Pickering and mix: Sprinter Craig takes on bobsleigh runs

Indoors specialist aims for summer and winter Olympic double as he makes it into Britain's two-man bob team, writes Simon Turnbull

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The Independent Online

These must be disorientating days for Craig Pickering. For three years in a row, he was the star of the show at the indoor athletics international match in Glasgow on the final weekend in January. In 2007, fresh out of the junior ranks, the Milton Keynes sprinter blitzed to victory in the blue riband 60m, beating his celebrated training partner Jason Gardener and shooting to the top of the world rankings, clocking 6.55sec.

The following year he won again, and in 2009. But this Saturday, as the event moves across town from the Kelvin Hall to the Emirates Arena, the former sprinting prodigy will be conspicuously absent. Indeed, as Dwain Chambers gets to his mark as the home representative in the 60m in the British Athletics International Match, Pickering will be getting ready to roll down the Celerina Olympic Bobrun in St Moritz.

Less than a month after swapping the athletics track for the bobsleigh run, the 26-year-old will be putting himself on the line in the World Championships. Partnered by pilot John Jackson in the two-man bob on his World Cup debut in Konigssee, Germany a fortnight ago, Pickering finished 19th.

It proved sufficient to earn the novice brakeman selection for the British team in the global championships in Switzerland this Saturday and Sunday.

"I think it's been made quite clear that I'm going into the World Championships more for the exposure to competition than anything else," Pickering says. "I'm not quite good enough yet really.

"I don't mind. I've sort of been thrown in at the deep end. I'm still learning the sport – learning how to push properly and things like that. Although I'm not amazing yet, it's coming along reasonably well."

The ultimate aim for Pickering is to become a winter and summer Olympian. Having competed in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi became an alternative target for the Loughborough University student after he missed out on selection for London 2012 because he was recovering from a back injury and was subsequently dropped from Lottery funding.

"I definitely want to go to the Winter Olympics," Pickering says. "That's one of the main attractions about coming across to bobsleigh. There's a long way to go before I make it anywhere near good enough yet, though."

Pickering, runner up to Gardener in the 60m at the European Indoor Championships, is not the only summer Olympian attempting to make the crossover. Hurdler Lolo Jones and her US team-mate, sprinter Tianna Madison, have both turned to bobsleigh this winter, as has Jana Pittman, the former 400m hurdles world champion from Australia.

Not that Pickering has turned his back on track and field. He still has unfinished business in a career that has been frustrated by injury.

"I'll be going back to it next summer," he says. "I think the bobsleighing could help me. It's all acceleration based stuff. The training's exactly the same. And it's a new experience. It's mentally refreshing."

Not to mention, a little bit scary, perhaps? "It is, the first time you do it," Pickering says. "After that, it's fine. You get used to it."

Having been told last March that he needed an operation to remove disc fragments that had been pressing on the nerves in his back, Pickering had time to get used to the idea of missing out on the home Olympic experience. It didn't stop him enjoying the spectacle.

"It was great to see Greg Rutherford win gold in the long jump," he reflects." We're club mates and I know Greg really well. It kind of brings home to you that normal people can be successful."

Spikes to slopes: Other changers

Marcus Adam

Won 200m gold at 1990 Commonwealth Games before competing in two-man bobsleigh event at 2002 Winter Olympics for Great Britain, finishing 10th.

Allyn Condon

Won World 4x100m relay gold medals for Great Britain, before competing in 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver in the bobsleigh.

Lolo Jones

Picked up World Indoor Championship medals for 60m hurdles for the US, and went on to finish second in her first World Cup bobsledding competition in 2012

Jason Gardener

Won multiple indoor 60m golds before finishing sixth in British Championships in two-man bobsleigh.