David Swift: GB skeleton racer ready for World Championships

David Swift
David Swift finished in seventh place when he raced at the Innsbruck track in the World Cup last year

"There's a photo of me at eight years old sliding headfirst on a sled, so maybe I was destined for it."

Perhaps so, but David Swift's journey to the 2016 Skeleton World Championships in Innsbruck is hardly a conventional story.

He was brought up in the Devon town of Newton Abbot, which is better known for its race course and mainline train station than for being a centre of alpine sport.

But, after getting a leaflet thrust in his hand while studying at the University of Bath, he gave the sport a go and has never looked back.

"It was right place, right time really," the 31-year-old British number two told BBC Sport.

"I was studying Sport and Exercise Science 10 years ago and the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association is based up there."

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Swift prepares for World Championships

Having been part of the university's athletics team as a sprinter, the 5'8" Swift had the physical gifts to excel in the sport of skeleton with his fast start and compact frame, and showed his talents on the dedicated push track on campus.

At first it all went well, winning the British title and a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in 2008.

But his progression since then has been slightly slower, missing out on selection for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics and only being selected for the World Championships for the first time in 2015.

"There's been a lot of disappointment along the way," he said. "I narrowly missed out on Sochi last time around, and that sort of thing enables you to learn a lot about yourself and how to move forward.

"I went back to the drawing board and figured out what I needed to do to move forward.

"Last year I got my first call for the World Championships, this is the second one, and now we're two years out from the PyeongChang Olympics it feels like momentum's building, which is a good place to be."

Swift revels in the pun of calling this season a "rollercoaster", but it has seen him win his first-ever international race in the lower-tier Europa Cup, having raced on the World Cup and Intercontinental Cup circuits.

"I moved down to the Europa Cup just to fill the time, entered a race and won it," he said.

David Swift

"That was the first race internationally that I'd won in eight or nine years, so in terms of momentum and confidence I'm buzzing and raring to go with the World Championships."

Great Britain's women have enjoyed much of the limelight when it comes to skeleton, with Lizzy Yarnold and Amy Williams winning gold at the last two Olympics and Shelly Rudman and Alex Coomber also making the podium.

British skeleton was dominated for many years by Kristan Bromley, who won the World Cup in 2008, but the men have never won an Olympic medal.

GB's number one racer Dominic Parsons was fifth in this year's World Cup, while Swift was down in 29th place, two spots ahead of team-mate Ed Smith and 10 spots in front of fellow Briton Kenny Howard.

It all means that there is a fight on for the country's second berth at the 2018 Olympics, with Swift getting his chance to shine first in Austria this week.

"Historically we've won a lot of medals female-wise, so it'd be nice for the males to start evening the score up a little bit," he said.

"In terms of the competition we have internally, there's a lot of good guys coming through.

"The internal competition is what we need to drive forward, because it's not enough just to turn up at the Games - we want to be competitive.

"Having that internal competition means we're going to be in a place where hopefully in two years' time we'll all be champing for that medal place."

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