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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 20:29 GMT

All quiet for Coomber

BBC Sport Online's Charlie Henderson reports on Alex Coomber's pre-Olympic build-up in the relative tranquility of Calgary.

British bob skeleton medal hope Alex Coomber has found the perfect place to prepare for the Olympics.

The majority of the British team refined their techniques ahead of the Games in a holding camp in Calgary.

While many of the team have travelled south to Salt Lake, Coomber and the skeleton squad have stayed put in Canada.

With her competition coming towards the end of the Games, the benefits of that decision are numerous.

She can concentrate on her training runs with her husband Eric, go out and relax and just get on with "normal things" without the constant interest of the British press.

"Life out here is a lot easier than it was in the UK," Coomber says reflecting on her final days in England before flying out to North America.

Then she was at the centre of a media feeding frenzy as the press penned their stories on the country's brightest medal hope.

"The British Olympic Association have been very good at organising press days," she admits.

"That means that the journalists have been kept away from me the rest of the time."

The other great advantage of starting late in the Games is that some of the "initial tension" of the Olympics will have dissipated.

"I would have hated to have been in the first event," Coomber concedes.

"I'm glad that the Games have started. Britain have already had people competing and the public have got used to things.

"A lot of people think it will be easy for me to come back with a medal, but that just indicates that they don't know the sport well enough.

"It's never easy to come back with a medal in skeleton as there are always such close margins."

Extra edge

The only downside of staying in Calgary is that her training runs do not have a competitive under-current.

All too often she has been ploughing a lonely path on the run with Kristan Bromley, Britain's men's competitor.

"I don't want to be performing to my best in a week like this, I want to be saving it for when it matters, but it has been quite difficult here.

"It's only really myself and Kristan so there's no extra edge - for me that's one of the more important things.

"I find it difficult to perform under those circumstances and would prefer to be in the changing room with everyone else doing good runs, knowing that you've got to match them."

"The Americans weren't over the top - they just seemed happy to be hosting the Games as any other nation would be"
Alex Coomber on the opening ceremony

Coomber will get her opportunity to pit her wits against her peers when she moves down to Salt Lake for three days of practice runs ahead of the tournament.

However, she has already made a visit to the Olympic city, albeit a brief one.

Coomber and her husband flew down for an overnight stay and took in the opening ceremony - "an excellent experience".

"It was brilliant just walking out into the stadium, with all the other nations, into loads and loads of camera flashes.

"There were so many bright lights and, what's more, Britain got the second biggest cheer of the night which was good news."

When Coomber returns to Salt Lake next she will have her competiton head firmly in place hoping for yet more "good news".


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