The Turin Winter Games open for business tomorrow evening and Team GB’s 40 representatives will be ready for action, after four years of training and preparation.
As a nation lacking the natural climate and landscape to produce a conveyer belt of winter Olympians, Team GB always faces an uphill challenge in the world of the downhill specialists. However, several Brits will enter the Games with a credible chance of finishing in the medal zone.
14 members of the squad have received backing worth some £2.3m in total from UK Sport’s National Lottery backed World Class Performance Programme, with further support provided to the Men’s and Women’s curling squads by sportscotland.
David Murdoch and Rhona Martin’s curling squads will go into the Games hoping for a strong performance in the opening pool section of the competition to set up an appearance in the semi-finals. As defending Olympic Champion, Martin will have the benefit of having 'been there and done that’ last time around.
Elsewhere, Kristan Bromley’s performance in the skeleton over the last four years also suggest more than a glimmer of hope. The first Briton ever to secure a winter world cup series title, his form has seen him finish consistently in or around the top six. Bromley will be supported by Adam Pengilly and Shelly Rudman, whose form in the 90 mph head-first discipline has also seen them rise steadily through the world rankings over the last 18 months.
Jackie Davies and Nicola Minichiello surprised the field in the women’s 2 man bobsleigh World Championships last year when they took the silver medal and will no doubt be looking to return to that sort of form in Turin. Another pair looking to return to form will be snowboarders Lesley McKenna and Zoe Gillings in the half-pipe and snowboard cross disciplines respectively. Injuries have hampered the preparations of both athletes who can compete alongside the world’s best on their day.
The most intense competition is likely to be found on the skiing slopes, where Alain Baxter (giant slalom), Finlay Mickel (downhill) and Chemmy Alcott (downhill, slalom and combined) will be looking to make the top 10.
The action gets underway this Saturday. Key dates to look out for with regard to British interest include the men's downhill and slalom skiing on Sunday 12 and the Saturday 25 February respectively. The curling finals take place on the 23rd and 24th, whilst Kristan Bromley goes in the skeleton on the 17th and the women's bobsleigh on the 21st.