The last Inter Service Ice Sports Championships were held a couple of weeks before the world entered lockdown in 2020 and whilst there was a Festival of Ice held in Igls last year, this is the first year since 2020 that an Inter Service Ice Sports Championships has been held. As you can imagine everyone was delighted to be back competing on ice for the various Bobsleigh Trophies and all 3 services had several weeks of training prior to the Championships. This year the Inter Service Championships took place in Lillehammer, Norway; the last time we visited Lillehammer was in 2017 so it was a welcome return to a challenging track in a beautiful location, some 15kms north of Lillehammer. The track was completed in 1992 and hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1994 and the Youth Olympic Games in 2016. The track is 1710m in length with 16 corners and bobsleighs can reach speeds of 128km/h. Every bobsleigh track has its challenges and corner 13 at Lillehammer is the one corner that is most talked about (and respected). This is the corner that attracts most spectators!
The Inter Service Bobsleigh Championships followed the usual format of 3 days of training followed by 2 days of racing. The Championships follow the format of the World Championships with 4 race runs over 2 days. The one difference to the World Championships is that the start order on the second day is based on the old World Championship rules (reverse of the day 1 draw) to ensure no one team gets the best ice.
In order to qualify for the race, each driver needed to have 2 clean runs down the track from the Bob start. As most athletes had been in Lillehammer for at least a week then this didn’t prove to be too difficult. The number of sleds allowed to race from each Service were 4 for the male team and the top 3 sleds would count towards the team trophy and in the women’s race, 3 sleds were allowed to race, with the top 2 sleds counting towards the team trophy. A 4 run race is always a challenge and is full of excitement as the pressure on race day is immense and it is no easy feat getting down the track 4 times. Consistency is absolutely key, and the concentration levels of the pilots are off the scale. Race preparations began in earnest early on in the week. The teams spent hours polishing runners, aligning their bobsleighs and ensuring that the bobsleighs and athletes were weighed so that on race day they would not be overweight as that would lead to disqualification.
The Championships were visited by CGS who not only watched the first day of bobsleigh racing, but he also experienced the track in a 4 man bobsleigh driven by Olympic Bronze Medallist Sean Olsson. CGS took time to speak to our athletes and understand what drives them to compete in the sport and he witnessed the camaraderie between athletes in all 3 services. It was a real privilege for the bobsleigh fraternity to welcome CGS out to Norway and we were all delighted when he enjoyed his bobsleigh run.
The male championships drew WO2 John Jackson RM out of retirement to race one more time and he set a fantastic example to the younger members of the service teams. The service coaches were all experienced drivers with the Army Team being coached by Brad Hall and Sean Olsson, the RN/RM by Lee Johnston and John Jackson and the RAF by Graham Richardson. It really was fantastic to see the ex-military coaches and the international drivers giving back to the sport by coaching the next generation. Whilst this is a competitive Championships, the bonds between coaches, athletes and support staff are simply superb and there was plenty of time post sliding to catch up on many years of friendship. For the first times in a number of years, the majority of the athletes were all accommodated together, and this ensured that there was plenty of time for catching up.
The race draw was conducted after sliding on Wed 1 Mar, where the start list for the first run was drawn. The start list for the second day of sliding (3rd run) was a reverse of the first run race draw. The second race run as well as the final race run would be the slowest bob to the fastest which always makes for a nail biting conclusion to any Championships. The race days were not without drama, there were 3 crashes during the first race run which led to 2 disqualifications as the bobsleighs did not cross the finish line to get a time. One of the sleds, although it crashed, did cross the finish line with its athletes on board so they were able to slide again. Thankfully there were no significant injuries and all sliders walked away from the track. At the end of the first day of racing, LCpl Nick Gleeson and Rfn Tom Harris ARMY were in first place, 0.51 sec ahead of Sgt Adz Baird and Mne Taylor Lawrence RN/RM and in the women’s race, Flt Lt Rachel Herod and AS1 Emily Cantley RAF were in first place, 0.74 secs ahead of Gnr Sienna Wilkinson and Sgt Sally Barratt ARMY.
The second day of racing saw the Army and RAF male teams start with 3 sleds each whilst the RN/RM still had 4 sleds racing. This meant that all the Army and RAF sleds had to successfully cross the finish line to compete for the team trophy. It was yet another day of incredible racing and drama with some crashes and nonstarters. Everybody gave it their all and it was a terrific race.
It was a nail biting and eventful team championships in both the male and female races with little room left for error as the number of bobsleighs racing reduced on the second day. In the end the Army male and female teams triumphed, regaining the Interservice Bobsleigh Champions title after a number of years. The Army Male team were awarded the Mo Hammond Trophy with a combined time of 10 min 34.20 secs with the runners up being the RN/RM with a combined time of 10 min 37.41 secs. This was a close race as this small margin was at the end of 12 race runs over 2 days of racing (3 sleds, 4 runs). The Army Female team were crowned Army Female Champions with a combined time of 7 min 39.99 secs (8 race runs over 2 days of racing (2 sleds, 4 runs).
Prize giving took place on the last evening and Commodore Woodard very kindly presented the bobsleighers with their trophies. The Chairman’s Trophy for the season was awarded to Sgn Ldr Nige Crosbie in recognition for all his work with the RAF team and more widely with all 3 Services during the single service training and the Inter Service Championships and his outstanding work ethic and willingness to help at all times.
The results were as follows:
Individual Male Champions – LCpl Nick Gleeson and Rfn Tom Harris ARMY
Individual Male Runners-Up – Sgt Adam Baird and Mne Taylor Lawrence RN/RM
Individual Male 3rd place – WO2 John Jackson and Cpl Johan Van Heerdan RN/RM
Individual Female Champions – Flt Lt Rachel Herod and AS1 Emily Cantley RAF
Individual Female Runners-Up – Gnr Sienna Wilkinson and Sgt Sally Barratt ARMY
Individual Female 3rd place – AB Zoe Morris and AB Grace Brown RN/RM
Best Novice Drivers
Pte Callum Dixon – ARMY
Gnr Sienna Wilkinson – ARMY
Fastest Brakeman with a start time of 5.07secs – Rfn Tom Harris ARMY
Fastest Brakewoman with a start time of 5.87secs – AB1 Emily Cantley
See the ICE Championships page for an update on Bobsleigh 2022