It may be exactly two years to go until the start of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, but despite not being one of the first countries that springs to mind when talking about winter sports, British authorities are already working hard to ensure its team will be front-page news at Beijing 2022.
Despite the country’s temperate climate and an absence of major mountainous or snowy areas, the last two Winter Games, at Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018, have seen Great Britain record its best-ever medal haul, winning five at each, and as a result, expectations are seriously raised for Beijing. And rightly so, as the country is building up a surprisingly strong winter sports line-up.
“From a snowsports perspective, we’re in a great place,” GB Snowsport’s Chief Executive Vicky Gosling said. “Over the last 12 months, we’ve had the best results in British history and across all disciplines, performances really are speaking for themselves.
“Freestyle skier Kirsty Muir won silver at the Youth Olympics, Zoe and Izzy Atkin did superbly at the X Games, and we’ve transferred-in a few athletes from other countries, like Charlotte Banks and Gus Kenworthy. Snowboarder Katie Ormerod is back on snow delivering medals which is amazing given her injury two years ago in Pyeongchang (a broken heel ruled her out of the Games), James Woods is world champion at slope style－I think we’re looking pretty good.”
British snowsports have taken their lead from the success that other sports, such as rowing and cycling, have enjoyed at the summer Games, and hope that achieving equal success will help win the backing of a sport-loving public that might not previously have shown much interest in winter sports.
“Britain knows what it takes to win, we’ve seen it in cycling and rowing,” she explained. “It’s quite clear that to do this takes decent investment, and we’ve had great backing from UK Sport and our commercial partners.
“We want to take the British public on a journey with us and to tune in to watching what we’re doing, so by the time we hit Beijing, our athletes are household names. We want to change the perception that we don’t do winter sport. We do, and we’re quite incredible now.”
In addition to contenders such as snowboarder Ormerod, slopestyle skiing world championship gold medalist Woods, and downhill skier Charlie Guest, British hopes have also received a major boost from the addition of two new arrivals－snowboarder Charlotte Bankes, Britishborn but a former Olympian for France, and freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, also British-born, who won a silver medal for the United States in Sochi in 2014.
“Charlotte is ranked fourth in the world and is an absolute dream of talent, so when she switched it sent shock waves through the world, closely followed by Gus,” Gosling explained.
“Creating icons is hugely important－if you can’t see it, you can’t be it－and now we have those athletes in place, we need to make sure people know about it. We’re in a really good place at creating inspiration for our nation.”
Britain’s lack of major mountains and snow is a significant challenge to gaining attention, but Gosling hopes that success in Beijing will only lead to better things.
“How do we change perception? By results, but in order to get frontpage headlines like other sports would, we have to be out there demonstrating. Whenever we tell journalists, they’re usually very positive but the first thing they say is ‘we didn’t know this was happening’; it’s not that they’re not interested in taking the story, we need to get it out there.”
When it comes to Beijing, where the team wants to be is on the medal podium, as often as possible. And even two years out from the Games, Gosling says everything is in place to give the Winter Olympic class of 2022 a good chance of matching or bettering the achievements of their predecessors.
“It’s amazing how quickly time passes, so we need to make sure we have the strongest, healthiest team we can field and give them the right support in every sense,” she said. “Everyone has their own individual milestones and we have a good clear plan for where they will be.”
And for GB Snowsports? “I want us to be in place to meet our vision for 2030, to be one of the top five nations in the world, with medals on the increase and healthy, happy, strong athletes competing for their slots,” she said.
“The goal for me and the organization is to change perception of Britain as a snowsports nation. Having more athletes on podiums across all events would be something I’d love to see.”
And what podium could be better than the one in Beijing.