Tunbridge Wells' Weston follows Yarnold on gold rush trail
20th March 2019
Tunbridge Wells student hopes to emulate local hero in skeleton at Winter Olympics. By Joshua Walford
MATT WESTON is looking to follow in the footsteps of local Olympic legend Lizzy Yarnold and become the latest Briton to dominate the world skeleton stage.
Weston, 22, was born in Tunbridge Wells and attended Bennett Memorial Diocesan School.
He is currently training at Bath University ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
Bath is renowned for its state-of-the-art facilities which are geared towards bringing success to the British skeleton team.
Yarnold, from Sevenoaks, became the most successful British athlete at the Winter Olympics and the first to win back-to-back gold medals, in Sochi in 2014 and then Pyeongchang last year. Before her, Amy Williams had won gold in Vancouver in 2010.
Weston described what makes Bath such a hotbed for success in the sport: “It’s the only place in the country with a push track.
“It’s on rails so we can practice the start, which is primarily why we are based there. So it has got everything we need.”
He added: “We are also able to use something called a high-performance gym, which only athletes are allowed to use.
“This makes our training easy because we don’t have to wait for machines or weights. We’ve got everything there; we can train however hard we want. It’s quite a nice little bubble for us to train in so we don’t have anybody else interfering.”
His route into the sport was rather unusual. He took part in an application process for a variety of different sports, and was chosen for GB skeleton in the summer of 2017.
Weston explained: “I went through a talent ID process which is called ‘Discover your Power’, which happens after the Olympics. You can apply online and then you get sent a yes or no on whether you can turn up.
“Then there is a series of tests, I had some sprints, jumps and Wat [indoor training] bikes, so how much power you can put down on a bike.
“Your results from those tests get sent off to different sports. So they went to sprint cycling, sprint canoeing and skeleton – which was the one I got chosen for.”
Having previously represented Kent at rugby - he played for Sevenoaks - Weston had already obtained a multitude of physical attributes which helped him stand out during the programme.
It is not easy to finance being a winter Olympian because skeleton is a niche sport and it is difficult for the athletes to gain sponsorship.
Weston said: “It’s as though I’ve gone back to being 16 years old again, I’m asking my dad for a lot of money.”
He added: “People are having to work as well as doing skeleton, if you’re training for five or six hours a day and then going to work it’s not very beneficial for you to be ready for the next day.”
Being relatively new to the sport, Weston is yet to compete at Olympic level but is training hard to make the next squad.
He said: “They don’t actually decide who goes there until a couple of months before.
“I’m working as hard as I can at the moment just to get to Beijing basically. Obviously my goal is to get the gold medal – but realistically just to make it there would be amazing.”
Skeleton is a sport which requires bravery and courage, travelling down the track at speeds above 100kmph.
Luckily, Weston has gone through training rather unscathed, escaping up to this point with just a concussion.
He explained his first attempt: “It’s weird when I first went on the track, we only went down two thirds of it, then you build up to be able to run off the top because I’d never done it before.
“When I first did it, I only hit around 40kmph, and it was quite scary because your chin is so close to the ice.”
As well as determination, being part of the team involves a lot of commitment. The GB skeleton squad have a good ‘team spirit’ and drive each other on to be successful.
Weston says: “Seeing people who have achieved it and being surrounded by them is quite inspiring. If they can do it then I can do it, so you constantly push each other on like that.”
Yarnold is a big inspiration for all involved in British skeleton and for Weston it is no different: “Lizzy Yarnold is a double Olympic champion and I’d like to do the same one day.”