By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver

February 16 - Britain's Shelley Rudman (pictured) has claimed that the changes made to the track at the Whistler Sliding Center following the tragic death last week of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili have eased her fears about whether it is safe to compete or not.

The 28-year-old from Wiltshire is one of the favourites for the gold medal in the bob skeleton having won the silver in Turin four years ago but admitted that Kumaritashvili's death had shaken her.

She said: "I would always think of my own safety and what happened was very difficult for everybody.

"But I felt more at ease when I saw the changes made and now I don't feel it is a dangerous track."

Among the changes the officials undertook was raising the wall at corner 16 where Kumaritashvili died after flying off his sled and hitting a steel pole.

Rudman, who carried Britain's flag during the opening here last Friday, insisted that she would not have thought about competing unless she was confident of her safety, especially as her two-year-old daughter Ella is here to watch her.

She said: "Ella is my number one priority and I wouldn't do something that was absolutely high risk.

"If there's been an accident on the road, am I not going to drive my car any more?

"I'm here, I'm safe and I've just got to perform."

Rudman will enter the event on Thursday and Friday ranked second behind Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth (pictured).

Rudman said: "I know everyone wants me to get gold and I want to get gold but these are totally different circumstances.

"I've got better as a slider but everybody else is really aggressive in our sport.

"I couldn't have done anything better in the last four years in preparation.

"I just hope I have two good days of sliding and not a situation where I think, 'Why did this have to happen?'

"I just want it to be as neat and tidy as possible with nothing freakish happening around it.

"You don't want to hit a groove or anything like that when you've had four years preparing for it."

Rudman placed ninth and fifth in her first two Olympic practice runs yesterday while her team-mate, Amy Williams, was 11th and 13th. ­

Rudman's fiancé, Kristan Bromley, improved from eighth to sixth in the men's event.

Rudman said: "I'm being honest here - I'm up against it a lot against sliders like Mellisa Hollingsworth and [Canada's] Amy Gough.

"I'm not as close to Mellisa in training as I have been, so I've got four runs to correct it.

"It's going to be a race against time."

Hollingsworth swept all before her on the World Cup circuit this season and was fastest in each of the first two practice runs, underlining her status as the clear gold medal favourite.

Hollingsworth said: "Shelley is an amazing competitor and one of my favourite competitors because I think we both stand for the same values and morals in the sport. We have a lot of fun when we compete and it is a friendly rivalry."

She too has dismissed the safety fears.

Hollingsworth, a 29-year-old from Alberta who finished third in Turin in 2006, said: "I haven't let it change my game plan.

"As an athlete, I feel you want to be challenged.

"I mean, you can only slide on tracks like Igls [Austria] so often.

"You want to push your limits."

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February 2010:
 Rudman to carry British flag in Olympic opening ceremony
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January 2010: Rudman loses European crown but finishes second in World Cup
January 2010: Brilliant Rudman strikes gold in St Moritz and silver for Bromley
January 2010: The British couple hoping to put the flesh on Britain's skeleton medal hopes