Three Royal Air Force Servicemen have been selected to join the Great Britain Bobsleigh Team.
Senior Air Craftsman John Baines stationed at RAF Leeming, Corporal Keith McLaughlin from RAF Boulmer and Corporal Stu Benson at RAF Cosford will take part in World and Europa Cup competitions later this year, the best RAF selection performance since the mid 1990’s.
The three servicemen were selected to participate in the Great Britain Talent Identification trials which started in March and culminated on camp in Sigulda, Latvia from 12-19 Sep. Selected from a cast of thousands, the 10 fastest, strongest and mentally tough battled it out at the Sigulda push track for a place on the two sleds that Great Britain would be sending on the World and Europa Cup circuits this season.
After months of dry land training at Bath University (the home of bobsleigh in the UK) the RAF participants had a week of intense training getting used to pushing, sprinting and loading into a bobsleigh on ice. The RAF athletes excelled and their confidence grew as they were tested in the single man push, as pairs in preparation for 2-man team selection and practiced some “dry loading” where they imitated running alongside the sled, jumping in on cue.
It was Corporal Stu Benson’s athletic and running ability that saw him through the selection process and out shine his competitors. The Avionics Further Technical Training Instructor based at RAF Cosford, had no previous experience in a sled, he said
“I started selections in May 2011. Involving a 30m standing sprint, 30m flying sprint and standing broad jump. As the selections progressed, much like a sports version of the X factor, the tests got harder and more specific. These ranged from Isometric pulls to 45m sled drags. I did absolutely no Specific bobsleigh training prior to the initial selections, everything I had came from sprint training and associated weight lifting. Since I started to believe that I could make selection to the GB squad I have modified my training to take into account the strains on upper body and also sprinting over a shorter distance than I am used to.”
Familiarisation completed, the athletes put their training into practice during the team trials. Despite sustaining an injury Senior Air Craftsman John Baines, an ICT Technician with 90 Signal Unit based at RAF Leeming still managed to make selection in to the Team GB Squad. He said
“After competing for the RAF for 3 bobsled championships at the inter-services against the army and navy I was asked to try out for the Great Britain team. I have spent the past 3 years training for bobsled but since arriving at 90 Signals Unit, I have been given the chance to better myself and really reach my potential. I trained most days at the gym and also attended training sessions at Bath University and also a training camp at Loughborough University. I regularly trained at Camp Hill, North Yorkshire which has a facility to practise the push start with a bobsled on a dry track.”
Joining Senior Air Craftsman John Baines in GB1 on the World Cup Circuit will be Corporal Stu Benson both will be pushing Sergeant John Jackson (Marines). Corporal Keith McLaughlin will be pushing Corporal Lamin Deen (ARMY) in GB2 on the Europa Cup circuit. This is the best RAF selection performance since the mid 90’s when the RAF dominated the women’s and men’s GB teams.
Since being selected at the trials the crews have had a chance to bond together, knowing that throughout the winter months they will be seeing a lot more of each other. Corporal Keith McLaughlin an Aerospace Systems Operator based at RAF Boulmer, will be competing for Team GB for the fourth consecutive season, he explained,
“Teamwork is paramount in Bobsleigh it is very much like being on detachment; we live, sleep, eat, travel and work together for three to four months and throughout this time we must work together to get the best result we possibly can. This is now my fourth season competing for Great Britain; my role in the upcoming season is to compete in the two and four man bob as a crew member in the Europa Cup and potentially in the World Championships. I have fortunately been put with a crew I know very well and have worked with before. I believe this is a big advantage to us and I foresee us working well together from the off. ”
Coverage of the World Cup races will be on Eurosport starting in November.
Editor: Sarah Williams.
Team GB Bobsleigh.
Senior Air Craftsman John Baines, Corporal Keith McLaughlin and Corporal Stu Benson will take part in World and Europa Cup competitions later this year.
Photography: SAC Ben Lees RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2011.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF has taken a significant role in British military history, playing a large part in the Second World War and in more recent conflicts.