By NEIL RIDDELL
THE MAN who hopes to become Shetland’s first ever Olympic athlete made a short visit to the isles as he completed final preparations for the upcoming winter bobsleigh season this week.
Kenny Simm, 25, from Brae, was home from Sunday to Wednesday to see the finishing touches put to the transporter van for him and co-competitor Chris Woolley and met with sponsors, supporters and interested locals.
Simm, who is a full-time athlete with the Royal Marines and is now based in Edinburgh, only took up the sport competitively last winter but is already setting his sights on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He says the next games, to be held in a little over 15 months’ time, may come too early for him to be the driver for the UK’s two-man bobsleigh team but he is hopeful of being able to take part as a crewman before setting his sights on being the driver for the team in the Olympics in 2014, to be held in Sochi, Russia.
Preparations for the 2008-9 winter season began in earnest back in July and Simm has been working out for six days a week including strength work in the gym and sprint drills to get his leg speed up. He has also been going up and down to the English Institute of Sport in Bath every weekend to practice pushing on a straight downhill course.
“The hope this winter is to establish myself as a driver on the European circuit, to learn all the tracks and get in the top 15 of the world at each race,” he said.
Simm said he expected it would take up to six years for him to develop fully as a driver and that he would be looking to compete at Winter Olympics standard until he is in his mid-thirties.
He has been heartened by the level of local interest in his two-man bobsleigh this week, during which he and brakeman Woolley were stationed at Clickimin with all his equipment on Tuesday and made three presentations to pupils at Brae High School on Wednesday.
“The response has been very good,” he said. “They’ve been very interested, they’ve probably never seen a bobsleigh before, asking lots of questions and the kids have liked getting in the sledge for photos.”
The whistle-stop tour of his home islands also gave him the opportunity to meet with and say thanks to the team’s numerous local sponsors. Gordon Stronach of Stronachs Body Repairs was responsible for a fibreglass respray of the sled, while other local organisations lending their support to the team include Lerwick Port Authority, Shetland Catch, Visit Shetland and Star Rent-a-Car.
The Shetland Weight Training Club, which opened last month at new premises in Scalloway with an increased membership of around 70, paid tribute to the bobsleigh team. “[We] enjoyed having Kenny Simm and Chris Woolley training with us this week and wish them all the best for the season and will offer any support we can in the future,” a gym spokesman said.
Simm heads back to Bath University on Saturday before driving to Germany on Tuesday ahead of his first competitive action of the new season, at the British Championships in Cesana, Italy, on Friday 14th November. In what is sure to be a packed schedule, Europa Cup events in Austria and Germany come this side of Christmas, before more races in Germany, Switzerland and Italy in January.
You can follow Simm’s progress in The Shetland Times this winter and he also has a website at www.2manbob.com which will be updated regularly throughout the season and includes the tantalising quote: “you live more in a 55 second run in a bobsleigh than some people live in their whole lifetime”.