Article by Julian Linden courtesy of News Corp.
Move over Steven Bradbury, another Aussie battler has just delivered a miracle on ice.
Defying incredible odds, Jackie Narracott has won silver at Beijing in one of the fastest and most dangerous sports at the Winter Olympics.
The Queenslander finished second in the women’s skeleton with a performance that was as brilliant as it was unexpected in the terrifying head-first sledding sport.
Leading the field by just 0.21 seconds after Friday’s first two rounds, the 31-year-old from Brisbane somehow managed to keep her cool under the suffocating pressure of the Olympics to get on the medal podium.
“It’s still so surreal,” Narracott said.
“I just stayed in the moment, being calm and having fun. Everything just clicked.
“That’s the most relaxed I’ve felt on the sled, probably my whole career.
“I had nothing to lose. I knew that if I was just relaxed, and feel what I’ve been doing for the last three months, it would be OK.
“It was absolute elation. A little bit of disbelief.
“Words can’t describe it. We’ve never won a sliding sport medal, so for me to be it… Creating your dream twice in two races, it doesn’t get any better.
“The medal is a childhood dream come true, and then from a sliding point of view to be the first, we had some pretty good girls ahead of me which, without them, I wouldn’t be here. To be the first is pretty cool.
“It makes all the tears and all the questioning and all the hard work away from family absolutely worth it.
“I’m hoping it might get some more girls back into skeleton. We used to have a programme, so to have some more back in and for it not to end with me would be absolutely unreal.”
With all four times added together, Narracott slayed the twisting icy course nicknamed “The Dragon” to set a new track record in her third run.
But Germany’s Hannah Neise went even faster, by a blink of an eye, and extended her advantage in the last run to clinch the gold by just 0.62 from Narracott.
Narracott’s amazing triumph lifted Australia’s medal tally in China to four — setting a new record for Australia at any Winter Olympics after Jakara Anthony (gold), Scotty James (silver) and Tess Coady (bronze) all won medals earlier in the week.
Of all the medals won by Aussies in Beijing, Narracott’s silver was by far the most unexpected but that only made it sweeter.
“It’s a remarkable sporting achievement,” the Australian team chef de mission Geoff Lipshut said.
“It’s about an individual’s incredible journey of belief in what they’re doing and turning into the most fabulous outcome.”
The first Australian to win an Olympic medal in a sliding sport, Narracott’s achievement is up there with Bradbury’s fairytale win in short track speed skating at Salt Lake City two decades ago.
Like Bradbury, Narracott was forced to relocate overseas to chase her Olympic dream because there’s not a single bobsleigh, luge or skeleton track anywhere in Australia.
Like a lot of Aussies competing in sliding sports, Narrracott fell into skeleton almost by accident after starting out as a sprinter, inspired by her uncle Paul Narracott, who ran for Australia at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, racing against Carl Lewis.
She wasn’t quite fast enough to make it as a runner but her famous uncle had shown her another way to make the Olympics on a very different track after he represented Australia in bobsleigh at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics.
“I’m thrilled. Absolutely thrilled for Roger and Cheryl. Obviously for Jaclyn, wasn’t she fantastic?” uncle Paul said.
“It’s difficult to put into words just what she’s been able to achieve. It’s just so fabulous.
“So good on her and absolutely brilliant combination that she’s got going with her husband, Dom. I think that is what’s turned the corner. I mean, four weeks ago, prior to St Moritz, everyone was thinking, top 10 that will be fantastic and all of a sudden she wins St Moritz, confidence through the roof, and just anything’s possible and look what she’s done.
“So good on you, Jaclyn, deserved every single accolade that is coming your way. So well done.”
Narracott hits the icy slopes of the track known as “The Dragon”.
Narracott decided to give bobsleigh a go but found herself drawn to the thrill and risk of skeleton so took up the solo event in 2012, initially moving to North America to train then Britain, where she now lives with her husband Dom Parsons.
He won a bronze for Britain at the last Olympics in South Korea, where Narracott also made her Olympic debut, but success has been slow in coming for the Aussie.
She finished 15th in PyeongChang and until last month, she had never placed higher than seventh in any World Cup meet.
Then suddenly, after years battling away in the middle of the pack, everything clicked into place at the perfect time.
She won last month’s prestigious World Cup race in St Moritz, the spiritual home of skeleton, breaking the track record to emerge as a bolter for Beijing.
Reinvigorated by her breakthrough wins, Narracott came to China believing anything was possible but was still regarded as a long shot for a medal.
“It’s remarkable, it’s just incredible,” Lipshut said.