An Ayrshire athlete has secured a place to represent Great Britain in the Bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The GB1 team, which includes Royal Air Force Corporal Stuart Benson, took to the podium at the World Championships in December at Lake Placid, after achieving Britain’s first podium finish since 1998.
The quartet then claimed fourth overall but earned silver as the second highest-placed European team in Germany; the second historic result for the team in as many months. Britain’s last European four-man podium was in 1994, when they also won silver.
Stuart, originally from Troon, joined the Royal Air
Force at 20 years of age, in 2000. The Avionics Technician, now based at RAF Cosford, has always been a keen athlete and as a youngster trained in the 100 and 200m sprint category at his local club, Ayr Seaforth AC.
“Recognising the support for young athletes is what attracted me to the Royal Air Force and since winning the RAF Sportsman of the Year accolade in 2011, I haven’t looked back.” said Stuart.
During his time in the military, Stuart has trained and competed with the RAF Athletics Team for long jump and triple jump. After Scottish, Inter Services and RAF triple jump
titles, he moved into sprints.
Success continued where in 2010, at the Crystal Palace Diamond League, he was part of the fastest 4x100m Scottish relay team for 16 years and narrowly missed out on the qualifying time for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
The disappointment of missing out on Commonwealth Games selection led him to question his continuation of athletics.
Around the same time, he was encouraged to join the RAF Bobsleigh team under the leadership of Wing Commander Peter Clarke.
His efforts paid off and due to his combined athletic and military`background, Stuart was invited to train with Team GB in the summer of 2011. By the end of the summer Cpl Benson was added to the RAF’s Elite Athlete Training Program and made selection for the GB 1 four-man bobsleigh team, led by driver John Jackson.
For the past two seasons, Stuart has been part of the number one Great Britain four man team, along with John Jackson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon.
The team has been rapidly progressing up the World Rankings, despite him being new to the sport. Stuart and the team have a strong chance of winning at medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter
He has been granted special leave from the RAF to train full time in Bath with the team and is currently being supported by the MOD and UK Lottery funding to do so.
The Sochi Winter Olympics begin on 7 February in Russia. Team GB comprises of 56 athletes selected from the sports and disciplines of curling, figure skating, short track,
skiing and snowboarding, skeleton, bobsleigh and biathlon.