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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 12:07 GMT
Armed forces on medal mission
By Anna Thompson
Winter sports editor

Jackie Davies
Davies is a telecommunications technician in the Royal Signals

You could say Jackie Davies is not one for a sedate life.

When she's not hurtling down a bobsleigh track at 80mph, Davies is a corporal in the Army serving with the Royal Signals.

The 28-year-old is one of eight members of the armed forces in the Great Britain squad for the 2006 Winter Olympics - a fifth of the team heading to Turin for the Games.

Two others are from the Army, three from the Navy and two from the RAF.

Together with Sheffield teacher Nicola Minichiello, Davies has one of Britain's best chances for a medal, in the women's bobsleigh.

Major General Christopher Elliott, director of the Army Sports Control Board, told BBC Sport why the armed forces put such an emphasis on breeding top-level athletes.

He said: "Sport in the armed forces is very much part of our core business.

"It helps develop team work and team spirit and helps develop mental and physical robustness and physical fitness, plus enforcing the desire to win.

Jackie Davies, bobsleigh
Tom Clemens, biathlon
Emma Fowler, biathlon
Lee Johnston, bobsleigh
Karl Johnston, bobsleigh
Martin Wright, bobsleigh
Roger Cruickshank, skiing
Dan Humphries, bobsleigh
"And as you will appreciate, we train for war so there must be a huge desire to win.

"We train for action in hot climates, mountains, jungles and snow and ice.

"If you take the biathlon for example, manoeuvring around in snow at speed and then shooting is all part of military business."

Sport is encouraged in its recruiting material and the Army has talent spotters looking for those with the mental and physical attributes to take their natural talent to the top.

Each year an ice camp is held at venues around the world which have bobsleigh, luge and skeleton tracks.

Davies first stepped into a bobsleigh at one such camp in Norway in 2000 and has not looked back since, winning a silver medal at the world championships in 2005.

She said: "I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for the Army."

The winter sports athletes have been taken off active service on full pay to prepare and compete in World Cup races ahead of the Turin Games.

But they could be called back at any time.

Maj Gen Elliott said: "If there is anything that occurs that requires people to be called back, 24 hours later they will be back in their unit."

Davies is grateful for the support she receives.

1924, silver, four-man bobsleigh (Army)
1964, gold, two-man bob (Robin Dixon, Army; Tony Nash, RAF)
1998, bronze, four-man bob (Dean Ward and Sean Olsson Army)
2002, silver, skeleton (Alex Coomber RAF)
"I get time off for my training and that is now full-time, so I have a very understanding unit," she said.

"My goal is to win a medal at the Winter Olympics and after success at the world championships, it looks as if I can realise my dream."

Davies competed in the 2002 Games, finishing 11th, and in between training and racing, her Army unit has been based in the UK.

But Captain Karl Johnston, who is in the four-man bobsleigh squad for Turin, is a Royal Marine and has served in the Gulf region in command of a fleet standby rifle troop team as well as at Faslane, near Glasgow.

For now however, they are concentrating on their final preparations before the Games begin on 10 February.

And they will be looking to add to the Olympic medal roll of honour.

Since the Games began in 1924, the armed forces have won a gold (two-man bob 1968), a silver (four-man bob 1924) and two bronzes (1998 four-man bob and 2002 Alex Coomber, skeleton).

Maj Gen Elliott added: "There was a huge boost to morale when Jackie won the medal at the world championships. We will be wishing them all the best of luck in Turin."

  • The Winter Olympics take place from 10-26 February.


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