#DiscoverYourGold: Final skeleton & cycling selection camps

By Amy Warburton | 22/03/2019

In January 2018, talent identification programme #DiscoverYourGold was launched by UK Sport and the EIS. A stellar line-up of graduates have gone on to represent Great Britain over the years in similar campaigns, having great success on the world stage, including the likes of Lizzy Yarnold and Helen Glover.

With summer Olympic and Paralympic eyes on Tokyo 2020, the Performance Pathways team are always at least one step ahead with supporting national governing bodies (NGBs)to identify and develop talent in the high performance system.

Amy Warburton, EIS Senior Performance Pathway Scientist, takes us through the talent identification timeline following the final #DiscoverYourGold selection camps in skeleton and cycling.

2,414 athletes signed up (Olympic only)
990 athletes tested in June 2018 as part of Phase 1
16% of those tested at Phase 1 were invited for Phase 2
17 athletes took part in the final Skeleton and cycling camps

#DiscoverYourGold was launched at a time to capitalise on the impact of the Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games. The campaign focused on short track speed skating, skeleton and the Summer Olympic sports of rugby 7s, track cycling and rowing, as well as a wide-range of Paralympic sports, who all looked to recruit talented youngsters.

The Performance Pathways team work in partnership with sports to build and develop sustainable performance pathways. One particular area of focus is populating pathways with an optimal quantity and quality of who have the potential to progress on to senior programmes.

My role has recently focussed on supporting the final phases of the British Skeleton and British Cycling #DiscoverYourGold programmes. At the final camps 11 athletes travelled to Norway with skeleton, while eight athletes were with cycling in Manchester.

Discover Your Gold: Skeleton
The sport-specific testing phase began in June 2018 with 49 people invited back to a phase 2 assessment weekend. After a series of winter camps in Bath, which predominantly focused on the crucial push element of the sport, plus some gym work and lifestyle sessions, the athletes finally got to try the full sport on ice in Norway.

A two-week camp, led by former skeleton performance director Andi Schmid was strongly supported by Donna Creighton, herself a former skeleton athlete, current athlete Craig Thompson, who came through the Power2Podium talent ID scheme in 2014, and EIS Strength and Conditioning coach Mitch Smith, all attending.

The final decision will be made soon, with the successful athletes going on to the British Skeleton Talent programme.

With the next Winter Olympics only three years away, you’d never say never but a realistic aim for successful Discover Your Gold graduates will be the 2026 Winter Olympics. To give some context, Lizzy Yarnold medalled in Sochi five years after first trying the sport and Marcus Wyatt narrowly missed out on the PyeongChang Team GB squad after coming through the Power2Podium talent ID campaign in 2014.

A real strength of the British Skeleton programme is their athlete role models. The Discover Your Gold triallists were lucky enough to train alongside current athletes on the push track and in the gym, and met Olympic gold medallists Amy Williams and Lizzy Yarnold for a Q&A.

The main criteria to progress through the phases was the athlete’s progression on the push track. There is only one in Britain at the University of Bath. Also, the athletes’ ability to follow and show progression on a three-month remote gym training programme, which requires discipline, commitment and motivation, was also taken into consideration. As there isn’t an ice track here in the UK, it is really important that we expose the athletes to as much of the high-performance environment in Bath and the type of training they’d be doing if they were to be selected onto a full-time training programme. It is very much a multi-disciplinary approach – featuring members of support staff who work with elite athletes.

Those selected for the British Skeleton Talent programme will be asked to relocate to Bath – the home of the British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association. Debbie Timberlake, EIS Performance Lifestyle Advisor, has given the athletes a range of advice and guidance in case they’re selected about how they might transition their lives to Bath.

Success stories have seen Lizzy come from heptathlon, Laura from equestrian and Marcus started with American Football. Athletics has been a large talent pool but the final skeleton group saw a variety of backgrounds including skateboarders, trapeze artists, athletics athletes, footballers and rugby players.

Discover Your Gold: Cycling
A six-month confirmation phase took place through the autumn and winter, with monthly camps held in Manchester. Athletes were assigned to a club, to integrate them into their local cycling community and to have access to a velodrome. The cyclists have already had the opportunity to compete with their club which is really exciting.

The final camp was 9/10 March and six girls are still involved, with three being offered a bigger package of support until August, which is a great opportunity for them and the sport.

The athletes who come through programmes like Discover Your Gold never cease to amaze me. The motivation and desire from not only the athletes but their families and the coaches and sport science practitioners in the sports shines through. Athletes are asked to give a lot and considering we can’t guarantee them anything, their dedication is incredible.

There’s a willingness to fail and learn through failure, which is incredibly important as Discover Your Gold is the ability to ask good questions, which shows an inquisitive mind and an eagerness to learn.

All in all, it’s an exciting time and we naturally hope it’s the start of some long careers in elite British sport to give our future athletes some new role models to look up to.

To find out more about the EIS Performance Pathway team, please click here.