Jana Pittman admits she’s had a reality check ahead of next month’s Sochi Games, Australia’s first female summer and winter Olympian forecasting down her result after a tough World Cup campaign in the two-woman bobsleigh.
Pittman and driver Astrid Radjenovic were confident that a spot well in the top 10 could be on the cards after some promising results the previous season, the publicly funded purchase of a new sled only adding to their self belief.
But as other countries with more pedigree on the ice sharpened their performances in a Games year, the Australian pair have been a bit off the pace, 12th-place their best result in six events this World Cup season.
“I think initially I had unrealistic expectations of what we could do this year,” Pittman said ahead of this weekend’s final World Cup event in Austria before the Games.
“I watched a kid eight years old pushing herself off a skeleton sled here in Austria a few days ago. These other big nations have been doing this sport for 15-20 years. The expertise that has gone into it far outweighs what we can do as an Australian team.”
But the two-time 400m hurdles world champion has no regrets about her move into winter sports and says a finish of between 10th and 12th in Sochi should be achievable for the pair who’ve only been competing together for 15 months.
“Come the Olympic Games, whatever result we get, we will have done absolutely everything,” she said.
“We raised the money, got the new sled and trained our butts off all year.”
Pittman concedes the focus will be a lot softer on her in Russia after she was consistently expected to win in athletics.
“Now it is about being a participant and being part of the Olympics and really enjoying the experience … the highlight for this year will actually be the fact that we made it in the first place rather than in the previous years going for medals,” she said.
Pittman, who says she’s become good friends with high-profile American track-to-ice convert Lolo Jones since both have been in the bobsleigh, indicated her new sport also provided a nicer working environment.
“There’s nothing like getting to the end of a 400 hurdles and vomiting your guts up whereas now we get to the bottom of the track and we do high fives and get out the smiles most of the time,” she said.
Pittman and Radjenovic will race a final World Cup in Austria on the weekend before heading into a training camp in Oberhof, Germany before the Games.