How Bishopston athlete Ed's aiming to get ahead in the skeleton

June 04 2013

A local athlete is dreaming of competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But with limited funding, Ed Smith, 27, is looking to Bristol businesses and the community for support.

A local athlete is dreaming of  competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But with limited funding, Ed Smith, 27, is looking to Bristol businesses and the community for support. Athlete Ed Smith
The talented sportsman started his journey in 2009, when he was chosen to become part of the winter sport skeleton – a fast sliding sport in which an individual person rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down
Ed said: “I attended a ‘Talent Identification Day’ run by UK SPORT at the University of Bath. A battery of tests were carried out and athletes were profiled for specific sports based on their physical attributes and test scores. One of the sports which scouts athletes through these programs is skeleton.”
With thousands of athletes tested through this scheme, an X-Factor-style testing process whittles down the groups until there are only a few remaining.
Ed said: “It was really nerve-wracking waiting to find out at each stage whether you had got through. Then I got the news – I had been picked. I was one of six athletes selected onto the British Skeleton World Class Performance programme, and have been competing ever since.”
An electrician by trade, Ed works as much as he can over the summer to fund his training and competition seasons. Ed has always lived in Bristol, and grew up in St Andrews, then moving to Bishopston; so gaining support and sponsorship locally means a lot to the budding Olympian.
James Ewin and Joel Alexander are Bristol-based graphic designers at Orca Design and are the brains behind Ed’s website. They are working on promotional projects for Ed to support his bid to compete. James said: “Orca have seen substantial interest off the back of helping Ed through his Olympic campaign and we’d like to see other local companies benefit in the same way.”
Any type of support would help says Ed, who added: “It can be incredibly tough to compete at the highest level in sport, and spending so much of my time away from family and friends is especially hard. There is no way I could have got this far without people’s support, it keeps me motivated and gives me that extra boost when I need it most. People would be amazed to know how much it means that everyone is backing you all the way, especially in your home town. Whether it be financial support or just a ‘good luck’ now and again, it all makes a big difference.”
Winter sports do not get as much time, attention and funding as some summer sports, which is just one of the reasons for Ed’s  fundraising.  Ed said: “If I’m to continue closing the gap between me and the best sliders in the world then I need to be training like them. Any funding I receive goes toward state-of-the-art equipment costs, training expenses, supplements; along with additional time on the ice that will enable me to perform at my best. Being able to train full-time is essential if I am going to get myself to Sochi in February.”
Ed also has a passion to get more people in the know about the winter sport. He said: “Sport can have such a massive impact on people’s lives, especially kids. It’s great to remind these young people how much they can achieve if they really want something. You can choose to be anything you want, and if you work hard enough at it, almost anything is possible. So many people get told ‘you won’t be able to do that’ or ‘you're dreaming, it's never going to happen’ but it’s a great feeling to prove those people wrong.
“Who would have thought it was possible for an electrician from Bristol to compete against the best in the world sliding on his face down an ice-track at 90mph?”
Ed said this is also an opportunity to get Bristol known to the Olympic world and added: “Every World Cup race throughout the season is televised, and with skeleton being Great Britain’s most successful winter sport, there is a huge amount of media interest in skeleton in the build-up to Sochi 2014. There are some amazing benefits available to businesses associating themselves with British athletes, especially after the success of London 2012.”
Ed is not looking just for financial support, but also moral support. He said: “Come and show your support on Twitter or Facebook. Tell your friends about skeleton and what I’m up to. If you’re a local business, get in touch and see how you can get involved and support me. Help me network with potential sponsors. Everyone can help in their own way.”
Find out more at Ed’s website www.head-first-ed.com, on Twitter @head_first_ed, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HeadFirstEd.