Vancouver 2010: Ones to watch

February 2009 – Obviously since then  some athlete’s rankings have changed, but I wonder how many of my predictions will come true.

Great Britain has a reputation for poor performance in the Winter Olympics having won only 21 medals throughout the whole history of the Games. The 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin were no exception with Shelly Rudman the only Briton to stand on the medal podium. She brought home Silver in the women’s skeleton bobsleigh after finishing just 1.23 seconds behind the Gold medallist.

British athletes are currently skiing, curling and snowboarding in championships around the world in a bid to qualify for the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in 2010. With an increasing number of athletes ranked in the top 15 in the world, there’s great potential for British medal success.

So with the Games just one year away Emma Law takes a look at our best athletes who will be hoping to stand on the winners podium and add to Great Britain’s (so far) measly medal tally.

 

Zoe Gillings
Snowboard-Cross

23 year old Zoe Gillings is Britain’s best female snowboard-cross racer. She is ranked 4th in the world and has already qualified for Vancouver. Quite an achievement, especially considering in 2005 she was told she would almost certainly never compete again.

After landing badly she suffered what could have been a career ending foot injury.

Determined to put the setback behind her, Gillings still competed in the 2006 Games. Although barely fit from her injury she finished a credible 15th in her event.

This time around, however, we’re likely to see her standing on the medal podium.

“My experience at the Turin Olympics should stand me in good stead as I already know what the pressure is like,” Gillings told the BBC.

“I definitely feel I have got a good chance of getting a medal. It’s a question of getting everything right in the build up to give myself the best chance of everything going right on that day.”

With a gold medal within her grasp, Gillings spent last summer at an intense training camp in preparation.

This has certainly paid off. An improvement in her start times and a more consistent performance then before has seen her rise three places in world rankings.

 
Dr Ice
Skeleton

Kristan Bromley immerses himself in his sport – skeleton bobsleigh. In 2008, he became the first person to win the World Championship, European Championship and World Cup in the same season.

As well as huge success on the track, he also researches, designs and manufactures the equipment he needs to make it to the finish line safely.

He even has a PhD in sports engineering earning him the nickname Dr Ice.

Head first, at speeds of close to 90mph, with no brakes, and just the rider’s body movement to steer through bends, skeleton is the definition of an extreme sport.

Despite his excellent recent form, Bromley knows just how tough it will be. Speaking to the BBC from his training base in Sheffield, he said:

“Everybody now looks to us to win a gold medal in Vancouver and believe it or not we are going to be massive underdogs going into that event.”

“We’ll be up against a very very strong Canadian team who’ll have two years worth of training [on the Olympic track], and it’s going to be an uphill battle.”

Vancouver will be Bromley’s third Olympics, having placed fifth in Turin while his girlfriend, Shelly Rudman, collected the Silver medal in the women’s event.

 

Scottish Men’s Curling Team

It might look like an odd mix of bowls and road sweeping, but curling is actually a very tactical sport.

The basic idea is to finish with your stone closest to the centre (or tee) of the target area, called the house.

Tactics include knocking an opponent’s stone out the way and bumping one of your own in. Setting up guard stones is also useful.

And the brooms? To melt the ice, reducing friction and allowing the stone to travel further of course!

With curling’s roots in 16th Century Scotland, Great Britain will once again be looking to the Scots to bring home some silverware.

Skipped by David Murdoch, the Scottish men’s team are among the world’s best. Between them they hold 31 medals, 14 of which are gold, although none of them Olympic just yet.

In 2008, the team had plenty to celebrate. April saw them take Silver in the World Championships, missing out to rivals, Canada.

Just before the end of the year, the team overcame Norway 7-6 to win Gold at the European Curling Championships.

 

Jon Eley
Short Track Speed Skating

Short track is a form of speed skating. Unlike traditional, long track skating, competitors race along the same stretch of ice, directly against each other, not the clock.

And all that matters is finishing ahead of your opponents.

On a short track, where bends are tight and your rivals close, overtaking is a very tactical procedure, and one which can result in race altering crashes.

Whilst thrilling for the spectators, skaters must tow the line between speed and tactics to avoid throwing their chance at an Olympic medal away.

Great Britain’s Jon Eley is another experienced Olympian in our selection who competed in Turin in 2006.

Eley will face some very tough competition, especially from the Koreans who have dominated this event previously.

In short track, however, anything can happen and Eley’s Gold medal in the European Championships last year puts him in a good position for Vancouver.

Also look out for the Great Britain relay team, who with the help of Jon Eley, picked up the Silver medal in the same competition.

 

 Chemmy Alcott
Alpine Skiing

Chemmy Alcott first strapped on the skis when she was just 18 months old, and by the age of eight she was already dreaming of Olympic medals.

She has come a long way since then, currently ranked 16th in the world, she is Britain’s top alpine skier, but her dream has not changed:

“I’ve always wanted it. If you talk to anyone I’ve ever worked with they’ll tell you I’m the most determined young lady that they ever meet. I just won’t let anyone stand in my way,” she said.

As well as her determination to be the best, Alcott is well known for her good looks and enthusiastic personality. Rarely an article is written which doesn’t mention her blonde hair or sparkling smile.

She uses this to her advantage of course, securing modeling contracts and sponsorship deals. All bringing in the funds needed to turn a promising skier into an Olympic champion.

In the opening race of this season, Alcott recorded her best result in the giant slalom discipline. She finished 10th and was off to a promising start.

Whilst in training for the next race, she suffered a setback in the form of a broken ankle.

Last month she made her comeback at the World Cup in Italy, finishing 15th. A result which puts her back on track to finally achieve her dream.

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