The 2018 Winter Olympics is set to be held in PyeongChang, South Korea, and is only two months away. There’s already been controversy surrounding the event with Russia being banned from competing. However, can Great Britain steal the spotlight and turn the games into a positive by showcasing their rare but growing talent?
Great Britain has always been in some ways disregarded from the winter sporting world. This may have been because of our inability to compete with the snow based countries, such as America, Norway, Austria, Japan etc. or due to the fact that we simply don’t enter many athletes into events, if any at all. This stereotype is typified perfectly by a French commentators comment in 1981 when Konrad Bartelski, a Brit, claimed a World Cup podium finish in alpine skiing. The commentator’s words exactly – “This is not possible, he is an Englishmen”.
Despite this humorous but quite damming image, Great Britain is slowly starting to put itself on the winter sport map. Successes in curling, slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, skeleton, bobsleigh and short track speed skating is growing. On top of this, in Sochi 2014, the last Winter Olympics, Great Britain entered the biggest group of winter athletes for twenty-six years – a total of fifty-six.
Great Britain won four medals in Sochi 2014, one gold (Lizzy Yarnold – Skeleton), one silver (Men’s Curling) and two bronzes (Jenny Jones – Snowboard Slopestyle & Women’s Curling). This was the most successful Winter Olympics in ninety years as it equalled the medal count of the 1924 Winter Olympics.
Pyeongchang 2018 is offering a total of 102 gold medals, more than any previous Olympic Winter games. The question on all our minds is – which Great British athletes are in with a chance of getting on that Olympic podium? Below I have listed just a few of the major contenders:
Lizzy Yarnold MBE
Hometown: Kent, England
Event: Skeleton – an adrenaline packed event involving one athlete sliding down an ice track on a sled – the fastest time wins.
Winter Olympic History: 1st at Sochi 2014.
Lizzy is an Olympic, World and European champion. Her career began by entering a talent ID programme called ‘Girls for Gold’ in 2008 and she hasn’t looked back. She won every major title in skeleton in just 407 days and her winning margin of 0.97 seconds at Sochi 2014 was the largest ever. Despite a shaky start to the 2017/18 World Cup tour, I have high hopes that Lizzy can win gold at PyeongChang.
Hometown: Livingston, Scotland
Event: Short track speed skating – a high-speed ice skating race against multiple skaters around an oval track – there are different types of races depending on the distance.
Winter Olympic History: 11th in 500m, 19th in 1000m & 20th in 1500m at Vancouver 2010. 8th in 500m (after disqualification from final) at Sochi 2014.
Elise was Sportswoman of the Year in 2017 and rightfully so. The Scottish born speed skater is the current overall world champion by winning the world titles in the 1000m and 1500m in March 2017 – the first British and European woman to do so. Elise has represented Great Britain at two Olympics but has yet to win a medal. However, she was incredibly unfortunate not to do so at Sochi 2014 as she was contentiously penalised in all three events. Let’s hope she gets better luck in Pyeongchang and can bring home a gold medal or two.
Hometown: Sheffield, England
Event: Slopestyle (Skiing) – a jaw-dropping event which sees freestyle skiers show off their skills on grinds and gigantic jumps – the athlete who performs the best tricks wins.
Winter Olympic History: 5th in Slopestyle at Sochi 2014.
James was born in Sheffield and learnt his trade on the only thing possible – the English dry slopes. In the Winter X Games in 2017, arguably the biggest competition for all freestyle skiers worldwide, James won gold in the Big Air competition. The same year, he also won bronze in slopestyle in both the Winter X Games Europe and the World Championships. The knowledge that James actually injured his hip in training and then went on to place a staggering 5th at Sochi 2014 gives me lots of hope for a podium finish at Pyeongchang. This is despite him facing one of the worlds greats in the American, Gus Kenworthy.
Hometown: Lancashire, England
Event: Alpine Skiing – this involves five lightning paced skiing events which occur on a downhill course and do not involve ramps or bumps – the five are: downhill, super G, slalom, giant slalom and combined. Dave Ryding now predominantly focuses on Slalom.
Winter Olympic History: 27th in Slalom and 47th in Giant Slalom at Vancouver 2010 & 17th in Slalom at Sochi 2014.
Dave has been going from strength to strength in the slalom world, competing with the likes Marcel Hirscher, Ted Ligety, Aksel Lund Svindal and many more. He’s had a brilliant last few years, achieving 5 top 10 finishes in the 2017 World Cup tour. The main talking point was on the same tour in Kitzbuhel in January 2017, when he claimed silver in the slalom – the first British world cup skiing podium since Konrad Bartelski 36 years ago. Dave Ryding has had a mixed season so far but was extremely close to coming first in Finland in November if it wasn’t for crashing out on the second run. These promising signs tell me that this man has no fear when it comes to the big slopes and the big boys.
Hometown: Brighouse, England
Event: Slopestyle & Pipe (Snowboarding) – an event with a bang, in the slopestyle athletes try and land the best tricks off huge jumps and try themselves out on tough grinds. In the pipe event, athletes perform a series of tricks in a semi-cylindrical pipe.
Winter Olympic History: She has yet to compete in a Winter Olympic Games.
Katie is the woman setting the marker in terms of new tricks in the female snowboarding world. She became the youngest girl to land a double backflip at just 15 and at 16 she was the world’s first woman to land a Backside Double Cork 1080. If that’s all gibberish to you… well it means she’s pretty good. She won the Big Air World Cup in Russia in the 2016/17 season and has already got silver in the same event this year in Milan. She’ll be a newbie to the Olympic scene but this athlete has no fear. Plus, with the debut inclusion of the Big Air event in PyeongChang 2018, Katie will be hoping to reproduce her World Cup success.
That’s just a small list of the individual talent Great Britain has to offer this February. This doesn’t even cover the team events…
Women’s Curling are hoping for a medal. Eve Muirhead captains the side and her Scottish team have already won gold at the European Curling Championship this season. They’ll be hoping they can do one better than their bronze medal in Sochi 2014.
Men’s Curling team are looking strong. The Scottish men won silver at the European Curling Championship this season and this team of fresh faces will be making their Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
In Bobsleigh, the two British 4-man teams are building momentum into the Winter Olympics. They secured two podiums in a month this season as Bradley Hall led his team to bronze in Utah and Lamin Deen’s crew took silver in Whistler.
Overall, I have strong hopes that this Winter Olympics will be the most successful ever for Great Britain. The target of 4 medals at the games can certainly be surpassed and I can’t wait to see the new talent Great Britain have to offer. I hope you enjoy PyeongChang 2018 as much as I do.