JACK Thomas makes no bones about his skeleton ambitions... the Bolton ace has his sights set on the Winter Olympics.
His career in the winter sport of bob skeleton took off in October when he won a selection race to decide who would represent Great Britain at the forthcoming Europa Cup.
The 23-year-old beat four other elite British racers in Lillehammer, Norway, to earn the right to compete for his country in the annual eight-race competition.
That means he is in the process of competing across Europe over two months in search of ranking points which could promote him to more prestigious events.
His profession of choice is hardly one for the faint-hearted, involving racing face-down solo on a small sled at great speed down a frozen track.
The Europa Cup is the third tier of international competition, behind the World Cup and the Inter-Continental Cup.
Qualifying for the Europa Cup, however, represents a huge step for the Westhoughton man who only took up the thrilling sport just over two years ago. His career has raced along this year which began with him training as part of the Great Britain talent squad in Norway, Germany, Austria and North America.
He moved to Bath for the summer when he trained on the only push track in the country ahead of a crucial 13-day training camp and competition camp in Norway in October with the five British hopefuls who were vying with each other for the chance to represent their country at the Europa Cup.
“My goal was to win the selection race and I got everything right and won,” said the former Westhoughton High School pupil and Horwich RMI Harriers junior sprinter who now competes at skeleton – sometimes referred to as bob skeleton – for a living.
“I had my first race in the Europa Cup in Germany at the end of November and then it was on to seven more races in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
“I have to do as well as I can to get as many points because it will decide my world ranking.
“That, along with how I go on in the selection race next year, will decide which circuit I will be racing on next season.”
Thomas has produced the goods after the first five races, leading the way for Britain in the competition.
“I did well in my first two in Germany, finishing 18th in both. In the next two in Austia I was what they call training champion and finished ninth in the first then had a big problem with the sled in the second and came way back in 21st.
“I made up for it in the fifth race in Germany where I was eighth which means I am currently the highest ranking Brit in the Europa Cup.”
And with Britain having three competitors in the World Cup and one in the Intercontinental Cup, the former Westhoughton High School pupil is, in effect, currently the fifth best in his sport in the country.
And while next month’s Winter Olympics have come too soon for him, he is focused firmly on going to the next one.
“Ever since I got into the sport it was always the 2018 Olympics that I was aiming for,” he said.
“The sport is doing really well in this country. Our women are one and two in the world and we have the number five ranked man in the world.
“I’m looking to get up there and I’d love to do it because I really enjoy the sport.
“It’s very thrilling and such a fast sport. At the top of the track your heart is really beating but then your concentration takes over.
“You need quite a fast 30m sprint and the rest is down to driving abilities.
“You lie on your front, head first and try to get the fastest line possible.
“A lot of people think you just lie there and do nothing for a minute or so, but that’s not how it is.
“There’s a lot of skill involved in trying to get the fastest line possible while you are racing.”