What does GB sprinter and England Sevens player have in common?

Great Britain Bobsleigh Team
XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full coverage times

Joel Fearon is Britain’s joint third-fastest 100m runner in history.

Sam Blanchet is a former rugby union professional who has played for England Sevens.

What do they have in common?

They will both be part of the Great Britain bobsleigh squad at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

‘You could do it if you put your mind to it’

Sam Blanchet

In a country where snow is an event – making winter sports less accessible than their ‘summer’ or ‘traditional’ counterparts – Team GB are always on the hunt for talent from other disciplines.

Perhaps the most successful winter athlete to switch from another sport is 2014 Winter Olympic gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold, a heptathlete who decided to try a winter sport at a talent identification day.

But sprinter Fearon and former Exeter Chiefs player Blanchet are two further examples of how skills honed elsewhere can prepare you for a winter sport.

Blanchet, 25, had never tried bobsleigh before injuries halted his rugby career.

With an Eddie the Eagle-like ambition to represent his country at an Olympics, Blanchet found his size and physical skills, developed on the rugby field, were a good match for the bobsleigh track.

“There is a lot of weight training in rugby so strength was a good skill to take over. General toughness and my power was also a really good fit for bobsleigh,” he says.

“You’re going to do well in the sport if you’re big and fast, so if you do track and field and work on your sprints, there’s a good chance you could transfer well into the sport.

“I’ve shown I can do it so a lot of people could if they put their mind to it.”

‘Weight training is a big thing’

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In July 2016, two years after being part of the Team GB bobsleigh squad at the Sochi Games, Fearon ran the joint third-fastest 100m by a Briton.

Traditionally, the physical make-up of sprinters – being fast and powerful – lends itself well to bobsleigh.

“Obviously you need to be quick, but you have to be brave and have a calmness about you,” says 29-year-old Fearon, who continues to switch between the two sports from winter to summer.

“Pushing and pulling is also a big thing, so if you want to try and get into a sport like bobsleigh then weight training is a good start.”

For those of you who want to give the sport a go, the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association offers taster sessions for both sports at the University of Bath push track.

‘Just give snowboarding a go’

Katie Ormerod

Bobsleigh is the not the only winter sport which attracts athletes from other disciplines. Snowboarders Katie Ormerod and Billy Morgan both started in gymnastics.

“My background really helps with spatial awareness in snowboarding,” says 20-year-old Ormerod, who must sit out the Winter Olympics because of injury.

“In gymnastics, I could easily do a simple back flip, so when I tried it in snowboard it was much easier than I expected. I instantly knew where I was in the air.

“You need a lot of power in snowboarding and that’s also lined with gymnastics, where you have that conditioning.”

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Morgan, 28, excelled at acrobatics as a teenager before trying his hand at snowboarding.

“A lot of the tricks I do now, I learned as an acrobat,” he says.

Whereas bobsleigh is a slightly more niche sport, there are several snow centres and indoor dry slopes across the country – you can find your nearest club in England,Scotland,Wales or Northern Ireland.

Ormerod encourages beginners to try out gymnastics or “just give snowboarding a go” by visiting a local slope, and suggests you “buy or rent second-hand gear” in order to keep costs as low as possible.

“It’s an epic sport which you can take at your own pace. It’s rare that people don’t go and enjoy themselves,” adds Morgan.

Have you been inspired by the Winter Olympics? Check out our sport-by-sport guide to find out how you can get involved, or see the full list of Get Inspired activity guides to find the perfect sport for you.

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BBC Sport – Athletics

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