Laura Deas targets medal at World Championships in 'scary' skeleton

By Michael PearlmanBBC Wales Sport
Laura Deas
Wales' Laura Deas has been competing since 2009

"Standing at the top of the track, you do have that moment when you think, 'Why am I doing this? I could be watching this on the sofa'."

She reaches speeds of 86mph and often cannot see from one hair-raising bend in the track to the next.

It is cold, hard, fast and definitely dangerous, and Laura Deas knows only too well the perils of the skeleton.

And this week the 27-year-old from Wrexham competes at the World Championships with a single aim - to win a medal.

Talent spotted

How do you even get into a sport that sees you reaching above legal motorway speeds on a small sled the size of a seat cushion?

"I got into it through a UK sport talent project. I was spotted at a talent selection day and asked to go to for training," Deas explains.

"Eight of us were then selected to have the chance to go out to Lillehammer in Norway and have a go on the ice.

"The idea was to see if any of us were brave enough to do it properly!

"We went to the Olympic track, but didn't go from the top first time.

"We started from an entry ramp about half way down and picked up speed coming down. But it was still pretty scary the first time we did it.

"It is scary - it is a scary sport and you do know that at any time, you could crash."

Laura Deas

Imagine you are on a rollercoaster

Deas can think of no better comparison.

"I compare it to riding a rollercoaster. If you ride a rollercoaster three times a day for a year, after a while, it stops being scary and you start focusing on the details and getting down quickly," she says.

"That's what it is like doing the skeleton. Over time, you stop thinking about the bad things and what could go wrong.

"The quickest speed I've ever done is 86mph, but some of the men get to over 90mph on certain tracks.

"You can see what is coming up sometimes, you're normally looking 10 or 15 feet in front of you.

"All the manipulations of the sled should be subtle. If you can see what we are doing, the sled probably isn't where you want it to be."

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Extra pressure following big footsteps

Deas says she is unfazed by the challenge of extending an illustrious line of British women's success at the World Championships in Igls, Austria.

She took over as British number one following Lizzy Yarnold's decision to take a sabbatical from this season's World Cup circuit and is currently ranked fourth in the world.

Deas' four predecessors - Yarnold, Amy Williams, Shelley Rudman and Alex Coomber - all won Olympic medals while Yarnold and Rudman both also claimed the World Championship crown.

"There is a certain amount of expectation that comes with earning a place on the British women's World Cup squad, but it is no different to the pressure I put on myself," Deas explained.

"I'd like to think I've established myself in that group of athletes who have the expectation of being in medal contention every time they race, and having been on top of the podium it just makes me want to win even more.

"I want to be on top of the podium and in that sense it makes no difference what anybody else has done - but it gives me confidence to know so many have gone through the same programme and succeeded."