British Skeleton have continued their bid to unearth more Olympic superstars by hosting the latest stage of the Discover Your Gold talent identification campaign at the University of Bath.
Fresh from winning an historic hat-trick of medals at the recent Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, British Skeleton are now looking for athletes who can match those feats at future editions.
Working in conjunction with UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport, the team selected 50 athletes from 3,000 applicants to take part in a two-day trial in the second phase of a detailed recruitment process.
Those 50 were split across the men’s and women’s disciplines and received their first real insight into life as a skeleton slider.
The Discover Your Gold recruitment process has a impressive record of success, with the likes of two-time reigning Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold and Pyeongchang 2018 bronze medallist Laura Deas having come through previous incarnations such as the Girls4Gold campaign in 2008.
The latest crop of athletes to have made their mark via the campaign are already a year into their development as full-time members of the team, while others are competing on the Europa Cup, Intercontinental Cup and World Cup circuits.
The aim now for British Skeleton is to bring through a fresh group of talent with the potential to be even better than what has gone before.
"It's a fascinating process and it's massively exciting for all of us here," Danny Holdcroft, the national governing body's head of performance, said.
"It's rare in a sporting context that you see the inception of someone with a baseline level of talent entering into a programme and, within circa six to eight years, being at the pinnacle of the sport.
"That's unique for that journey to sit inside one programme or one team.
"The biggest change from this year to previous years is that the group will reduce in numbers significantly quicker and we will then work with that smaller group of athletes over a longer period of time.
"There will be a whole series of phased events between now and February/March 2019 and then there will be a two-week confirmation camp on ice and, from there, we will select athletes to come into the programme from April next year.
"The primary aim for this group is to shine at the 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
"The programme is very proud to have had so many athletes on an Olympic podium and we want that to continue."
Last month, it was announced that UK Sport had increased funding for skeleton for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, allocating £7.2 million ($9.5 million/€8.1 million) of the £23.8 million ($31.2 million/€26.8 million) invested in the programme.
Bobsleigh, however, was among four winter sports cut from UK Sport’s funding programme for Beijing 2022.
The University of Bath also recently played host to a British Bobsleigh double trial session, led by head coach Lee Johnston.
Johnston and his team held both adult and junior sessions as they stepped up their summer recruitment for the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne and this coming season's World Cup campaign.
"We had a really strong turnout this weekend, and that’s not something that you can take for granted in a minority sport like bobsleigh," Johnston said.
"It’s great to see that, although we may have missed out on full funding for this Olympic cycle, bobsleigh still holds a real appeal for lots of people.
"It was particularly pleasing to see young talented athletes wanting to get involved in our sport and I’m confident that we will be in a strong position to challenge for medals at the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland in two years’ time as a result.
"We’ve got a great record in youth competition and those who came to the trial know that they could be next in line to try and keep that medal run going.
"There were a few athletes who really stood out on the day and we’re excited to see them again in the coming weeks and months.
"It was a similar situation with the turnout for the senior trials - a couple of them showed they have the potential to go further in the sport."
British Bobsleigh performance coach Chris Woolley was heavily involved in the trials and echoed Johnston’s thoughts, particularly on the youth turnout.
Woolley, who competed as a push athlete for Great Britain before moving into coaching during the Sochi 2014 Olympic cycle, admits that picking the right athletes at junior level requires a high level of foresight but the trials have convinced him they can unearth some more potential stars.
"Recruiting athletes for the youth programme is a tough ask because you have to find 14, 15 or 16-year-olds who will be competing in an under-18 competition in 2020," he said.
With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) having announced last month that women’s monobob will be added the Olympic schedule for Beijing 2022, Johnston and his team may also now hold another open trial for the senior squad in September.
"We are in the process of finalising an additional trial in the autumn on the back of the IOC’s announcement, as this wasn’t something we were made aware of before the decision was announced," Johnston added.
"The addition of monobob to the Olympics in China is something that could really generate some interest among female athletes out there so we’ll have news on potential dates for a trial soon."