Tabby Stoecker’s reaction to winning gold in her second ever World Cup race says it all. Having double checked she was first after her last run the 23-year-old then saw her name at the top of a 31-strong table, dropped her bag, and looked stunned.
Perhaps it’s no surprise. Tabby, after all, hadn’t heard of skeleton six years ago and has spoken of the imposter syndrome she felt once she started.
Naturally then, in her first full World Cup season, she set her sights on continued development rather than medal success. It makes becoming the first British woman in eight years to claim World Cup gold all the more of an achievement.
“For that event my aim was to put down my best runs,” Tabby reflects with the BEAA after winning the Athletes’ Athlete of the Month award. “I wasn’t seeing myself on the podium or even the top 10.
“As we did training it became evident that I was doing quite well but I was still reluctant to believe that I’d come away on the podium. It really was a shock – my reaction was real.
“After the first run you find out where you’re sitting and I found out I was second. It’s hard to describe the feeling but I didn’t quite believe it.
“The pressure is quite intense and it’s naïve to say I didn’t feel any pressure… I tried to keep my mindset similar to how I would perform if I was sat anywhere else in the field.”
Now Tabby is allowing herself to look up for the rest of the season, but her aims remain focused on development and progression. That mindset requires her to keep her feet on the ground, something her entry into skeleton may help with.
“I never saw myself as an athlete, didn’t watch much sport and wasn’t involved in sport in that way,” she explains. “Physically I’d always been sporty. A lot of people do sport for their mental health and for me it was a great outlet, something that brought me a lot of joy. I never saw myself with a gold medal competing for my country; that wasn’t a childhood dream of mine.”
Of imposter syndrome, she says: “I think it’s quite a common thing for athletes to battle with, especially early on in their career. I definitely struggled with it in the first three or so years. The biggest thing that made a difference for me was joining the Women’s Sport Trust Unlocked programme in 2022/23. I met all these other incredible athletes who’d either retired, were doing their sport, or were in a similar place to me.
“They completely affirmed my identity as an athlete and empowered me to step into that space and be confident. It’s quite an incredible tool for someone in my position early on in their career to be the same space as such accomplished female athletes. They spoke to me as if I was the expert in my sport and [made me feel] I should be confident that I know what I’m talking about and confident to take up space.
“That was a complete gamechanger, along with having an incredible coach. I swapped coaches around that time and the coach I got assigned to gave me so much confidence and believed in me so much it allowed me to believe in myself.”
Pushing the women’s skeleton team onwards today is a trio of female athletes each beginning their World Cup careers: along with Tabby, Freya Tarbit and Amelia Coltman are also settling into this senior competition.
“It’s absolutely brilliant,” says Tabby of having teammates in a similar position. “We have such a great team environment and it’s really nice to be able to lean on each other and learn from each other and speak about our similar experiences.
“We’re acutely aware of trying to continue the legacy the incredible female skeleton athletes that have come before us. So part of that I think is collaboration and I think we’ve been doing that incredibly well. All three of us girls are lapping up this experience, trying to push each other, encourage each other and be a great support system for each other.”