World No.1 Elise Christie is the inspiration for Jack Whelbourne
NOTTINGHAM speed skater Jack Whelbourne doesn't need any incentive when it comes to striving to be the tops at his sport . . . after all, his girlfriend is already the best in the world.
And Whelbourne says of Elise Christie, the world No.1 at 1000m: "She has been the motivation for me this season."
The pair are currently in Hungary with the rest of the Nottingham-based GB team, preparing for the World Championships which start on Friday in Debrecen.
But while Christie is going for more personal glory, Whelbourne has his sights firmly set on a 5000m relay medal.
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And you can't write off his chances as he was part of the GB record-breaking relay squad that set a new world best time at the end of last season.
But, as he explained, their determination to excel at the Sochi Olympics in Russia next year is driving them both on in a winter sport second only to ice hockey in its potential ferocity and competitive nature.
"It's good because Elise and me are both competitive and are always pushing each other on," says Lenton lad Whelbourne, 21.
"As I'm a guy I'm faster than she is but against like for like she's faster, as her standing in the world rankings proves.
"She would never miss training for anything and is one of the people who will go out there pull all the laps in and then step up and start skating with us guys.
"By the end she will be overtaking us and we're pushing her forward to do those things.
"We might perhaps argue when she's overtaken me or I've overtaken her, but I try to make it hard for her because she will be competing against the best girls in the world.
"They're all smart skaters with a good head on their shoulders.
"Chinese girl Zhou Yang, who's a multiple medallist, is back on the scene and she will do anything to keep you behind her.
"So that is the kind of thing I try to bring to Elise's training.
"My skill level is more than her's but her determination and will to win, just to get to the top of the world, is why she is No.1 at the moment."
Having skated since the age of six, Whelbourne first represented the GB junior squad aged 14.
He competed in his first Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010 and followed that up when he became the Junior World 1000m champion in 2011.
There must be something in the Whelbourne genes as he is also joined by older sister Alex on the Great Britain squad.
"I moved out of home when I was young, because basically I wanted to stand on my own two feet," he said.
"I had chosen my career path as skating, I was getting paid and really I just wanted to relieve the pressure off my mum and dad.
"They helped me in the sport from when I was six years old to when I was 16, so that's ten years of money, all the hassle and travelling all over the world.
"They can say it's paid off for them, because they can now sit at home, look at what I'm doing and be proud of me.
"Whatever I do they will always be proud of me but I want to make them even more proud by getting a medal."
Although looking to do well in Hungary, Whelbourne hasn't had the best of seasons and as a result has his sights firmly set on Sochi in 2014.
He said: "At the beginning of last season I was in form but then I started having a few problems with my boots.
"I honestly felt I didn't get what I deserved but this time I've had some misfortune with injury, illness and bad luck, so I hope all that's behind me.
"Although we will be looking to do well in Hungary, I keep saying to myself 'I'm saving it for Sochi'."
For a city with a long reputation for top quality speed skaters, including GB performance director Stuart Horsepool, Whelbourne is currently the only Nottingham-born skater in the national A squad – although Josh Cheetham is a reserve for the relay team in Hungary.
Whelbourne said: "Yes, Nottingham has always had decent skaters.
"But after the Vancouver Games in 2010, some of the senior members of the team from Nottingham must have felt that was the highlight of their careers and for whatever reason decided to finish and move on to other things.
"It's a hard life, it really is. The stresses involved with competing, all the knee injuries and niggles you get and maybe just the injury prevention regime can stop you doing what you want or deserve throughout your career.
"Maybe when the 2018 Olympic Games comes around in Korea there will hopefully be a strong base with the money that has been put into the sport and more Nottingham club skaters like me and Josh will come through.
"If they get on the right programme and show their commitment to the sport you never know.
"You can say you're committed but when it comes to getting up early every day, when you are aching and tired, that's another thing.
"At 21, I'm still young but having gone to Vancouver I've had a lot of experience during my race career.
"Unfortunately I'm not skating individual in the World Championships this time . . . just the relay.
"I skated 1000m at Sochi in the World Cup. I came eighth but I believe I could have gone through to the final.
"I was disqualified on the world champion but I could have gone and mixed it with the guys in the A final.
"The semi final went faster than the A final and I set a British record but I was disqualified and the two skaters who beat me in that both went on and got a medal.
"So I'm looking at the fact that I'm skating well and though I might not have had the best season and I'm not skating as an individual in the worlds, next season is another start.
"And hopefully more luck will be on my side."