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North-East bobsleigh star handed surprise place in two-man event in Sochi
NORTH-EAST bobsleigher John Baines will double up at this month's Winter Olympics after being handed a late place in the two-man competition that starts on Sunday.
Baines, who was born in Middlesbrough and now lives in Topcliffe, near Thirsk, had already been selected as part of the GB2 squad in the four-man competition that gets under way next week.
However, an injury to former Olympic sprinter Craig Pickering created a vacancy in the two-man team, and Baines has been chosen to fill it.
The North-Easterner will compete with driver Lamin Deen, who also drives the GB2 four-man bob, in the four runs that constitute the two-man competition.
The duo raced together in the two-man event in this season's Americas Cup tour, achieving a number of top-ten results.
“Going to the Games has always been my dream, and now I'm finally here, I can say hard work and determination pays off,” said Baines, who took up bobsleigh when he joined the Green Howards after leaving school.
“Training and racing with Craig over the past year has been an honour, and when I race this weekend, I will do him proud.
“I have competed in the two man on World Cup before and achieved top-ten results, and feel confident for the weekend.”
Pickering was forced to pull out of both the two-man and four-man competitions when he suffered a slipped disc during a training run at the bobsleigh team's pre-Games training camp in Germany.
He had been working closely with Deen in preparation for the start of the two-man competition, but it is hoped Baines' experience of competing alongside the driver will enable the pair to be competitive from the outset when the bobsleigh programme begins at the weekend.
“John has been part of Lamin's crew through this season, achieving top-ten results in the Americas Cup with Lamin in the two-man event and also reaching the podium in the Americas Cup with GB2 in the four man,” said Team GB bobsleigh team leader Gary Anderson.
“John has considerable World Cup experience with GB1 in recent years, achieving a World Cup top-ten finish. I know that John can step up here and has been seeking this chance for some time. He now has the chance to show the world what he is capable of.”