Jack Whelbourne, team member of GB Short Track Speed Skating for over 10 years, has announced he will retire from the sport. A skater since the age of six, Jack first represented the GB Junior squad at the age of 14 and has made a significant impact and contribution on both the junior and senior stage.
Jack, originally from Nottingham, competed in his first winter Olympic games in Vancouver in 2010 when he was 18 and after that became the Junior World 1000m champion, in 2011.
He has contributed to the team significantly; notably he was part of the world record breaking relay squad that set a new world best time of 6.37.877 in 2011 in the 5000m, a record now held by Canada. In 2014, Jack was the first ever British skater to reach the 1500m final at the winter Olympics (in Sochi).
“The highlight of my career has to be being part of the world record breaking relay team, I was part of a team who were David to the Goliath's of the likes of Korea, China and Canada. My teammates, Jon Eley, Paul Stanley and Richard Shoebridge were a massive inspiration to me, and they, and the other guys in the squad at the time were vital for training sessions back at home and set the standard for me to beat.
Jack has suffered injury over the past few years most recently a slipped disc in 2015 which kept him out for almost four months, before being hit with a severe leg bruising soon after his return. Despite this, he recovered to finish ninth overall in the 2015/2016 year ending World Championships in South Korea this March.
“Being a full time athlete has taken its toll on my body, I’ve always been able to bounce back, but I’ve been competing and training at a high level for a long time now, and I feel it’s the right time for me to step away.
Some significant and much needed changes are happening for the team now which will eventually develop more depth, but we have been lacking numbers in recent years which has often meant a limited standard for training.
What’s happening for the sport now is great and things are looking really positive for the future of GB Short Track especially with the Need4Speed recruitment drive, and I wouldn’t rule out coaching one day. If I do, I’d love to start with club participants and see them progress to performance level.”
Retirement is a decision Jack hasn’t taken lightly, at 24 years old and just over a year away from the next Olympics it has been carefully considered.
“I will never fall out of love with Short Track, it’s unpredictable, fast and unique. I’ve been lucky to be able to do something I enjoy for so long. I have given it my all and am proud to have achieved so much as a junior and senior".
"I have been supported by Lottery funding, and without that I wouldn’t have been able to do it full time. I want to thank everyone who has been involved in my Short Track career, from Mandy Worth my club coach, through to Nicky Gooch, Mike Rotherham and Stuart Horsepool who all had a big influence on my performance development, and my teammates and family.
My sister Alex was a big influence in me pursuing Short Track, I saw her doing well on the world stage in Speed Skating and I wanted to do the same. Then when I watched the Turin Olympics and saw Jon Eley competing, I worked hard to get my chance too. To be able to represent Great Britain at two Olympic games has been an absolute privilege.”
Jack is looking ahead to concentrating on developing a business away from sport, and making the adjustment from being a full time athlete to a more regular lifestyle.
"I’ll keep supporting the Short Track team all the way, and I’ll be back playing rugby again, but for now, for enjoyment, and who knows after that. I was always good as a junior on the wing and outside centre. I am creative and want to put my focus into that skill set now”.
Stewart Laing, GB Short Track Speed Skating Performance Director said:
“It has been a big decision for Jack to retire at this point in his career. Over last few years Jack has suffered with injury and illness, which has been a limiting factor in completing the volume and intensity of training to compete at the highest level. Jack has been instrumental in the development of the GB Short Track World Class Programme though his performances, passion for the sport and creative thinking - always looking for different solutions to a challenge. Jack has had a number of notable successes throughout his career and competing at two Winter Olympic Games is no mean feat. Setting a World Record as part of the men’s relay team and being the first British Junior World Champion (1000m) back 2011 will always be memorable moments of Jack in the sport. With Jack’s creativity I hope to see him working with our grassroots athletes inspiring future generations to take up the sport”
Joanna Eley - Head Academy Coach and Jack Whelbourne’s first GB Coach added,
“Jack was an ambitious young kid, who brought a lot of energy to the programme. Jack was prepared to push himself and explore new territories which saw him rise quickly to be our first ever Junior World Champion and youngest Olympian. Jack was a real Character and I look back fondly of my time being his coach.”