IT must have been the least predictable sporting victory of the year: Highland games heavyweight beats Commonwealth sprint champion. Yet when bobsleigh man Colin Bryce did precisely that this week, to claim his place in Great Britain's Winter Olympic team, it fulfilled a thwarted family destiny which was first nurtured nearly 40 years ago on a Perthshire farm.

The final competitor to secure his place in the 51-strong UK team for Salt Lake City, Bryce had to withstand a late challenge from a disappointed rival in a sudden-death trial to claim an Olympic blazer which once seemed destined to go to his father, former national hammer champion and record holder Laurie Bryce.

Everyone including Colin thought his chance had gone when his leg was mangled in a training accident last August. Bryce failed to get fully on board before the sledge reached an overhead bar 50 metres from the start. ''I leaned backwards, yachting style, bum an inch off the ground, but my foot slipped. My spikes dug in, and my foot was left facing the other way round.''

He suffered a comminuted fracture of the lower leg, the bone splintering along its length. ''A six-inch plate and nine steel pins were inserted,'' he said. ''I thought the Olympics were a write-off.''

He had already sold his London flat, and given up his newsroom job at Associated Press TV, to train full time. ''I thought I'd blown the gamble. It was October 15 before I got some pins removed and could begin rehab in earnest.'' Not surprisingly, he was well behind his rivals: sprinter Marcus Adam, long jumper Andy Lewis, and AAA shot putt medallist Scott Rider.

Even 10 days ago the former Glenalmond pupil was rated the most likely discard, but his frenzied rehabilitation was rewarded. Lewis sought the rerun when he was axed. The squad was summoned from Cortina to the Bath track where Bryce had shattered his leg, and ordered to race against the clock.

Rivals have refrigerated tracks costing upwards of (pounds) 25m. Britain has a (pounds) 300,000 start facility: ''a bit like sledging on oiled ball-bearings, with a bungee apparatus to stop you''.

Bryce broke the track record which had stood to Adam, a man fast enough to have won Commonwealth 200m gold in 1990, and have reached the Olympic final in Barcelona two years later, a feat beyond even the Olympic 100m champion, Linford Christie.

The four-man bob has a maximum weight of 630 kilos, the two-man 490k. The 6ft 2ins Bryce is 15 kilos heavier than Adam. ''Weights are added, just as with race horses. Marcus had a heavier sledge to push. That's why I was faster, but it's not unusual for the team to diet to make the weight. The squad is weighed in and out, before and after races, just a jockey has to weigh-in.''

Adam is also in the Salt Lake team, but Bryce has promoted himself from literal make-weight to No.1 candidate for brakeman of the two-man, and also for a place in the four. Final selection will be determined by trials on the Olympic track in Calgary.

Colin is scion of a famous sporting family. His uncle Hamish was captain of the Scotland B rugby squad, being kept from the national side by Lions prop Ian McLauchlan. Only when Mighty Mouse got injured was Hamish finally promoted to claim his one cap.

Father Laurie competed at three Commonwealth Games: 1966, '70, and '74, with a best placing of fourth in Edinburgh, in 1970. He broke his own record in the hammer, but missed the bronze by 15cms. He set seven Scottish bests in all, and was first to throw beyond 60 metres and 200 feet.

But for the assumption of English nationality by South African Howard Payne, who took Commonwealth gold in 1970, Laurie would have gone to the 1968 Olympics. It was an early version of the Zola Budd saga, but it tells much about the throws fraternity that the pair became great friends. ''I was brought up on the Chariots of Fire thing,'' explains Colin. ''The Olympics were always a dream. I'd love to have been a shot putter, but I'm just not big enough, but I feel now, by getting to the Games, that I've put the family record right.''

Laurie, now Dr Bryce, and his pal, shot-putter and highland games strong man Doug Edmunds, earned justified reputations as hell-raisers while Strathclyde students in the 1960s.

They once extricated their boxed in car by lifting the inconsiderate Mini which had blocked it. Turning it sideways, they placed the Mini in a narrow lane where it was inextricable.

Similar escapades, which involved drinking, old bangers being written off, a brawl over Bryce's aged Zephyr being borrowed to get to Aboyne Games after Edmunds' mother's Rover had ground to a halt in the middle of a Perthshire moor, testosterone-fueled feats with the fair sex, feature in Edmunds recent idiosyncratic autobiography: ''The World's Greatest Tosser''. That's cabers, incidentally. Dr Edmunds was world champion, and besides running the family business, and organising strong-man events, he helped nurture the highland games career of young Bryce. ''I spent summers in the dairy, shovelling tons of butter and driving milk floats.''

Colin is cast in the family mould: large, and larger than life. Born in Newcastle, he says: ''I spent two weeks there before going home to Perthshire, near Craigie. There's no question that I'm anything other than Scottish.''

He spent six years in the US, where his father worked. There he played grid, and made Pennsylvania state finals as a wrestler, a standard sufficient for him to feel he has a chance of selection for Scotland's Commonwealth Games team this year. ''I've been a finallist in freestyle and backhold championships, so it's not out of the question,'' he says.

He is a highland games circuit regular, and winnings helped fund his Olympic campaign, but he is: ''(pounds) 5000 or (pounds) 6000 out of pocket, not including the cost of having given up my job.''

A drawback of late selection is that tickets for the men's bob finals are sold out. The clan lexicon does not embrace ''can't''. No Bryce will be frozen out.

colin bryce factfile

l TV producer, aged 27

l Glasgow University graduate in physiology and sports science

l Won Scottish schools hammer title, and medalled twice. Brother Alastair won three shot putt titles

l British Universities'

power-lifting champion

l Second in amateur World Highland Games Championships at Cowal. Won kilted heavies' 60m in Edinburgh last year

l Played rugby for GHK