“I used to just scream or hold my breath,” the 17-year-old said. “It was one of the two. Now I talk to myself through the track, so when I get to a corner I say, ‘Up, hold, off …’.
The one time I didn’t do it, my whole run went to nothing. So when I get in I now make a conscious effort to say, ‘OK, you’re in now, so start talking’. It helps me to get the corners in my head.”
Such focus is vital for competition at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
In the women’s monobob event, which takes place on 19 January, a high standard is expected from German and Swiss athletes, as well as Viktoria Cernanska (SVK) and Georgeta Popescu (ROU).
The men’s competition takes place on 20 January.
“Some of the other athletes have been doing it since they were little,” Longden said. “I started doing this in February last year. I want to get down the track with confidence with the fastest start I can, do my best, and then I want to be aiming to be top 10-ish.”
Longden’s adventure in winter sports started when her athletics coach received a call from the British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association. They were looking for a sprinter “who was strong”. Longden certainly fitted the bill.
“I did the trials and I’ve been doing it ever since then,” she said. “Why sprinters? Because the statistic is that 82 per cent of the run is won on the start. So if you had a good start time, it sets you up for the rest of the run.”
Since then, Longden has travelled to Norway and Germany for training sessions and competition. Meanwhile, her parents have taken this progression as an exercise in sightseeing.
“Every time I go away it’s an excuse for them to go away too because they don’t go on holiday very often,” she said. “They booked an Airbnb well in advance for St. Moritz and drove over here, and brought all their food. I feel really proud. It’s such an amazing feeling to be representing Great Britain. Every day I’m wearing the kit and I can see the other athletes wearing theirs, I feel part of a team.”