We are proud to announce this week’s #influencer partner, GB Bobsleigh Athlete, Vicky Williamson, who in her own words says “I used to push pedals. Now I push sleds”
You may remember Vicky as an elite track cyclist who after an incredibly serious accident in 2016 took time out from the sporting world to recuperate and rehabilitate. She returned to the GB cycling team in January 2019, taking part in the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, qualifying for the Track World Championships and then announcing in December 2019 the switch of sports, competing as an elite bobsledder all set for Toyko 2020.
Vicky is coming onboard with us at Sportside as one of our key partners in the How to Stay Active in Self-Isolation series and beyond. We going to be sharing her incredibly inspiring content across our channels.
At Sportside we all agree the story of Vicky is powerful, one of extraordinary determination, resilience and showing the true power of body and mind. The changing of sport (in our opinion the latter more dangerous than the first) will inspire a lot of people, young and old, a mindset challenge many can get behind.
Check out this EXCLUSIVE interview with Vicky below:
First off – welcome to Sportside! We’re all absolutely thrilled to be working with you! How are you coping with the current situation in the UK?
Thanks for having me on board, excited to get the ball rolling with you all! The current climate is a very difficult time for varying reasons for people across the world – I’m really focussing on trying to create a routine and remain positive! Overcoming adversity is something I’m pretty familiar with.
I noticed that you’ve been putting your TikTok account to good use…
Yes, I love it haha! Luckily, I’m isolating with 2 of my very good friends so we’ve been filling up some spare time with Tik Tok. All I can say is the dances are A LOT harder than they look – it’s a good hour and a half of rehearsals for a 15 second video (Maybe not that long if you’re better at dancing than I am!).
It goes without saying that you’re an active individual – and we’ll come onto that soon – but have you managed to keep a training schedule of some sorts going?
Luckily I’ve had a few gym bits to use at home actually – a bar, 20kg plates and a kettlebell. For me I do usually lift heavier weights, but I can’t complain as there is a lot of athletes out there who don’t have any equipment! For my running sessions I’ve managed to do those on an open cricket field which hasn’t been too bad – I’ve generally managed to keep up with training pretty well!
You’re clearly a determined individual and we suspected that you wouldn’t let Covid-19 disrupt your plans too much! If you don’t mind, we’d like to go back to your cycling days first – what attracted you to the sport in the first place?
I first became interested in cycling when I watched GB’s success at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 – Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy massively inspired me. I was doing athletics at the time, but I was keen to try and have a crack at it, especially as I kept getting injured doing athletics.
Before we get into your cycling highlights, is the velodrome track as steep as it looks on TV?!
Whenever I’ve showed people around the velodrome in ‘real life’they actually think its steeper in real life than on the TV! I think it can seem relatively flat when shown on TV, but once you stand at the top fence/barrier in the middle of a bend and look down you will quickly realise it’s pretty much a vertical drop!!
You had a distinguished cycling career and were a member of Team GB’s cycling team. Are there any highlights that really stick in your memory?
I would say my World Champs Medal back in 2013. It was my Senior World Champs debut and I was so overwhelmed to come away with a medal. Following on from this the next season of the 2013/2014 World Cups series we won the World Cup Leaders Jersey! Finally, a moment that sticks in my memory which isn’t a podium was when I did my first standing start after my accident – a very emotional moment.
You specialised in sprint disciplines and won a bronze in the 2013 World Championships in Minsk alongside your teammate Becky James. Would you say that being able to share that moment with a teammate made it even more special?
Yes definitely! I’m very much a team player and thrive in a great environment. We worked really well as a team, and it helped that we got on off the track as well. Good times!
Then there was the crash in 2016. Now, I think I speak for all of our readers when I say that to see you come back stronger after it is beyond inspirational but are you able to put into words what that period between 2016 & your return to competition in 2019 was like?
Emotional and challenging yet I wouldn’t change anything for the world. It was a long and tough journey, but it’s made me the athlete who I am today. I’ve become more resilient and more determined with my goals, and although I have days when I do feel down, I remind myself of how lucky I am to still be able to walk again (let alone train fulltime!). I really am blessed.
It takes a lot of guts and determination to come back from an injury like that, and I’m sure your friends, family and teammates were a great source of support. Was there a moment throughout that period when you really thought to yourself – “I’m going to do this; I’m going to get back on that track if it’s the last thing I do.”
That was definitely my mindset from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong I did have a lot of moments along the way where I didn’t think it was going to be possible – but I wasn’t going to leave any stone unturned in my pursuit to return to the track. I would say the real turning point was in November 2017 when I had to have another operation to remove my screws which knocked my rehab back 6-10 weeks. I had a target I had to hit by the end of January, and I literally thought I’m going to do this if it’s the last thing I do!!
What does that road to recovery look like? I imagine it’s a case of lot of small steps in the right direction and it must be easy to become disheartened – what do you use for inspiration at those times?
Always small goals!! Day by day, week by week, month by month – taking the small wins was always a good tactic. I did become disheartened at times, but I was surrounded by such a great team who really helped me pull through. My inspiration was the thought crossing the finish line on the velodrome again!
Now you made a return to cycling and actually qualified for the 2019 Track World Championships, and then the announcement came that you were changing to bobsleigh… At what point did you know that you wanted to switch,and was there a catalyst moment for doing so?
The catalyst was around August/September time when I realised that given the time frame Tokyo 2020 wasn’t going to be possible. Not only was I tight on time, I was also having many issues with my back and after 4 spinal injections in September and a poor performance at the Poland GP it was time for a change.
I then saw on Twitter that GB Bobsleigh were looking for powerful women and had started a talent ID programme back in July. They only had 2 sessions left before the final selection was made – so I headed down to Bath and somehow pushed a pretty good time and that’s where it all began.
For most of our readers, I think the notion of speeding down an icy track at over 80mph would be enough to scare them off but not you! To the average viewer, it would seem that there are no transferable skills from cycling to bobsleigh. What was it that attracted you to bobsleighing?
Bobsleigh is a power sport, so in that sense it is similar to cycling. However you are right they are pretty different – cycling is non weight bearing sport, whereas Bobsleigh is sprinting so is high impact. Despite the difference, the main building blocks of strength, power and speed are still vital. Bobsleigh is fast and furious and a massive adrenaline rush – everything I live for ☺
And what was that first experience of the ice track like? I imagine it was a little bit different from the practice runs…?
My first full run or ‘slide’ down the track was pretty terrifying to be honest!! It’s all a bit of a blur! I remember getting out at the bottom and being very flustered and struggling to breathe (not even being dramatic!). I think the G force and pressure was unlike anything I had felt before and for some reason I held my breath for quite a lot of the run.. not ideal! Now I’ve learnt to relax and breathe around the tracks it’s a great adrenaline rush.
What’s the next goal? The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing must seem far away at the minute but in sporting years, they’re only around the corner…
Beijing is just under 2 years away which like you say seems like a while, but in sporting years it’s going to come around super quick! We’ve got 2 more seasons until the games so it’s definitely in the back of my mind. For now, it’s a case of improving every day and insuring we perform at the Europa & World Cups.
Vicky, it’s been brilliant chatting to you. I speak for everyone at Sportside when I say that you are an absolute inspiration and we look forward to working with you and watching your bobsleigh career go from strength to strength!
Thanks guys, excited to be on board with you all & creating a great partnership ☺