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Q&A. @tom_ashley26 asks: What’s the best thing about bobsleigh?

Thanks for this one Tom! I get asked this a lot and it’s hard to distil it to one thing.

Don't be fooled by the clasp of friendship with Czech pilot Dom Dvorak. He'd just beaten us and I was actually mid-swearing at him

Gun to my head though…

It has to be the camaraderie and the bonds this stressful life creates.

I love the training and danger elements - the speed, the power, fast rides and unpleasant crashes (obviously don't love that). But nothing compares to the brotherhood that is fostered in this sport. I reckon anyone in a close-knit team environment can relate.

You’re living in each other’s pockets for months at a time. You travel together, cook together, clean together (hopefully), shower together (only in the GB team), train together and compete together.

You experience the highs of peak performance, and the lows of crushing defeat (unless you’re Friedrich).

You experience the sacrifice of leaving your loved ones behind, of missing birthdays, weddings, New Year and all the other friends and family events that occur whilst in pursuit of these dreams.

You experience cold garages, gyms in the snow, endless road trips through remote locations, internal national politics all without a guarantee of racing at the end of it.

We can lose relationships, jobs, money, and have only each other to lean on. That’s still not even mentioning the stress created by the emotional rollercoaster of the literal rollercoaster of crashing.

We do all of this with little to no funding, minimal attention, and no guarantees that at the end of it there'll be a medal or the right to have those coveted Olympic rings branded on your body for life.

Or let's say you do make the Olympics. None of that sacrifice is known, little of it documented, but you will be nationally dissected by your home media if you don’t perform on that specific day in the 4 year cycle.

It’s challenging and puts enormous pressure on everyone involved.

This commonality, however, creates a bond.

(Fast forward to 19:16)

In 2017 after a crash at my debut World Championships, myself, Brad Hall, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon sat in our hotel room in the roof of the Kronprinz in Berchtesgaden nursing our wounds and sinking beers. We were disappointed for sure, but we used the time to come together, to reflect on the positives and to try and find something to laugh about. To be fair that last bit is an easy task when Brad's in the room.

Just a few weeks later I had one of my best experiences in bobsleigh so far at the Pyeongchang test event. I was roomed with Brad Hall, Bruce Tasker and Sam Blanchet. We broke a start record, came in the top 8 as a crew and remain close friends to this day. Even with Bruce becoming grossly overweight, we have still decided, as a group, to remain friends with him.

The bobsleigh journey strengthens resolve and, when around the right people, creates a bond that endures beyond the blink-and-you-miss-it length of time that characterises a sporting career.

I think with any gamble you take in life, you weigh up whether or not it’s worth the struggle.

My career in bobsleigh has certainly been worth it.

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