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Ice queen Olympian keeps cool after breakneck crash

PUBLISHED: 10:30 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 10:33 12 August 2010

SUPPORTERS of the British bobsleigh team have tipped them for Olympic glory despite crashing at 70 miles per hour on a notorious track which has already killed a competitor.

SUPPORTERS of the British bobsleigh team have tipped them for Olympic glory despite crashing at 70 miles per hour on a notorious track which has already killed a competitor.

Kent-based Kelly Thomas, 29, and Paula Walker, 23, from Leicester, dramatically flipped over while training at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver on Monday.

They plummeted down the Whistler Sliding Centre track which has seen three accidents since the Games began.

Georgian luger rider Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, died when he came off the same track and crashed into metal pillars just before the opening ceremony on February 12.

But Miss Thomas, who regularly competed against Blackheath and Bromley Harriers as a sprinter for Dartford Harriers before switching sports, is tipped as a medal contender.

Pat Halstead used to teach Miss Thomas at Old Bexley CofE Primary School in Hurst Road, Bexley.

She said: "She was always very sporty. Even when she was very young, she was doing loads of different sports.

"It's debatable whether the track is so dangerous, as bobsleighing is a dangerous sport generally. But if you love it, like she does, you just have to go for it."

Now retired, Mrs Halstead added: "I specialise in PE and I have always wanted someone from my class to take part in the Olympics. To think she's there now, having started in my class, is very special."

Headteacher Peter Wilson said the school was "extremely proud" and wished her every success.

Olympic officials made changes near the track's 13th turn following the death and subsequent crashes.

The duo's sled turned upside down halfway down the course and slid all the way to the finish line, but the pair climbed out and walked away unharmed.

They went on to finish 20th quickest on their next run and were set to compete in their heats as the Times went to press.

Brits John Jackson and Dan Money also crashed out in the heats of the men's competition, but escaped with minor injuries.

On an internet blog, teamwalker.co.uk, Miss Walker praised her brave team-mate.

She wrote: "Everything was going sweet until I came off corner nine a little hard and rolled into corner 10... CRASH!

"Me and Kelly travelled on our heads all the way down and through the finish. After a couple of minutes of trying to get out we got rushed off to the doctors.

"Kelly was ready as ever, and more importantly as keen as ever, you wouldn't of known she'd just been on her head at 70 odd miles an hour not 20 minutes prior... GO KELLY!"

Describing their heat races, she said it will be "the biggest day of our lives" as she thanked her fans.

Her first time at the Olympics, Kelly Thomas was awarded a £2,000 grant by Dartford council to fund her training.

Former colleague Natalie Sutton, 35, who worked with her at the Best Audio Company in Crossways, said: "I definitely worry - of course it all goes through your head, what might happen, but she can't stop doing it because of that.

"We would all love her to get to gold. She can do it!

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