Team GB is on track for its most successful Olympic Winter Games ever in PyeongChang. Four years on from a record-equalling haul of four medals in Sochi – headlined by Lizzy Yarnold’s skeleton gold – PyeongChang 2018 is set to see the history books rewritten again by British athletes.
Today marks 100 days to go until the start of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games and, while athletes are still in the midst of their respective selection processes, optimism is high for plenty of success next February.
British Olympic Association chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “We look at the potential line up and it is the strongest team we have ever had for a Winter Olympics. The very nature of the Winter Games is that it is very unpredictable and you don’t have the same degree of certainty around athletes fulfilling their potential. But it is a really strong team and we fully expect to come back having done better than Sochi, which was our best ever with four medals. We are hoping for top 15 in the medal table and that would be a great result.”
The make up of British athletes across two sports is already known, with the curling rinks and ice dance duo and two-time Olympians Nick Buckland and Penny Coomes already having their selection officially confirmed by the British Olympic Association.
Eve Muirhead returns as skip again for the women’s team while Kyle Smith leads the men’s rink, which also includes a family theme with Muirhead’s brother Thomas and Glen also selected.
Team Muirhead was responsible for a quarter of Team GB’s medal haul in Sochi after picking up bronze to add to the male team’s silver, skeleton gold for Yarnold and Jenny Jones’ slopestyle bronze – the latter representing Britain’s first Olympic medal on snow.
And potential success stories are also predicted to be spread across the sports again this time around in South Korea given the current performances.
Sweeney continued: “We’ve got Lizzy Yarnold back in skeleton, you’ve got Laura Deas going really well. (Short track speed skater) Elise Christie has a really tough job in Korea on their home soil but she is world champion, and we all know what she is capable of doing. The new sports are particularly good for us too. If you look at ski and snowboard, people like Katie Ormerod, Katie Summerhayes, Billy Morgan, James Woods, they are all proven competitors in these sports and it is a really strong team.”
So what of the other sports with places still up for grabs? And what should you be keeping an eye out for between now and 9th February?
Great Britain could boast its first alpine skiing World Cup podium finish since 1981 when Dave Ryding finished second in January’s Kitzbuhel slalom in Austria before ending the campaign eighth overall.
The new World Cup season begins for him on Sunday 12th November in Levi, Finland while other disciplines are already underway. With multiple competitions between now and the Games, two-time Olympian Ryding and the rest of the British skiers will be working hard to prove their credentials before the qualification period closes on 21st January.
Britain’s Park and Pipe athletes are also in a similar position, with the qualification period open until early next year. The slopestyle season kicked off in New Zealand back in August with Sochi 2014 Olympic freestyle skier James Woods laying down an early marker with victory in Cardrona.
The freestyle World Cup season will begin to pick up pace towards the end of November with the likes of Woods, Izzy Atkin and Katie Summerhayes ones to watch out for and Katie Ormerod, Billy Morgan, Jamie Nicholls and Aimee Fuller expected to lead the charge for the snowboarding contingent.
The next few months will also be key for the Nordic squad, with cross-country skier Andrew Musgrave one individual in particular looking to build upon last season. The two-time Olympian finished fourth in the 30km Skiathlon at March’s World Championships, the best ever result for a British Nordic skier at that level. The World Cup season begins in Ruka, Finland on the weekend of 24th November with trips to Switzerland and Italy before the end of the year.
That same weekend also represents the start of the new biathlon World Cup season in Ostersund, Sweden with Sochi 2014 Olympian Amanda Lightfoot chasing a second Games appearance.
Switching attention to the ice and there has already been action for Britain’s short track speed skaters this season who are busy working towards qualifying nation spots for Team GB. A 1000m bronze medal has already arrived for reigning World champion Elise Christie who saw last season’s fantastic achievements recognised last week when she was named the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year. She and the rest of the team will be in Shanghai for World Cup 3 next week before quickly moving onto Seoul immediately afterwards aiming to step up to the mark.
And not forgetting the bobsleigh and skeleton teams with anticipation building ahead of the opening World Cup of the season on the last weekend of November.
Yarnold, who won World Championship bronze last year, will be aiming to become the first Brit to retain a Winter Olympic title in PyeongChang but first up comes the small matter of qualification with athletes required to hit the criteria by 14th January. One competition to look out for will be the European Championships from December 15th-17th with Britain’s bobsleigh and skeleton athletes aiming to prove what they can do against the continent’s best in Innsbruck in the run up to the Olympic Winter Games.
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