Trying to follow in the footsteps of greatness is never easy - but rather than feeling daunted by the challenge ahead of her, Madelaine Smith insists she is inspired by her skeleton forebearers, writes Jacob Newbury.
Great Britain’s success in skeleton has been a revelation since its reintroduction to the Olympics in 2002, with no nation winning more medals than GB’s seven since the Salt Lake City Games.
Lizzy Yarnold and Amy Williams have accounted for the last three golds in the women’s event while Laura Deas claimed a bronze at PyeongChang 2018 to add to the tally.
And there continues to be a constant inspiration for the current crop of athletes who are aiming for success in two years' time in Beijing – with Smith among those dreaming big.
“I'm surrounded by some pretty cool women,” said the 25-year-old former track and field athlete, who is part of the skeleton programme at the University of Bath.
“Amy [Williams], Shelley [Rudman], Lizzy [Yarnold] and Laura [Deas] have all been such an inspiration to me. It’s incredible to have such powerful and successful women in my sport.
“They are really inspiring and make you feel like it is possible if you put in the hard work. I'm very lucky that they’re not just idols, but that I get to speak and train with them.
“You learn constantly from them and their experience.
“If a lot of other sports could be like we are, that would be brilliant. Both genders in winter sports tend to be always together unlike most other sports.”
The former Bath student, who was encouraged to take up the sled by British skier Lloyd Wallace through the Power2Podium programme in 2014, finished 21st at last month’s IBSF World Championships in Altenberg, Germany.
There was also an agonising fourth-place finish in the mixed team event, which made its debut at the event, with Smith and her teammate Matt Weston missing out on bronze by 0.03 seconds.
Smith, by her own admission, has set herself big goals with the countdown to Beijing 2022 over halfway, stating her ambition for the Games is not just to "take part" but “to win a medal”.
“I think it’s so nice to be in a sport where, for once, women are the focus because we have had such success in our women’s program,” she continues.
“Sometimes it’s harder for women to do sport because people don’t see us as elite athletes. They solely think about the men - so it's really special to be a part of an empowering woman program.
“I never thought I would be quite where I am now four years ago. I think I’ve definitely progressed very quickly, and the next two years are going to be tough.
“The next jump now that I’ve made it onto the World Cup series is to make consistent results, as well as breaking into the top ten.
“But now I've only got two years and reality is closing in. Although it's still a bit away, it will come round so fast.”