Rapidly improving racer Jack Whelbourne, of Hucknall, has set the new short-track speed-skating season alight.
His girlfriend Elise Christie might be the more high-profile skater of the pair, who moved into a house in Hucknall together last Christmas.
But 23-year-old Jack, pictured, has hit the headlines at the first two tournaments of the ISU (International Skating Union) World Cup. At Salt Lake City in the USA, he broke the British record for the 1,000 metres, finishing fourth in the A final. And a week later, he became one of the first British skaters this season to bag a medal, as part of the men’s relay team who finished third in the 5,000m final.
In a fiercely competitive race, only three-tenths of a second separated the top three teams, with Korea taking gold and Hungary silver. Jack’s teammates for the bronze, which is his first major medal at senior level, were Jon Eley, Paul Stanley, Richard Shoebridge and Billy Simms. National coach Nicky Gooch said: “The team performed really well, right from the first heats. We knocked out the Olympic champions from Russia in the first round and then beat the reigning world champions in the final. We also set a new Britush record, which is a great achievement.”
Also racing in the individual 500m at Montreal, Nottingham-born Jack had to settle for reaching the quarter-finals and a World Cup classification of 25th.
But he is still buzzing from a display at Salt Lake City that left him as high as 11th in the classifications for the 1,000m, with four more tournaments to go.
“Breaking the British record and getting a top-four finish was a good motivational boost,” said Jack. “I’ll now be working to bridge the gap with the rest of the world and to improve my performances in the competitions that lie ahead.”
Up to now, Jack’s best distance has been considered to be 1,500m. Indeed, at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia earlier this year, he became the first Briton to reach the final of that event -- only to collide with a dislodged rubber bollard and fall.
After Salt Lake City and Montreal, his current World Cup classification in the 1,500m is 18th.
Meanwhile Elise (24) continued a quietly effective comeback from her much-documented catalogue of disappointments and bad luck at Sochi where she suffered disqualifications in all three of her events.
After two top-five places in the USA, she won the B finals in both the 500m and 1,000m, recovering well from a fall in the 1,000m semi-finals.
Commented Gooch: “Elise was a little unfortunate, but she picked herself up and still performed well.”
Her current World Cup classifications are 11th for the 500m, fourth for the 1,000m and eighth for the 1,500m.
Elise and Jack now take a break for a couple of weeks before heading out to Shanghai, China for the next World Cup round on Saturday 13th December.
Subsequent rounds are in Seoul, Korea, Dresden, Germany and Izmir, Turkey.