Olympics: British pride rests with Coomber

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The Independent Online

Even the ghastly prospect of a fresh bout of television studio flirting between Clare Balding and Steve Cram – she presented him with a pair of heart-embossed red shorts at Valentine's (I know because I was suffering insomnia in an Amsterdam hotel bedroom at the time) – will not prevent a late-night peek at the derring-do of Alex Coomber.

In the sad recital of British irrelevance in Salt Lake City, her competitive stature is as hard and sparkly as a diamond.

However she fares, this RAF Intelligence Officer will restore some national pride as she goes down the skeleton sled run as a strong favourite. She will also trigger in this reverential fan the most vivid memory of the most terrifying minute or so of his life.

It came twenty-odd years ago when, somehow, I was persuaded to go down the Cresta Run. Ever since I've been intrigued by the idea that someone, having survived the experience, would willingly choose to go down again.

The scion of a Venezuelan oil family who greeted me at the finish said: "Wasn't I right? Isn't it better than sex?" I tried to make an answer, but for some reason I couldn't form words. It was all I could do to light a cigarette.

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