While the official team announcement is still to take place here are Sportsister’s predictions for who will be the ones to watch for Great Britain at the Vancouver Olympics. Will the nation have a new golden girl?
British women have a great record in Olympic skeleton racing. In this unique sport ‘sliders’ do a sprint start then literally hurl themselves down the shared bobsleigh/luge/skeleton track on a thin sled, head first, just inches from the ice using their bodyweight to steer.
It first appeared in the Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, where Alex Coomber took a bronze medal for Britain. In 2006 in Turin, Shelley Rudman went one better – winning silver.
In Vancouver next year it is likely that Shelley, along with Amy Williams (pictured right) who won a World Championship silver earlier this year, will be battling it out for a podium finish.
The track in Vancouver is the fastest in the world with top speeds touching 100mph. Every track is unique and the more you can practice on it the better. But Team GB may only have 20 practice runs before the competition in comparison to the hosts Canada, who will have up to 400 runs prior to the Games. It’s going to be tough, but the British sliders are definitely ones to watch in Vancouver.
Not since the most famous Brits to take to the ice, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, won Olympic gold in ’84 and bronze in ’94, has Britain found Olympic success in figure skating. But Scotland’s brother and sister duo Sinead and Jonn Kerr may change this.
Earlier this year they won Great Britain’s first major medal in 15 years with bronze at the European Ice Dance Championships in Helsinki, Finland. They are six time British Ice Dance Champions, finished tenth in Turin in 2006, eighth at the 2008 World Championships and are currently ranked seven in the world.
Britain’s number one figure skater Jenna McCorkell (pictured below right) is also one to watch on her Olympic debut. Jenna is the current six times British Senior Champion, finished 9th in last year’s European Championships and 20th at the World Championships.
There are three snowboarding disciplines that women can compete in at the Winter Olympics – Giant Parallel Slalom, Half Pipe and Snowboard Cross (also known as Boardercross). Britain has never won an Olympic medal on the snow, but in Vancouver all eyes will be on Zoe Gillings. She came 15th in the Turin Olympics, is currently ranked 5th in the world and is optimistic of her medal hopes for next year.
Lesley Mckenna has competed in the half pipe event at the last two Olympics and is hoping to be in Vancouver. At the time of going to press she was well on her way to meeting the selection criteria. Kate Foster, also a Turin Olympian, looks set to be joining her.
Were you one of the 5.7 million British viewers that tuned in to see Rhona Martin, Deborah Knox, Fiona MacDonald, Janice Rankin and Margaret Morton win gold on the curling rink in Salt Lake City? It’s one of the most loved moments of Team GB at a Winter Olympics in recent times.
In 2010 look out for reigning and three time world junior champion Eve Muirhead who will be competing in her first Olympics. She will be joined by former World Champion Jackie Lockhart, who will be at her fourth Games, along with Kelly Wood, Lorna Vevers and Karen Addison. (Pictured above left).
Britain has qualified in seventh place for the Olympics. This team will also represent Scotland at the European Championships, which are staged in Aberdeen in early December. All the qualified European nations are sending their Olympic squads to this event, which will be a real marker of medal prospects in February.
There are five disciplines in the Olympic alpine skiing schedule – Downhill, Combined, Slalom, Giant slalom and Super G. Chemmy Alcott is Britain’s only female to compete at World Cup level and will be the only one in Vancouver at this event.
It will be her third Olympics, having competed in both Salt Lake City and Turin in four of the five events (not slalom). Her best result was 11th in the Downhill in Turin. But with four more years experience, and despite a fractured ankle hampering last season’s preparations, she is back fit and ready to fulfill that childhood ambition of an Olympic medal.
Also look out for Ellie Koyander in the Mogul discipline of the Freestyle skiing. While the eighteen year olds target is a medal at Sochi 2014, she has made the qualifying grade for Vancouver. In the Olympics competitors race each other down a specially constructed slope with a multitude of bumps known as moguls. They jump off the bumps performing acrobatic maneuvers and are marked on their technique, speed and the quality of the two jumps required.
Bobsleigh has been in the Winter Olympics since the very first Games were held in Chamonix in 1924. Great Britain has a good pedigree in the sport winning medals in 1924, 1936, 1964 and 1998. But it was only introduced for women in 2002.
Nicola Minichiello has competed for Britain in every Games since, finishing ninth both times. This time, her and partner Gillian Cooke, who will be competing at her first Games, are going for gold. They are the reigning 2-man World Champions after an outstanding season culminating in gold in Lake Placid, USA, earlier this year.
Using the same track as the bob skeleton competition, the duo must push their sled up to speeds of 40 km/h before jumping aboard. The start is crucial; a tenth of a second lead at the start can translate into three-tenths of a second at the end.
The pilot (Minichiello) must then steer down the mile long track through twisting, high speed turns and straightaways where top speeds can reach over 130km/h. The key is to have a very strong, fast start and then work out the most efficient path down the course – steer too much and you will slow down, not enough and you may crash. It’s a very precise, technical sport (the sled’s are designed in collaboration with engineers from Formula 1 team McLaren) that requires strength, speed and mental alertness.
Winter Olympics Fact File
The Vancouver Olympic Winter Games will take place from 12 to 28 February 2010. Around 80 nations, with approximately 5500 athletes, are expected to take part.
At the 2006 Turin Olympics, Germany finished top of the medal table with 29 medals, the United States finished second with 25 and Canada finished third with 24.
615 medals have been made for the Games using 2.05 kilograms of gold.
Every medal won at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be a one-of-a-kind work of art — a first in Games history.
The official Team GB team announcements for Vancouver will take place between December 2009 and January 2010. Until that time we will not know for sure who will represent Great Britain at the games.
Team GB is likely to consist of approximately 50 athletes across six sports (biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, luge, skating and skiing) and 11 disciplines (biathlon, bobsleigh, skeleton, curling, luge, figure skating, short track speed skating, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboard).
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine