Road to Russia: North-Easterner warms up for Sochi with European silver medal

The Northern Echo: EUROPEAN MEDAL: John Jackson piloted Great Britain's four-man bobsleigh to a silver medal at last weekend's European Championships EUROPEAN MEDAL: John Jackson piloted Great Britain's four-man bobsleigh to a silver medal at last weekend's European Championships

JOHN JACKSON underlined his status as a potential Olympic medallist as he piloted Great Britain's leading four-man bobsleigh to a silver medal at the European Championships in Koenigssee.

Jackson, who was born in Bishop Auckland and raised in Barnard Castle, will pilot GB1 in Sochi, and last weekend's European success has boosted hopes of a first British bobsleigh medal since 1998.

In a race that also doubled up as the final pre-Olympic World Cup event, Jackson piloted a GB1 crew containing Joel Fearon, Stuart Benson and Bruce Tasker to fourth overall, but they were awarded a silver medal as the second-highest placed European team in a field that contained crews from all over the world.

Britain's last European four-man medal came in 1994, when they also won silver, and GB1's combined time of 1:38.85 was only beaten by the United States, Switzerland and Canada.

“It's a great result to send us to Sochi,” said GB Bobsleigh perfomance director, Gary Anderson. “There is still much more to come from this crew. We made subtle changes in technology that we will look at and analyse ahead of the Games.”

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THE future of British biathlon has been secured after a £250,000 sponsorship injection from Birmingham-based healthcare supplier Aspen Healthcare Solutions.

Britain's two biathletes competing at next month's Winter Olympics – Stockton's Lee Jackson and South Shields' Amanda Lightfoot – both hail from the North-East.

However, with the Army withdrawing the funding that had supported the sport for most of the last decade, it had looked as though the pair would have to return to their military duties at the end of the Olympics.

A frantic fund-raising drive has proved successful though, with new sponsor Aspen Healthcare Solutions pledging to provide the funding required to maintain biathlon's current elite programmes for the next four years.

As a result, both Jackson and Lightfoot can look forward to continuing with their training after Sochi, and can potentially target another Olympic appearance in Pyeongchang in 2018.

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