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Shelley Rudman profile.

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Shelley Rudman claims silver.

At the turn of the millennium, the number of British people who were aware of the sport of Skeleton Bob was restricted to Alex Coomber, Alex Coomber's dad, and a handful of Eurosport addicts. The joys of watching Lycra-clad daredevils rattling head-first down an icy course, on a tray, at speeds that would get you banned on a motorway, had somehow been overlooked by the British sporting public. But when Alex Coomber took bronze in the event at the 2002 Salt Lake City games, the country all of a sudden had a bit of pedigree in the sport, and a bit of interest. It was from this moment that Shelley Rudman's phenomenal rise to glory at the 2006 Olympics can be traced. A decent club-level athlete, she had no background in winter sports and only took up the sport 4 years before the 2006 games, a combination of having watched Coomber take a medal, a winter sports holiday at the Norwegian resort of Lillehammer and a meeting with fellow Wiltshire resident Coomber at the opening of an all-weather skeleton track at Bath University, had persuaded her to get involved in the sport.

She progressed year on year from then on - a top 10 finish at the World Junior Championships in 2003 was followed with a Europa Cup victory the following year, and then 1st place at the World University Games in 2005.

A year later Rudman, now aged 24, was realistically looking at a top 10 finish at the 2006 Turin Olympics. In classic British winter-sports fashion, Rudman hadn't been given funding from the National Lottery scheme and had to raise a shed-load of money to make herself competitive at the games, in particular she needed to find an incredible œ4000 to pay for a professional sled. Her home town of Pewsey in Wiltshire came up trumps, and with the Shelley Rudman Supporters Group being set-up, they generated more than œ10000 - even hosting a special canoe race to help raise the cash.

All the effort looked like it had paid off as Rudman set the fastest time in practice on the 1435m long Cesana Pariol track. Even though it was just a practice run it catapulted her to the forefront of the success-starved British media who were covering the games. She didn't quite reach the same heights in the first actual race run, placing 4th, but this was still way ahead of the pre-games expectations. However, a fantastic second run saw her climb up to the silver medal position, just missing out on gold as Switzerland's Maya Pederson snatched the lead with the last run of the competition. It was Britains only medal at the games, and it owed a debt of thanks not just to Rudman's talent but also the people of Pewsey, the regulars in her local pub (the Moonrakers) and all her family and friends who gave her the support.

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