Bobsleigh champ Cooke back to long jump for 2014

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FORMER bobsleigh world champion Gillian Cooke returns to her original discipline this afternoon when she competes in the long jump in the Premier Division club fixture at Meadowbank.

The 30-year-old from Edinburgh still regards herself as primarily a bobsleigh competitor, but also hopes to compete in next year’s Commonwealth Games, and would be delighted to jump a qualifying distance today.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve switched back to athletics – bobsleigh is still my main focus,” she said. “But I have twin goals this year: the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, then the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“I’m juggling the two at the moment and really enjoying it. The training is very, very similar for both. I turned to bobsleigh at the end of 2008 and have pretty much been sticking to that, with just a couple of long jumps.

“If I get a qualifying distance in for Glasgow this summer, that would take the pressure off next year, because it’s quite a tight time-frame next year, coming back from the Winter Olympics and starting long jump in March, knowing I need to qualify by June.

“To get two qualifying marks in during that time would be difficult. Not impossible but certainly difficult. So the idea this summer is to get the distance at least once, if only to take the pressure off.”

Cooke needs a leap of 6metres 10cm to qualify for the British trials for this summer’s world championships, and 6m 20cm for Glasgow 2014. “My personal best [6m 43cm] is beyond the qualifying mark, but that was a while ago,” she said. “I am confident that I can get it this summer. Saturday will give me a good idea of where I am, although I don’t necessarily expect to get it this weekend.”

Cooke had been due to compete against Jessica Ennis-Hill in the long jump, but the Olympic heptathlon champion withdrew on medical advice because of an Achilles strain. “It’s disappointing that Jess won’t be there,” said Cooke. “It would have been a great boost for the sport if people up here could have seen her compete. There will be a lot of disappointed people. I have competed against Jess many, many times over the years. We even went to countback to separate us on a couple of occasions. I think it was one each on the countbacks, so this weekend could have been a decider.”