The New Zealand Olympic Committee along with the New Zealand Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association has named skeleton athlete Rhys Thornbury to the New Zealand team for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
The 28 year old has been selected off the back of steady results on the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup circuit, recording five top ten finishes in 2017 and an 11th placing at the 2017 World Championships.
Thornbury has dual UK/New Zealand citizenship and is a member of the British Royal Air Force. He first tried skeleton in Austria in 2011, making it onto the World Cup circuit in 2015.
“What drew me to the sport was not knowing anything about it. I’d played rugby and softball as a kid in New Zealand and this was so different to anything I'd ever tried and I thought it looked so cool,” he said.
“I love the feeling when you’re on the start line before the race and all that adrenaline is going and you know you only have one chance to get it right. Also the feeling when you come across the finish line and know you’ve had a good run, that’s what I love about it.”
Above: Thornbury competing on the IBSF World Cup
Speeds on the international circuit get up to around 145kph but the track for the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games is slightly slower, meaning speeds will be around 120kph.
“The PyeongChang track is good, it’s got some really technical parts to it, so for someone like me who thrives on technical tracks where driving is really important, I quite like it.”
The RAF has an elite athlete scheme which allows serving personnel to focus on sport at an elite level. The scheme has allowed Thornbury to train full time for the last three years.
“It’s the reason why I’m here doing what I’m doing so I’m very grateful for that. It allows me to be the best I can be.”
Above: Rhys Thornbury
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the athlete.
“Rhys has worked hard to rise rapidly through the ranks of international skeleton. He is a dedicated athlete and is a great addition to the New Zealand team for PyeongChang 2018,” she said.
New Zealand Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association President Ross Dominikovich says Thornbury's character has helped him to the top level of the sport.
"Rhys’ greatest attribute is a quiet confidence, nothing is impossible to him and he takes his successes as well as he deals with failures."
"Training full time has reaped benefits for him athletically and he is in great shape to compete well in South Korea."
Thornbury will contest the final World Cup race of the season in Konigssee, Germany, this evening New Zealand time. He then heads to his base in Canada, before flying out to PyeongChang in early February.PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games