With just days to go until the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang County, South Korea, it’s a delight for us to report on the progress of 2022/2026 Olympic skeleton hopeful Rachel Hanagan.
Rachel is an ex Canterbury High School student who was selected for the GB Winter Sports Training Squad. Last year our Club (via our Community Services Committee) supported Rachel with a donation of £250 to help meet her expenses.
For those that are unfamiliar with it, the skeleton is a winter sport in which (brave!) competitors travel down a hard ice track at speed while lying face-down on a sled; the sport is so named because of the bony appearance of the sled. Since 2002 it’s been a regular sport at the Winter Olympics.
Rachel has lived in Canterbury all her life, and has long been a keen sports enthusiast. She started with the heptathlon but then went on to attain county, regional and national success with the triple jump. She was also part of Canterbury High School’s athletics academy.
Rachel’s lifelong dream is to be an Olympic Champion, but after some injuries she feared she would have to give up that dream. That all changed September 2016 when she received an invitation from the English Institute of Sport to a phase 1 “Discover Your Power” test event as part of the UK Sport “Discover Your Gold” Talent ID campaign, searching for the next crop of Olympic Champions. Out of 3500 initial athletes invited to phase 1, Rachel was one of 50 to be picked to trial for the skeleton. Following further tests and travel to Austria and an ice camp, Rachel was selected to be part of the GB Skeleton Talent Squad, training on their World Class Performance Programme aiming towards the 2022/2026 Winter Olympics.
While the programme covers some of her costs (such as flights), Rachel needed to find funds to help with her other costs. She initially approached Mary Edmondson Sporting Charity, and on this occasion we were pleased to match their donation and support a local youngster representing Great Britain in an international sport. So it was truly wonderful to hear, at the end of 2017, that Rachel has been selected for the GB talent squad. Her words summarize things nicely: “It’s finally sinking in that I am a skeleton athlete training for the Winter Olympics and [I] am LOVING EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF IT!”
Rachel sends us regular blogs, telling us about her training and giving details of successes, failures and much else along the way. It’s fascinating - but not surprising – to learn just how much time and effort goes into training for what is a very physical and dangerous sport, and to find out so much about the work of coaches, doctors and physios and many others. Rachel herself has had to face injury, and then battle her way back to fitness with the help of her team; some of her deep purple, full-leg bruises are painful enough just to look at!
In her most recent blog Rachel told us lots about her training at St Moritz, which has a unique skeleton track – the only natural track in the world, thanks to plenty of snow and cold temperatures! Of course it’s also beautiful there. While there Rachel has been focussing on how she handles corners such as ‘Devil’s Dyke”. In one of her recent runs she hit 130kph (81mph) – a speed which would feel fast enough in the safety of a car but must feel so much more scary (or exciting) when travelling downhill, head first!
Our Club wishes Rachel every success; we’ll try and keep you posted about her progress and hope one day we can say we backed a local Olympic Gold Winner!
Picture: Olympic hopeful Rachel Hanagan, doing a push-start at the beginning of a skeleton run. Picture credit: Rachel Hanagan (from her blog).
To support Rachel in her efforts, visit her pledge page.