Skeleton star Amelia Coltman made a huge statement on the international sliding scene as she recently won the overall Europa Cup title in her first competitive season. The 23-year-old emerged victorious in the eight-race series as she claimed five medals - two gold, two bronze and one silver - to finish 43 points clear of the standings. She is the first woman to be crowned champion in her inaugural campaign and was rewarded with promotion to the IBSF Intercontinental Cup.
Amelia, who only joined the GB Skeleton Talent team in the summer of 2017, achieved seventh and ninth placed finishes in PyeongChang after a whirlwind couple of months. She is a highly talented all-round sportswoman with previous success in high jump, long jump, badminton and tennis at county and national level. The Melton Mowbray born slider is currently supported by GVC through SportsAid.
Here, Amelia reflects on her recent successes, reveals how she was first introduced to skeleton, and highlights the importance of her family and support network....
You’ve just won the Europa Cup in your first season of competitive skeleton! How did it feel to win the overall title? Have you had the chance to celebrate?
“I hasn't quite sunk in that I actually won the title yet, but standing on top of the podium and hearing the national anthem was a very proud moment. My targets going into the season were to place top six in each race, and I finished the season with two golds, one silver, two bronzes, a fourth and a fifth. It feels great that I was able to smash my original targets and achieve what I hadn't even thought of achieving as this year was about gaining experience and learning how to compete. I've not had time to celebrate yet as I had an amazing opportunity to race on the circuit above (ICC) in South Korea, so when I get to see my family next I'm sure we will manage to celebrate it!”
How did you find the Europa Cup series as an overall experience? What was your best race on reflection? Do you have a favourite track?
“Competing week in week out on the Europa Cup circuit has made me realise that I love the challenge of competing and performing under pressure. It was great to see where I compare to the rest of the girls in the world and make new friends from different nations. My best race was in Konigssee in Germany as it was the first gold of my career, which was the most surprising result for me on a technical track. I don't have a favourite track as they all have different challenges which I really enjoy, but there are many beautiful places on the circuit that are an added bonus!”
How did you find competing in the series from a psychological standpoint? How challenging is it to manage expectation when you see yourself at the top of the leaderboard?
“Competing in seven races in the short space of two months was tiring but very rewarding. Racing on weekends back to back meant there was little time to reflect on performances as I was always looking forward to the next one and working hard in training to perfect my runs for race day. I had a very small two point lead going into the final two races of the circuit so I did feel a bit of pressure as I really wanted to win the title! I knew that all I could do was focus on myself and the things I can control, which worked very well for me despite a crash in training! I ended up extending the lead and winning the title by 43 points.”
Are there particular inspirations or sporting heroes you’ve looked up to over the years? What qualities do they have that you admire?
“I have always looked up to Kelly Holmes as her sporting achievements are outstanding! I admire her consistent determination throughout the tough times and now the amount that she gives back to sport and the community. She once signed a book for me and wrote 'Be the best you can be' and I always keep that in mind.”
When did you first hear about/see skeleton? And how did you get into the sport?
“I remember watching the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games and seeing Lizzy Yarnold win gold which I thought was really cool, but I never thought I would be competing in the same sport! I was in my final year at Sheffield Hallam University, studying Sport and Exercise Science when I saw an advert looking for volunteers to test the next crop of power athletes in a talent identification initiative called 'Discover Your Power'. When I was testing the athletes I felt inspired to give it a go myself, so decided to sign up and went along to one of the testing days. I was very surprised when I got a phone call from British Skeleton saying I might be suited to skeleton! I then went through lots of phases of testing where they kept deselecting athletes from the process. I then had a go on ice in Austria which confirmed my selection into the Great Britain Talent squad where I have since been training very hard!”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career so far? And what are your key long-term ambitions in skeleton?
“My biggest challenge I have had to face so far was an injury I picked up in May 2018, which was bone stress in my shin. I was on crutches and in a boot for three weeks and then wasn't allowed to run for another seven weeks after that. This was a very difficult period as I could see all my teammates progressing really well and I felt like I was standing still. This is where I learnt to focus on the process and trust the amazing support team I have around me! My long-term ambition in skeleton is to compete at the Winter Olympic Games and bring the gold medal home for Great Britain.”
Which experiences in your life have you learnt the most from up to now? What did it teach you?
“I've learnt that making mistakes is a crucial part of learning, to accept them and not get frustrated. I think I'm the type of athlete that crashes more than others but it teaches me what not to do which long term is most valuable!”
What difference has SportsAid support made to you?
“SportsAid has been crucial for my development as financially it has meant that I don't have to work as many hours and I can focus solely on my training and being the best I can be. By recognising my potential in the sport, it has helped me grow in confidence and believe in myself more. In challenging times it is good to know that I am being supported and to keep working hard. I'm really grateful for the support from SportsAid as I don't think I would be where I am now without it!”
Which other commitments do you have to balance alongside skeleton? Do you have any hobbies away from skeleton?
“I do a lot of presentations to school groups at the University of Bath about the lifestyle of an athlete which I balance around training. In the winter months I am very rarely in the UK so one of the hardest things I have to balance around skeleton is seeing my family and friends as time at home is very limited. I'm quite an organised person though so I like to plan ahead and don't find it too hard fitting everything together!”
Lastly, how important has the support of your family and support team been to you in pursuing your sporting ambitions?
“The world class support team around me in Bath and on circuit are absolutely crucial for my development and I owe a lot of my achievements to them. I am just the product of all of our hard work! My family is also very important as they have given up a lot of their time and have also helped me financially to get where I am today. I also have a group of supporters at home that root for me when I'm competing which gives me that extra motivation to do my best!”
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes like Amelia can continue receiving the backing they rely on. You can make a regular donation to the charity and have a significant impact on the country’s sporting future.