Whirlwind year keeps Georgie Cohen on track for the Beijing Winter Olympics
From the heat of the summer in the Middle East to the depths of winter in Utah, it has been quite a year for Georgie Cohen.
Having become Israel’s first female skeleton slider to compete at the BMW IBSF Bobsleigh & Skeleton World Championships in 2019, the 30-year-old made the decision approaching a year ago to leave her job at the Judge Business School to dedicate her attention to the sport.
With support from the National Olympic Committee and the Athena Women in Sports body, training at Wingate, their Olympic Sports Complex in Tel Aviv, it set Cohen up for a winter on the slopes.
“It was a really big boost in the approach to being able to dedicate properly to being an athlete,” she says.
“The goal of this season was development and to learn new tracks which I had never been on before – and goal achieved.”
Having got the testing, preparing and strength and conditioning work under the belt, the aim was the North America Cup – taking in the tracks of Lake Placid in New York State and Park City in Utah, near Salt Lake City and the base of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
“Both of them were very different tracks to each other,” says the former Bassingbourn Village College and Hills Road Sixth Form College student.
“Lake Placid, people nickname it the washing machine. There is not another track like it, in my opinion, because it’s very technical which suits my sliding style, but you need time and runs to learn the track inside out – it can bite if you get it wrong, that’s for sure.
“It’s the home track for the USA team.
“In Park City, I had a couple of weeks there and it’s a lot shorter track but higher G-Force pressures. I think it’s quite a short and fun track so you get to a very high speed very quickly.
“I think my top speed was about 127kmph.”
With a strategic campaign ahead for 2020/21 – all being well, in the current climate – with the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 the ultimate ambition, staying on the learning curve was the focus when back in Europe.
Cohen headed to St Moritz in Switzerland, the home of sliding sports and the only handmade track in the world, where she hit speeds of 131kmph.
And more progress was made in Germany, at Königssee, with an improvement of three seconds from the last time she raced there.
“This development phase is really important for the next part,” she says.
“It’s easy to focus on racing and results but going away and doing the development part is highly important for athletes to go back and do better.
“My start is improving, and it’s not a linear process.
“Focusing on my push, getting stronger and faster at the start, and also improving my sliding, ability and knowledge.
“Going to learn a track, as they are all so technical and different, there is a lot of work that goes into that.
“You can spend weeks and you’ve still got work to do. It’s about preparing so that when you go back, you’re ready.
“It’s so when you go back, you know everything – you have your personal handbook already made for that track.
“You know how you’re going to set your sled up, you know how many steps you’re going to take from the start line, it’s meticulous.”
A key part in all of that is getting the right dry-land work.
It is why last summer in Tel Aviv was so beneficial, and this summer the plan had been to go to a push-track in either Latvia or Germany.
That remains on the agenda but, like in so many walks of life, will be dependent on the current situation.
“In summer there aren’t any tracks open because they are all in the northern hemisphere so everything goes into your sprint at the top so your technical,” says Cohen, who is working part-time for the Judge Business School.
“Working in the gym and sprint is really important, but I do need to be able to access facilities this season to be able to go and use the push track.
“They have different ones in various locations across Europe. The goal was for this summer to go and do training camps at these tracks.
“It’s only the start, and it’s like an ice rink, basically.
“They cut the groove and you literally just practise running and jumping on your sled, and that is a really important part of your run.
“It’s something so far that I haven’t really had access to.
“My training is looking different to planned at the moment, but as soon as the ability to go out and do it is there, then I will be on that push track.”
Cohen has had a remote coaching plan devised by Ben Simons, of GB Bobsleigh, and it has had to take into consideration the tools at her disposal.
“We haven’t got the gym bar and weights which would be ideal but, at the moment, we don’t live in an ideal world,” she explains.
“We will do a deadlift, isometric hold with a towel, so you’re still engaging the same muscles, it’s just a different way of doing things.
“But hill sprints are quite hard to find in Cambridgeshire!”
The year may now look slightly different but Cohen still hopes to be on the ice at the beginning of October, ready for the scheduled start of competition in November.
But the aim remains earning one of the 25 women’s spots at the Olympics in two years.