Reuters - Tue, 26 Jan 21:42:00 2010
British bobsleigh world champion Nicola Minichiello faces a third eye operation on Wednesday before setting her sights on Olympic gold in Vancouver.
Minichiello, who along with brakewoman Gillian Cooke became the first British world champions in the sport last year, lost nearly all the vision in her left eye during a World Cup event before Christmas after being struck with retinitis.
"It was a pretty intense time at the end of November, I went from having pretty much full vision to having lost 80 percent of the vision in my left eye," Minichiello said after being officially named on the British Winter Olympics team.
"It's not an injury or illness or virus it's just one of those random things that happens and one of the challenges you face over the course of a season.
"I had two days of surgery over Christmas which enabled us to go back on the ice and finish our qualification for the Olympics and now I've got laser surgery to get rid of the fluid," added former heptathlete Minichiello who is preparing for her third Olympics.
Minichiello, who is suffering from the same eye condition that once affected Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes, said she has 75 per cent vision at the moment but is confident a third bout of laser surgery will cure the problem.
"I thought my Olympics were over at first. It was very worrying but the medical team have been brilliant," she said.
Minichiello and Cooke, who teamed up through social networking site Facebook, are one of their country's main gold medal hopes at the Vancouver Games and will be trying to become the first British bobsleigh crew to win Olympic gold since Robin Dixon and Anthony Nash in 1964.
The track at the Whistler Sliding Centre, which features a 500m drop and numerous hair-raising turns, is one of the fastest in the world.
"The bottom three corners at Whistler are so fast you can't see much anyway," joked Minichiello.