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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 10:07 GMT
Coomber on the spot
Great Britain's Alex Coomber did the nation proud by winning a bronze medal at the Salt Lake City Games.
Alex was the favourite for gold but declared herself happy with a medal of any colour after finishing third in the women's skeleton.
The RAF officer, who only took up the sport in 1997, had taken an 18-month sabbatical from her duties to concentrate on her Olympics training.
Alex's Olympic experiences have had the nation enthralled, and she was more than happy to answer your questions.
Johan Crisp, Middlesex
Congratulations, Alex. How did you celebrate winning the medal?
To be honest, I was absolutely exhausted. I met my sister in a bar for a few drinks. And I ate my first McDonalds for two years - in fact, I had it for supper, and then breakfast and lunch the next day!
James Strahan, Scotland
How does it feel to be the world's third best skeleton competitor?
Well, the Olympics are a one-off race, but I have been World Cup champion for the last three years. I was ranked number one, and I will be still be ranked world number one going into next year.
Donna Wright, England
You must get a lot of injuries from participating in such a dangerous sport. How do you treat your injuries? Do you use any complementary medicines such as homeopathy, acupuncture or massage?
I actually haven't had that many injuries, a few stitches here and there maybe. I use energy boosting drinks, have regular massages and turn to acupuncture from time to time. Obviously, it's important to warm up and warm down properly, and that's part of my strict fitness routine.
Catherine Pipe, US
Do you think all of the media pressure affected your ability to focus?
I wouldn't say it affected my ability to focus, though I guess it did alter the relevance of my performance to the public. I know I performed to my ability, and hope people appreciated that.
David Corrie, Scotland
Why was the skeleton run cleaned for the USA and not for anyone else?
I can't really comment on that, but what I can say is that home athletes obviously have a significant advantage. The American girls have had much more time on that track, and had been on it in the snow. All I had were six runs, and none in those sorts of conditions. Also, that's not enough time to iron out any problems you have with a particular track, as I had on turn 11 at the Utah Olympic Park.
I would like to know if you do a full or part-time job?
I work for the RAF as an intelligence officer. But they gave me an 18-month sabbatical so I could train full-time in preparation for the Olympics.
Natasha Bridges, UK
Could you tell me how you got into the sport and where did you do your training?
I got into skeleton back in November 1997, through a 'Novice Week' run by the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association - they hold them four times a year.
In terms of training, apart from gym work, we obviously need to be on the ice so we generally work on tracks that are used on the World Cup circuit.
James Phillips, England
Do you feel that you and the Brit team have sufficient opportunities to train in this country and abroad, for events such as the winter Olympics, or are we at a disadvantage not being blessed with as much snow as the major players appear to have?
Also do you think the new facilities at Bath University will make a significant difference in training?
Well, we can use the push-start track in Bath to work on certain aspects of our technique. But British skeleton sliders are obviously at a major disadvantage without any ice facilities. That means we have to adapt more quickly to conditions as we confront them in competition.
I guess it's the same for other Alpine events, though sports like curling are slightly better off as the curlers can practice on ice sheets.
How do you control the skeleton? Watching on television it is difficult to see how you keep your line.
The skeleton is quite flexible really, and works with rounded runners at the front and knifed edges at the back. Control comes from the shoulder, which digs the knifed edge into the ice, but you can also steady yourself by dropping your toe, though that's not ideal as you lose time.
Jamie Crombie, England
How do you manage to keep calm during the lead up to the race?
I'm always nervous before a race - and was obviously much more so for this one. I try to keep calm by sticking rigidly to the same pre-race routine. I will start warming up 40 minutes before the start, clean my helmet 10 minutes before, and put my bib on with about five minutes to go.
We keep hearing about how the sport was reinstated after a 50-year absence. Can you explain more about the history, why its absence and how you got interested in the programme?
It started around the turn of the 19th century, with people sledding on toboggans around Davos and St Moritz in Switzerland. Then an Englishman, Mr Childs, decided it would be a good idea to go down head first - and duly went about 10 seconds quicker than everyone else!
It gradually evolved from there, with metal sleds coming in, and sliders lying down instead of resting on their elbows.
Its absence was because it was deemed too dangerous - once it was recognised sliders did have more control of their direction, it returned.
My first ever run was from about halfway down a track. I'd travelled about 10 feet when it dawned on me I wouldn't stop until I got to the bottom. That was scary, but I loved it, and haven't looked back since.
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