ALEX COOMBER won Britain’s first medal of the Winter Olympics after finishing third in the Bob Skeleton on day thirteen of the Games in Salt Lake City yesterday.
The 28-year-old - Lottery-funded by UK Sport through the British Bob Skeleton Association’s World Class Performance Programme - found herself 0.22sec adrift of the leader, American Tristan Gale, after the first run.
Deteriorating weather and heavy snowfall made for hazardous conditions on the second descent and the RAF Officer from Somerset was unable to make an impression on Gale’s lead.
The American won the Gold medal by 0.26s from Coomber, with Gale’s compatriot Lea Ann Parsley taking the Silver.
"We’ve had no medals so far and people have been very critical," said Coomber. "But we say to them: 'Look at what we’ve done now.’ Britain is not known for winter sports and we’ve got two medals. It’s a gigantic step for British sport."
THE SECOND medal that Coomber was referring to was in the women’s curling, after Rhona Martin’s team recorded an astonishing victory over reigning champions Canada to book themselves a place in today’s final with the guarantee of at least Silver.
The British quartet, who only reached the last four after a three-way play-off with Germany and Sweden on Tuesday, held a 5-3 lead going into the eighth end. But the Canadians, clear favourites for the title, fought back to level at 5-5 and sent the match into a decisive tenth end.
But Martin held her nerve to close out the match 6-5 and send Great Britain into the final where they will meet Switzerland, a team they managed to beat in the group stages earlier this week.
"It’s always good to beat Canada," said Martin. "They’re the world’s strongest curling nation so to do it at the semi-finals of the Olympics is just unbelievable.
"The Swiss team is very strong so we’ll have to play well. But we don’t fear them."
In the lead up to the Games, both the men's and women's British curling teams benefited from a full complement of services offered by the Scottish Institute of Sport – part of the UK Sports Institute. The range of services used by the curlers included coaching, sports medicine, sports science (ranging from bio-mechanical analysis to physiological guidance), performance analysis support and the integration of career and education activities – through ACE UK (Athlete Career and Education) - with Olympic preparation and competition.
The final takes place this evening at 9.00pm British time. Live coverage begins on BBC2 at 9.50pm, moving over to BBC1 at 10.35pm.