By Mike Rowbottom

PS007 Take_off_over_Royal_CrescentSeptember 25 - Shelley Rudman, skeleton silver medallist at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, has signalled her intention to seek another medal at the Sochi 2014 Games.

Rudman, who was among the British skeleton sliders who launched their 2012-2013 season by taking to the skies in hot air balloons over their home base in Bath, said: "I was really, really chuffed to win the overall World Cup last year, but my goals have changed this season, I have different targets.

"I'd like to win a medal at the World Championships.

"My ultimate goal is Sochi.

"It's really special to go to one Olympics, so to go to my third would be something I'd love to do."

Rudman finished sixth at the Vancouver 2010 Games, where fellow Briton Amy Williams – who retired earlier this year because of injuries – took gold.

But the 31-year-old from Pewsey intends to extend her Olympic career to a third Games.

Williams, who was brought up in Bath, was among those taking to the balloons, as were the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Andrew Furse, and Mayoress Mei-Ling Chou Furse.

Reflecting on the unusual means of signalling the start of the latest skeleton campaign, Rudman added: "It's a unique experience, I don't think any of us have been up in a hot air balloon before.

"It definitely got the adrenaline going and it's good for the team.

"I think we'll be talking about it for a few weeks."

The British athletes will compete in selection races at Winterberg on October 26 and 27 before a World Cup series that will conclude with an opportunity to compete on the track to be used for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games – which get underway in 500 days time.

The 2013 World Championships are at St Moritz from January 31 to February 2, with the Sochi World Cup scheduled for February 16 and 17.

Today's ascent took place in front of the Royal Crescent, one of the city's most famous Georgian landmarks.

PS010 Up_over_BathThe British skeleton athletes took in the scenic views over Bath

Nigel Laughton, British Skeleton performance director, said: "I'm pleased we were able to offer the athletes this opportunity before they set off for the next six months representing their country.

"They train twice a day six days a week, so this was a morning off to allow them to enjoy something totally different.

"Some of them were a bit worried before, some of them were petrified, but they were all really looking forward to it and they had a great time.

"Floating along in the sky is very different to doing 90mph about an inch off the ground.

"It's a huge year for us.

"We have the selection races and nine World Cups, including the test event in Sochi, and also the World Championships in St Moritz.

"In a non-Olympic year, this is as big as it gets.

"We've got a strong squad and we're looking to laying down a marker."

Britain will have the maximum of three men and three women competing on the skeleton World Cup circuit in the coming season.

They need another strong season to secure the maximum number of quota places on the World Cup circuit in 2013-2014, which will give them the best possible chance of qualifying the maximum six places at the Sochi Winter Games.

Kristan Laura_Donna_Dominic_Rose_Ed__Shelley_plus_Plus_bob_skeleton_-_who_was_brought_along_by_one_of_the_balloon_pilotsKristan Bromley, Laura Deas, Donna Creighton, Dominic Parsons, Rose McGrandle, Ed Smith, Shelley Rudman and "Bob skeleton", who was brought along by one of the pilots, get ready to take to the hot air balloon

Rudman's teammate Donna Creighton added: "There are five girls going for three places at the World Cups, but I think I'm in with a good chance.

"We'll have to see what happens.

"We want to build on everything from the Olympics this summer – that was such an amazing atmosphere."

Creighton added that she is looking forward to the prospect of competing on the Sochi track next year.

"It's good to have the excitement of a new track," she said.

"We haven't had one for a while, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what it will be like in the test event in February and then again at the Olympic Winter Games next year."

Rudman and Creighton were joined by three-times Olympian Kristan Bromley on the balloon flights, as well as Laura Deas, Rose McGrandle, Dominic Parsons and Ed Smith.

The two remaining members of the team, world junior champion Lizzy Yarnold and David Swift were not available.

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