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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 22:27 GMT

Coomber buoyed by family circle

By BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson at the Olympic skeleton

Alex Coomber's chances of winning an Olympic gold all but disappeared before the race began.

Heavy snow in the mountains around Salt Lake City meant Coomber would be at a disadvantage because of her light weight.

She was also under enormous pressure to perform well for Britain, who were still chasing their first medal of the Games.

But Coomber performed extremely well in the difficult conditions to clinch a bronze medal.

She was favourite for gold but told BBC Sport Online she was ecstatic at winning an Olympic medal.

Coomber said: "How can I be disappointed with bronze? It's an Olympic medal.

"I only took up the sport five years ago. I've had injuries all season which have only just been sorted out."

The 28-year-old RAF intelligence officer was cheered on by vocal support from many Brits in the 15,000-strong crowd at Utah Olympic Park.

Her two elder sisters, Ursula Aston and Ronny Brownhill, lined the track with nephews Oliver Aston, aged nine, and his seven-year-old brother Edward.

They held aloft Union Jacks and a banner which read "go Aunty Alex go."

Coomber said: "I could hear people shouting 'go Alex, go GB' and that really motivated me at the start.

"I saw my sister when I finished my first run so I smiled and waved at her.

"It's wonderful to come here and have such huge support. It's the other side of the Olympics with people having a good time enjoying it as much as me.

"My family have never seen a skeleton race live so it was fantastic for them."

Middle sister Ronny handed little sister Coomber a Union Jack as she made her way to the flower ceremony.

And Coomber was loving every minute of it as she played up to the partisan crowd - who were celebrating an American gold and silver.

She will receive her medal at a razzmatazz ceremony later on Wednesday.

Her sister Ursula told BBC Sport Online: "We are very proud of Alex. It was a shame about the conditions because it made the race a lottery."

Simon Clegg, chef de mission of Team GB, was also visibly relieved at Britain's first medal of the Games.

And he punched the air in joy when he received a telephone call telling him Britain's women curlers had made it to the Olympic final.

Another guaranteed medal - and Britain's best performance at a Winter Olympics since 1948.


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