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Cosford airman aiming for gold in bobsleigh

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An airman based at RAF Cosford is set to represent Great Britain at this year's winter Olympics.

Corporal Stuart Benson and his team push off for a run in their four-man bob

Corporal Stuart Benson will be part of Team GB's four-man bobsleigh crew at this year's event in Sochi, Russia.

The GBOne team, which includes the 32-year-old airman, goes into the competition on a high after achieving Britain's first world championship podium finish since 1998 in Lake Placid, USA, in December.

The quartet then claimed fourth overall but earned a silver medal as the second highest-placed European team.

Britain's last European podium was in 1994, when they also won silver.

Stuart, who originates from Troon on the west coast of Scotland, joined the Royal Air Force at just 20, in 2000.

He is an avionics technician at RAF Cosford and said he had always been a keen athlete.

As a youngster, he trained as a 100m and 200m sprinter at his local athletics club, Ayr Seaforth AC.

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He said: "Recognising the support for young athletes is what attracted me to the Royal Air Force and since winning the RAF Sportsman of the Year accolade in 2011, I haven't looked back."

During his time in the military, Mr Benson has trained and competed with the RAF athletics team for long jump and triple jump.

After winning Scottish, Inter Services and RAF triple jump titles, he moved into sprints.

Success continued where in 2010, at the Crystal Palace Diamond League he was part of the fastest 4x100m Scottish relay team for 16 years and narrowly missed out on the qualifying time for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.

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He said the disappointment of missing out on Commonwealth Games selection led him to question his involvement in athletics.

But, at the same time, he was encouraged to join the RAF bobsleigh team under the leadership of Wing Commander Peter Clarke.

His efforts paid off and Stuart was invited to train with Team GB in the summer of 2011.

By the end of the summer he was added to the RAF's Elite Athlete Training Program and was selected for the GB One four-man bobsleigh team, led by driver John Jackson and also featuring fellow serviceman SAC John Bains from RAF Leeming.

For the past two seasons, Stuart has been part of the Great Britain four man team which has rapidly progressing up the world rankings.

Stuart has been granted special leave from the RAF to train full time in Bath with the team and is being supported by the MOD and UK Lottery funding to do so.

The Sochi Winter Olympics begin on Friday in Russia.

Team GB comprises of 56 athletes who are selected from the sports and disciplines of curling, figure skating, short track, skiing and snowboarding, skeleton, bobsleigh and biathlon.

Bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held at the Sliding Center Sanki near Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

The three events are scheduled for February 16 to 23.

The sport will feature 169 athletes from 23 nations participating across the men's and women's two-man and four-man races.

Bobsleigh teams include a brakeman and a pilot in the two-man event, while two crewmen/pushers are added for the four-man race. From a standing start, the crew pushes the sled in up to 50 metres.

This distance is typically covered in less than six seconds and speeds of over 40 km/h are reached before the crew loads into the sled.

The four riders then jump into the sled and compete in time-trial style against opposition riders.

The bobsleigh competition takes two days, with two runs staged on each day. The four runs are timed to 0.01 seconds, and the fastest total time determines the winner.

If two teams complete the competition in a tie, they are awarded the same place.

The first four-man bobsleigh race took place at the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924, and a two-man event was added four years later.

These games were actually part of the Paris1924 Summer Olympics, but have been retrospectively re-named.

The sports governing body the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing was founded in 1923.

Bobsleigh was not included in the 1960 Winter Olympics, but has been in every Winter Olympics since. Women's bobsleigh competition began in the US in 1983 with two demonstration races in Lake Placid, New York

The first true Winter Olympics held on their own and not in conjunction with a Summer Olympics, were at St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1928.

At this year's event the host nation will be throwing their support behind Alexander Zubkov as he aims to lead the Russian four-man team to success at the Sanki Sliding Centre. Strong competition for Team GB will also come from USA, who took gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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