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Bobsleigh: Cooke again takes a back seat to drive forward her bid for Olympic medal

Scottish brakewoman Gillian Cooke today returns to World Cup action, attempting to emulate her achievements of 2009 when she landed the world title with now-retired driver Nicola Minichiello.

After an attempt at becoming a driver, the 30-year-old from Edinburgh is back in her former seat in the Great Britain 1 sleigh for the start of the World Cup campaign, in Lake Placid, USA, behind driver Paula Walker.

"I started driving mainly because I wanted to see if I had an aptitude for it," Cooke said, with one eye on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. "The year I did it was the right time because I had a full Olympic cycle to improve at it. I did really enjoy it but, from a programme point of view, we needed to get results to secure funding towards Sochi. And the strongest team was Paula and myself. So they took me out, and with only two years left, I quickly realised I didn't have enough time to succeed at the Olympics. The decision was quite easy. It comes down to where my best chance lay of a medal."

Minichiello and Cooke left Vancouver two years ago without a medal. In Walker, she may have the perfect foil. The pair have spent months in the mountains of Canada, building on a trial last winter in which they came seventh in the world championships.

"It's hard to tell under these conditions because the ice varies," she said. "But our times at selection were quicker than last year."

Much of the credit, she hints, goes to Walker.

"They have different personalities," said Cooke, of the two drivers. "When I joined up with Nic, she was established. She'd won a world silver medal. She was at the peak of her career.

"Paula's making her way up the rankings. The year before she was 13th at the world championships, last year we were seventh.

"Nic just needed an extra start when I joined her to propel her to the medal zone. With Paula, we're building together to peak at Sochi."

Others will have similar intent. Cooke is a former long jumper, and many column inches have been generated by the selection of one of the USA's highest-profile Olym-pians, hurdler Lolo Jones, after a month-long trial.

"That's been really interesting," Cooke said. "The Americans have done well to recruit not only Lolo but Tianna Madison, the fourth-fastest sprinter in the world. It will be fun to see how they do; their times have been good. [But] we want to push into the medals because it sets up next year. You want results, and we believe we can get them."

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