The first draw could not have come with more pressure, as he was up against the sports number one slider and current singles and doubles world cup champion and world champion. A poor start cost Ben but he had the speed elsewhere to match the best in the world and finished in a career best at thirtieth position, and made me immensely proud of all the GBR athletes’.

SAC Mackintosh added: ‘Following a late decision to enter before Christmas, I booked my flight and instantly I knew it was the right decision, as I became very excited and slightly apprehensive, knowing there would be very little chance to train before the race. I also felt a little extra pressure to perform, in order to repay Eddy Dunlop for the commitment he had shown me through our 5 year journey, as this could be my last year due to leaving the Service.

On the morning of the training and qualifying I felt that this was the point to start sparking, I decided to put in a safe run on my first training run and learn the track from a sliders perspective. On the second training run I took out some brakes which, felt great and built up my confidence. Then came my first qualifying run which was the moment I knew I wanted to showcase the talent that GBR had to offer. I held a little back, Eddy was in the back of my mind saying that you have to be in it to win it, as this would was a knock out format this advice was more pertinent than ever.

The next day was the second qualifying run and I knew if I got a sub nineteen seconds I could be fighting for a top three finish in the Nations Cup, with this in the forefront of my mind I set to it and achieved my goal. This gave me a massive   high going into my second race runs, I then found out I had done enough and qualified in the World Cup which felt amazing especially knowing I hadn’t scraped through but had two sliders slower the me. I then found out my opponent was the World Champion in the first round, this did nothing but relax and remove any stress as the pressure was on him to beat me and if he buckled I would be there to win. The second run is where I gave it all as not doing so would leave me regretting this, unfortunately he did beat me on both runs but I can hand on heart say I gave it my all!!! The best feeling was seeing Eddy with a grin from ear to ear saying; “you have done me proud thank you, this has made all the planning and prep worth it” and such high praise from a man who prides him self on his name is praise indeed. The second best thing is knowing I am GBR number one and thirtieth in the world that still hasn’t fully set in yet!’

Sam, Dave and Lizzie have been enrolled in the Federation of International Luge field Camp, which is the only way team GBR can afford to train and compete on the world Luge circuit. They are currently on the European leg of the World Cup  circuit which will see them sliding and competing in Austria, Germany and Italy to name but a few. To follow the GBR Team visit the British Luge Facebook page.