Ice Sports Championships

14 March 2016

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Royal Air Force slide to victory in the Ice Sports Championships

SAC Rhys Thornbury RAF number 1 and overall winner of the mens skeleton at the Ice Sports Championships.

Royal Air Force athletes have stormed through the annual Ice Sports Championships as they cement their position atop the military winter sports world.

An RAF skeleton athlete competing at the Ice Sports Championships.

Held in Winterberg, Germany, the past two days have seen athletes from across the RAF competing in three disciplines; luge, skeleton and bobsleigh. What draws so many to these high octane sports? Senior Aircraftsman Rhys Thornbury the RAF skeleton number 1 said, “it’s just the feeling you get [sliding], the exhilaration, the rush, all that combined is like nothing else you can do out there.”

SAC Chelsea Ainsley finishing the run that put her third overall in the womens skeleton despite this being the first time she has slid.

In the Luge the RAF men reigned supreme, Flight Lieutenant Gav Arnold came 1st with Corporal Danny Burke in 2nd and SAC Mark McQuitty in 3rd. The women managed 1st thanks to Cpl Amy Smith and 3rd went to Flt Lt Sarah Shekhdar.

Rhys showed the spectators why he’s the skeleton number 1, finishing 1st overall and helping the RAF men win the team event. His top speed on the day of 127 kilometres per hour couldn’t be touched, with his closest rival managing 123km/h. His closest competitor being the other RAF athlete on the skeleton podium, Rob Vickerman.

Ice Sports Championship.

When asked how he felt winning the individual event Rhys said, “It’s great, it’s really good to win but it’s also really good to come here with the team. Also winning the team event showed the progression of the other sliders in the RAF.”

For the women SAC Lou Webb was the fastest RAF slider in the skeleton. Losing out by a just over a second to Army athlete Hayley Larcombe. SAC Webb, who didn’t fare so well in last year’s tournament, spoke about her improvement on the track, “It’s a good feeling, it feels like all the work that I’ve put in has paid off.”

SAC Chelsea Ainsley, a novice slider who finished 3rd overall.

There was another story that played out on the ice, novice rider SAC Chelsea Ainsley from RAF Linton-on-Ouse slid for the first time this year and managed to finish third, narrowly missing out on being the RAF’s fastest competitor by five tenths of a second. When asked why others should try sliding Chelsea said “it’s the adrenaline and it’s such a team sport, everyone’s here to support you and there’s nothing that compares to this.”

An RAF mens bobsleigh duo finishing their final run at the Ice Sports Championships.

In the bobsleigh the RAF women again came out on top, with 1st going to Sergeant Michelle Coy and Flight Lieutenant Emma Garner, 2nd was Corporal Dominique Thistleton and Sgt Niamh Lashbrook and in 3rd place Sgt Natalie McLaughlin racing with Cpl Jade Clayton.

The RAF womens bobsleigh teams celebrating taking home 1st, 2nd and 3rd at the Ice Sports Champs.

The RAF men couldn’t quite match the womens 1, 2, 3 but they still managed a place on the podium, Cpl Ross Brown and SAC John Baines finishing in second place overall.

Ice Sports Championship.

In all it was an extremely successful competition for the RAF and it won’t be long until the competitors are back in the UK training for next year’s Ice Sports Championship.

Editor: Cpl Lee Matthews

Photographs: Cpl Lee Matthews

© MOD Crown Copyright 2016

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