Deas aims for World Championship glory in Whistler

Laura Deas celebrates on the podium at PyeongChang 2018 (Credit: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

Olympic bronze medallist Laura Deas is in Canada to contest the Skeleton World Championships this week. We caught up with the former TASS athlete ahead of Thursday’s first heat.

TASS: How are you feeling heading into the World Championships in Whistler?

Laura Deas: Coming off the back of a bronze at the last World Cup event in Calgary I’m feeling really positive heading into the World Championships. I’m in good form and I feel really good on the sled. I feel I’m where I need to be going into the competition.

TASS: Are you confident your Calgary form will carry over into Whistler?

LD: Whistler is very different to Calgary. It’s a much quicker track with a completely different personality. It’s quite tough physically because your body is forced to deal with much higher pressures. Whistler is a technical track as well as a physical track. Unless you get it spot on you can easily hit a wall or come out on your side. You can’t switch off for a second – it’s challenging mentally and physically. The saving grace with Whistler is that the ice crew is so professional and the guys are so good at getting the surface right for every athlete.

TASS: Who poses the biggest threat in your bid for a medal?

LD: It’s hard to say where the main threat will come from. We’ve only had a couple of days of training so we’re still sizing each other up. There’s always going to be strong competition from the German team – they always know how to peak for these events. I know that they’re confident and they spent some time training in Whistler with the Worlds in mind. The Canadian girls will be massively motivated on their home track but they’ll also have to deal with the pressure of competing on front of their own fans. And then there’s Elena Nikitina from Russia who’s just won the overall World Cup.

There are challenges across the board but it’s really important that I focus on myself and put together a good series.

TASS: Does this feel like the start of the journey to Beijing in 2022?

LD: I’m still carrying over a lot of my mindset from the last Olympics. But I’m not alone in that respect. It doesn’t feel as if anyone is taking their foot off the gas or taking it easy just because we’re at the start of a fresh Olympic cycle. In fact, a lot of people have come to Whistler with a point to prove. Winning here will have extra prestige simply because of how tough and how fast the track is.

TASS: What does the future look like for skeleton in Britain?

LD: We’ve got some really good athletes coming through at the moment. Of course we lost Lizzy [Yarnold] through retirement following last year’s Olympics but there’s some very exciting talent making its mark. Marcus Wyatt, on the men’s side, has just finished sixth overall in the World Cup in his first season. Madelaine Smith and Ashleigh Pittaway are both looking to make a name for themselves in the women’s event and I know exactly how they feel in terms of much they want to represent their country at a Winter Olympics.

TASS: As a former TASS athlete how much did you value the extra support available at that stage of your career?

LD: TASS support made a massive difference to me – when I joined the scheme I was trying to juggle work and training and become the best athlete that I could possibly be. It helped my confidence because it made me feel like there were people out there who believed in my potential and who saw a reason to invest in my future.

Of course, the practical support was fantastic but being a TASS athlete was more about boosting my self-belief and confidence.

TASS: What are your views on the ‘dual career’ approach?

LD: The dual career approach works differently for everybody. Some people feel more confident when they can focus 100% on their sport – it’s a very personal thing. In the early days I had to work and a big thing for me was time management. I had to make sure that my work didn’t impact on my sport and vice versa. Given the opportunity I loved the chance to focus on simply being an athlete. I know other athletes who prefer to pursue the dual career route for longer as it gives them something else to focus on and it’s actually a release from their sport. It’s an interesting one but TASS gives athletes that choice.

TASS: Where do you hope your own career will take you in the future?

LD: I’m not 100% sure what I’d like to do when my skeleton career comes to an end. I’ve done some media training and some TV presenter training and that’s always really appealed to me. I like the idea of a live shift – I imagine it’s the same kind of buzz I get as an athlete. You have to get it right there and then. There are no second chances. There’s definitely a crossover in terms of mindset and approach. I also enjoy public speaking, coaching and helping people to become better athletes. Right now, I’m keeping an open mind and seeing where my sporting journey takes me.

Laura Deas in action at PyeongChang 2018 (Credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)