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Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Monday, 16 August 2010 15:15 UK

Paula Walker replaces Nicola Minichiello in bobsleigh

Walker (left) and Kelly Thomas came 11th at the Winter Olympics
Walker (left) and Kelly Thomas came 11th at the Winter Olympics

Paula Walker will drive Great Britain's bobsleigh on the World Cup circuit this season after injury forced world champion Nicola Minichiello out.

Walker, from Blackburn, only started in the ice sport four years ago but has quickly risen through the ranks.

She competed in the Winter Olympics finishing 11th after Minichiello's sled crashed during the third run.

Walker said: "I have been pushing personal bests so I am confident that I will be getting some great results."

The 24-year-old Army signals engineer said she was sad her colleague was injured but relished taking on the challenge.

"I hope Nicola recovers quickly and fully. Nicola is a highly talented athlete and I know she will be very upset about missing this season. However I am in great shape."

Minichiello, who was a medal hope in the February Games before crashing out on the third run, has been ruled out for the season because of a knee injury.

She has been told not to start full training for several months and so will not defend her title at the World Championships in February.

The 32-year-old from Sheffield had suffered the injury while preparing for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

"I'm really disappointed but my goal has to be the 2014 Olympics," she said.

Minichiello has been told to rest after having an operation on her left knee.

"A well-structured and long rehabilitation programme, and a well-managed return to competition, is key to my long-term success," she added.

"This year was the best time to get this operation done and give me a good length of time to get back to the top."

606: DEBATE

Minichiello and Gillian Cooke became Britain's first female bobsleigh world champions at the 2009 World Championships in Lake Placid but had a disappointing time at this year's Games.

They were 10th after two runs and did not compete in the fourth after Cooke injured her leg and their sled was damaged in a crash.

British Bobsleigh performance director Gary Anderson said it was a major blow that Minichiello could not defend her world title at next year's championships in Konigssee, Germany.

"However, the most important thing is that she returns to the sport fully fit," he stated.

"The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are the objective for Nic and we cannot afford to rush to get this wrong."

Minichiello, who had laser surgery in December 2009, after suffering a loss of vision in her left eye, will be a coach and mentor to the Winter Olympics youth squad during her absence from the sport.



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see also
Nicola Minichiello's video profile
10 Feb 10 |  Bobsleigh
Medal hope to undergo eye surgery
11 Dec 09 |  Bobsleigh
Brit bobsleighers win World gold
22 Feb 09 |  Winter Sports


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