Back To Beijing For A Different Kind Of Olympic Games

  • 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
  • Two-time Olympian.
  • Becoming the first British woman to represent Team GB in two different sports in a Summer and Winter Olympics.

These facts I’ve had at the back of my mind ever since we knew that the Winter Olympics would be held back here in Beijing.

But the Beijing of 2022 is very different to the Beijing of 2008, where I competed in the 100m and 4x100m relay for Team GB at the summer Olympic Games, and I think the biggest difference is my experience as an athlete as well as being in the opposite ends of the spectrum of summer versus winter.

Training in winter versus summer is very similar but does have some minor differences.

Essentially, I do the same thing; I run fast in a straight line.

However: it is very cold.

When you’re on the starting line in 38-degree weather pulling your 67kg body down the track, it’s a different skill set to having to push 170kg+ of carbon fibre down an icy mountain in -20 degrees.

Also, the winter and summer competition seasons are in reverse.

In athletics you would start your winter training in September and finish in April to start competing in May.

For bobsleigh, it’s the complete opposite. You start competing in October right the way through to March and have an off season in May through to September

This is a huge challenge if you’re attempting to be successful at both sports at the same time, which I found out. The hard way, might I add.

I ruptured my hamstring off of my bone nine months before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games after running my fastest 100m opener since I had broken the British record in 2008. This injury was the deciding factor that helped me fully focus and commit to bobsleigh in the lead up to the 2022 Olympic cycle.

Two jobs, one goal

In bobsleigh there are two of us in the sled: the pilot and me, the brakewoman. The pilot is the driver. They have the most responsibility as it’s basically their team and we are kind of assisting along as brakewomen. The pilot will always be the same but could have a different brakewoman behind her at any time.

She will learn the track and has the responsibility of my life in the backseat.

My job is to get the sled to move as fast as possible, being the faster, more explosive athlete, it’s my job to give the sled speed.

Whatever you give the sled at the start multiplies down the track. So although the start is the smallest part of the race it has the biggest impact on down time.

Another challenge has been racing through Covid.

It’s been an extreme but valuable learning curve. The racing calendar has been disrupted for many reasons, travel being the biggest one. Last year during the pre-Olympic season, there were many travel bans and therefore many nations were initially restricted to compete.

Contracting Covid also puts a spanner in the works, causing many people to miss, often life changing qualification races. I missed two races myself this year alone, at the most crucial time leading into the end of qualification period and the protocols around getting back in the ‘bubble’ and with the team are very rigorous.

Many athletes have already had the chance to slide down the Beijing Olympic track at the test event that was held in October.

I haven’t yet as I was left at home to train, but the feedback from most is that they love it!

The start profile is almost identical to our home track in Bath, which is incredible because we’ve had lots of experience on it; most recently at our holding camp right before leaving for the Games, and we get really good data results there so it favours well for Beijing.

It also has a 360 degree ‘kreisel’ which is a big loop in the track that goes back on itself.* Essentially, it’s there to slow you down but it also brings so much excitement because it’s never been done before so I can’t wait to get on it!

Making history as the first British female Summer & Winter Olympian feels incredible.

It’s a big relief to achieve something you’ve worked so hard for; the feeling of getting that one thing you want. But I’m very aware that my job is not done yet and I’m really excited to put on a good performance now that I’m here.

It’s definitely something I wanted to do; to leave a legacy in sport. It’s an achievement that I’m extremely proud of and it’s also nice that I represent different types of people in doing so. Whether you are an older athlete, a person of colour or a woman in sport. Being the first female to do both and transfer from two different sports is an honour.

Life after sport

Personally and professionally I have huge ambitions for my life when I hang up my competitive spikes. From starting a family and settling and creating a home having been on the road travelling for years on end, to starting my own coaching and property businesses.

I can’t wait for what the future holds.

Read Montell’s thoughts in her BBC Sport blog, as well.

*Kreisel: German for a child’s spinning top, it describes a turn that curves back on itself.