The Winter Olympics kicks off tomorrow (Saturday, 5 Feb) and among the Team GB athletes looking to compete for a medal is East Sussex’s very own Matt Weston.
And the 24-year-old from Crowborough heads to the Chinese capital on a high having become the first British man to win skeleton World Cup gold in more than 13 years in November last year.
That World Cup triumph, followed by numerous top-ten finishes since, means that the East Sussex slider is a genuine medal contender in Beijing. And that’s despite only taking up the sport in 2017 and making his World Cup debut last January!
Skeleton is a sliding sport in which the athlete rides a small sled, known as a skeleton bobsled, down a frozen track while lying face down and head-first. During elite racing the rider experiences accelerations up to 5g and, amazingly, reaches speeds over 80 miles per hour.
Matt, ranked ninth in the world, is determined to continue Team GB’s run of skeleton success when he makes his Winter Olympic debut. British athletes have medalled in every Olympics since the sport was reintroduced in 2002, most notably Amy Williams’ gold in Vancouver and Lizzy Yarnold’s back-to-back titles in Sochi and PyeongChang.
A former rugby player, Matt went to Bennett Memorial School in Tunbridge Wells and now trains at the University of Bath alongside other skeleton and bobsleigh athletes. His parents and brother still live in Crowborough. His introduction to skeleton came via the Discover Your Gold scheme following a suggestion from his weightlifting coach.
The World’s biggest stage
Matt told Eurosport he’s taking inspiration from Team GB’s past success in his quest for Olympic glory. He said: “The day I started in 2017, I thought: if I’m going to do this sport that’s the only goal I have in mind, to go to the Olympics and try to perform the best I can on the world’s biggest stage. I knew the track record and the success British skeleton has had. In my first ever year in skeleton I saw Lizzy win Olympic gold. That was a massive inspiration for me and my whole career since then.”
The victory back in November has also given him a big boost. “When I’m on it I can compete and beat the world’s best, so it’s given me a little bit of confidence going into the games.” he said. “Hopefully I’m in that position at the Olympics, and I will have taken that experience from earlier on in the season to just be able to perform my best.”
Going for gold
And he’s aiming not just for a medal, but for gold. “In terms of targets, I’m hoping to go there and perform the best I have this season, but at the same time if you ask any athlete where they want to be, it’s at the top of the podium.”
So keep an eye out for Matt at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre from next Thursday (10 February) when the men’s singles runs begin. And as he flies the flag for East Sussex as well as GB, everyone at Your East Sussex will be cheering him on! Go Matt!
You can follow Matt’s progress on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Matt-Weston-291881675023036/