The Skiers & Snowboarders Aiming to Make GB A Top 5 Nation
6th July 2020 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on July 8th, 2020
The sport’s governing body in the UK has been given a massive boost to its ambition to become one of the best snowsports nations in the world. We look who will be helping them get there.
GB Snowsport’s funding from UK Sport has just been more than doubled.
It’s gone up from £5.2m in the four-year cycle to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to £11.1 million for the Beijing 2022 cycle.
For Paralympic funding, there has been an increase from £2.7 million in the PyeongChang cycle, to £4.4 million for Beijing.
Contrast that with the funding for the 2014 Sochi games, which was just £2 million in total.
The latest injection of cash is a huge vote of confidence and a sign that the elite funding body believes Britain’s skiers and snowboarders are in with a real shot of multiple medals at Beijing.
That’s not news for those at the top of GB Snowsport.
Chief Executive Vicky Gosling and Performance Director Dan Hunt have long been convinced that their ambitious target of becoming a Top 5 snowsports nation across all disciplines by 2030 is achievable.
How many medals or top 5 spots GB athletes manage to pick up in Beijing in a little over 18 months’ time will be a good benchmark.
The results have been going in the right direction since the last Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018.
Izzy Atkin (Ski Slopestyle) and Billy Morgan (Snowboard Big Air) both won bronze at the Winter Olympics in South Korea and there were multiple medals for GB Snowsport athletes at the Paralympics a month later.
There was a time when freestyle – specifically Park & Pipe – was GB’s only snowsports success story.
Only the Park & Pipe athletes could – and did – compete with the world’s best.
Consequently, they received the bulk of the money that came in from UK Sport, an organisation whose sole focus is on supporting Olympic medal prospects.
It’s fair to say that the British slopestyle, big air and halfpipe athletes are probably still in with the best chance of helping GB reach its goal.
The Park & Pipe squad is huge and is made up of a handful of ‘veterans’ who have already tasted elite success and many rising young stars.
But it is clear that there is now the real possibility of Olympic and other world medals across several snowsport disciplines.
In 2018-19 British skiers and snowboarders had a record-breaking season.
Last season was even better with more than 30 World Cup podiums.
If the improvement continues at the same pace, then who knows what is possible?
There are many strong prospects among the Brits, so apologies to those we haven’t included in PlanetSKI’s list of ones to watch.
PARK & PIPE
Katie Ormerod was a favourite to win medals in both slopestyle and big air in Pyeongchang but a devastating injury in training there ended her chances and put her out of action for 18 months.
What a comeback season the 22-year-old has just had.
She became the first British woman and – at the time – the first British snowboarder to take an overall World Cup title and the coveted Crystal Globe.
She won it in snowboard slopestyle.
Katie O will be a strong contender for a medal or two at Beijing.
Unfortunately, 31-year-old Billy Morgan is unlikely to be going for his second Olympic medal
In an interview with PlanetSKI in April, the Pyeongchang big air bronze medallist quashed rumours that he was about to retire.
However, he did confirm that he was keen to do more ‘fun’ events rather than the ‘stressful’ Olympic qualification competitions.
Morgan said he was ‘not completely decided’ about his future but it seems more likely than not that he won’t be at Beijing.
There are several young snowboarders anxious to follow emulate Morgan’s success and who will be worth watching to see how they continue to develop in the next 18 months.
Among them are Mia Brookes and Gabe Adams, who we have featured on PlanetSKI.
Adams won bronze at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2019.
Sisters Izzy and Zoe Atkin live in Park City, Utah, and are both strong contenders for Beijing glory.
Izzy is already a Winter Olympic bronze medallist (Ski Slopestyle, Pyeongchang 2018), a World Cup winner, and a medallist at World Championships and X Games.
But little sister Zoe is fast becoming a star in her own right.
In December 2019, she had her maiden World Cup win at the age of just 16 in the season opening ski halfpipe at Copper Mountain.
Gus Kenworthy, the former USA squad member and Sochi Olympics silver medallist, is one of a handful of athletes to switch allegiance to GB.
He is an all-rounder who wants to represent GB in slopestyle, big air and halfpipe at Beijing.
Although he had taken some time out of the competition to pursue other interests, his return to action under the British flag has gone well so far.
He followed up a silver at the Dew Tour in Colorado with gold in the halfpipe at the World Cup in Calgary in February.
James ‘Woodsy’ Woods has been GB’s leading male Park & Pipe skier for many years and could now be considered one of the old guard even though he is still only in his 20s.
He is a World Champion, an X Games Champion and a Crystal Globe winner – taking the ski slopestyle World Cup overall title in 2013.
He has multiple World Cup medals.
But an Olympic medal has proved elusive.
He finished just off the podium in 4th in ski slopestyle at Pyeongchang.
After being out of action with injury for most of last season, he’s now getting some valuable pre-season training on snow in New Zealand, where he’s been recuperating since early this year.
It’s an advantage over his team mates, who have been unable to travel to the southern hemisphere because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kirsty Muir has continued to impress since we identified her as one of the brightest young freestyle talents at the age of 13.
Now 15, she has a collection of junior and Europa Cup medals.
She finished 1st and 2nd in ski slopestyle Europa Cup competitions in 2019.
She has two Junior World Championships medals.
And she won big air silver at the Youth Winter Olympics in Lausanne in January 2020, the event which will have its full Winter Olympic debut at Beijing.
Connie Brogden is another promising youngster.
She is the 2019 Junior World Champion in ski halfpipe.
Dave Ryding is GB’s most successful alpine skier with two World Cup silver medals in his specialist slalom discipline.
He was 9th in Pyeongchang but there is no reason to think he couldn’t win a medal in Beijing – his 4th Winter Olympics.
He’ll be 35 then, the same age as Sweden’s Andre Myhrer when he won the Olympic slalom in Pyeongchang.
Last season didn’t go the way The Rocket wanted.
He did not make it onto the World Cup podium and and he finished outside the top 10 in the slalom rankings in joint 13th.
He is by far the best alpine skier in the GB squad but it’s worth mentioning his team mates Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley and Laurie Taylor.
Along with Ryding, they finished an impressive 5th in the Alpine Team Event at Pyeongchang.
In 2017, British Ski & Snowboard (now GB Snowsport), launched a new Moguls programme to support British skiers and improve their chances of success at the top level.
The Performance Director Dan Hunt said at the time:
“Our goal within Moguls is very clear, and that is to become podium competitive by Beijing 2022. We believe that we now have the athletes capable of doing that and we want to support them in the best possible way.”
Sceptics may have thought that was pie in the sky.
Until this year, that is, when Thomas Gerken-Schofield (22) became the first Briton to win a World Cup medal in the moguls discipline.
He had been getting close with a 6th and 4th in World Cup competitions in 2019 and 2020.
Then in March he won silver in the dual moguls in Russia.
Andrew Musgrave has a handful of World Cup podiums but has not quite made it on to the top step.
He has proved himself to be among the top level of international skiers, capable of competing against the traditional Nordic nations.
He achieved the best ever Olympic result for a British cross country skier with a 7th place in Pyeongchang.
Look out, too, for Andrew Young and James Clugnet, who have been getting good results.
Ollie Davies became the Junior World Champion in 2018 and in January 2019 achieved GB’s best ever World Cup result in the men’s event, finishing 16th at Blue Mountain, Canada.
Charlotte Bankes was the first high-profile defector to GB, moving across from France in November 2018.
She won a World Cup medal for GB a month later and went on to take silver at the World Championships in Utah in February 2019.
Owen Pick had a storming 2019-20.
The World Championships silver medallist won his first World Cup gold medals and earned the Crystal Globe for topping the banked slalom standings.
And team mate James Barnes-Miller took his first World Cup podium with silver in La Molina.
Visually impaired skiers Millie Knight and Menna Fitzpatrick, along with their guides, have already won almost everything in para alpine skiing, including World Championships, and multiple World Cup and Paralympic medals.
Millie is a Downhill World Champion (2017) and won two silvers and a bronze at the Pyeongchang Paralympics.
Menna is a double World Champion and a Paralympic Champion.
In 2019 with guide Jen Kehoe she became World Champion in the Super G and the Downhill.
She won the slalom at the Pyeongchang Paralympics where she also won silver in the Super Combined and Giant Slalom and bronze in the Super G.
Fitzpatrick and Kehoe are Paralympics GB’s most decorated winter athletes with four medals.
Mille Knight and Menna Fitzpatrick probably have many more noteworthy titles that we’ve missed but, frankly, it’s difficult to keep up with them.