By Tom Degun
September 30 - Britain's bob skeleton team, including Shelley Rudman (pictured), will begin their intensely competitive campaigns to compete at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics in two weeks.
The top nations are only able to qualify a full quota of six athletes for the Vancouver Games and with 11 British athletes fighting for a spot in Canada, five athletes will certainly finish their campaigns hugely disappointed at missing out on the Games.
British Skeleton Performance Director Andy Schmid said: "To maximise our chances at the Olympics, we need to go there [to Vancouver] with the maximum quota of athletes [and in order to do that] we will need to get three girls into the world top 10 rankings and maybe have three men in the top 15 or 16."
Under Schmid’s guidance there has been a dramatic improvement in the standard of British bob skeleton racing as the Austrian, who was appointed to the role in 2001, acknowledges.
He said: "We have gone from being a small winter nation to being one of the top nations in the world."
Among the British athletes looking to compete in Vancouver is Rudman, the 2009 European champion and a new mother.
Rudman, whose partner Kristan Bromley is a fellow Britain skeleton athlete, was the only member of the British team to pick up a medal in the Turin 2006 Olympics.
Rudman claimed Olympic silver after a phenomenal second run in Italy in 2006.
However; she is not yet focusing too intently on the Vancouver Games as qualification for Canada is her immediate priority.
Rudman told insidethegames: "I’d love to be on the podium in Vancouver but I’m not necessarily thinking of gold because no one can predict what will happen at an Olympics.
"Besides, I’ve not even qualified yet so I hate tempting fate by thinking that I’m going to Vancouver when there is a chance that I might not go at all."
Despite the intense competition for places, Rudman insists that the British team are extremely supportive of one another.
She said: "We’re all on the same squad and all ultimately going for the same spots for the Olympics.
"If we don’t do well as a squad, we don’t secure as many places at Vancouver so we’ve all got to do well and get together and perform out there for each other. But everything is cool between us."
Bromley, himself the 2008 World champion, overall World Cup winner and European champion, will be hoping to finally win an Olympic medal in Vancouver having finished fifth in Turin in 2006.
He said: "My aim – after hopefully qualifying - is to win Olympic gold.
"That was my dream in Turin where I obviously just missed out and that remains my goal coming into Vancouver."
And despite living with Rudman – and fathering the couple's first child Ella in October 2007 – Bromley insists that any rivalry between them is purely friendly.
He said: "We are competitive people and competitive in everything we do, even if it’s the first one to get upstairs to bed.
"But at the end of the day, we are there to support each other.
"Being in the same profession means that we know what each other are going through and there for each other."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected].
August 2009: Britain to take winter sports more seriously promises BOA
February 2009: Silver for Rudman highlights British strength
February 2009: Silver medal for Briton on Vancouver Olympic track
December 2008: Rudman strikes gold as comeback gathers momentum