GB Skiers & Snowboarders Hoping to Shine at Beijing 2022
4th February 2021
Last modified on February 18th, 2021
In exactly one year’s time the Beijing Winter Olympics begin. Team GB has its best ever medals prospect as it continues its quest to become a Top 5 snowsport nation by 2030. Which skiers & snowboarders are our hopes pinned on?
Let’s make no bones about it, sporting success needs funding.
Raw talent is an essential requirement, but it needs to be nurtured and developed by cash.
Team GB has that money and has seen sizeable investment in recent years.
The money for GB Snowsport, the body that runs the show, was doubled from £5.2m in the four-year cycle to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
There’s £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.
There was just £2m for the 2014 Sochi Games.
Can that cash deliver?
The results have been going generally in the right direction since the last Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018.
At Pyeongchang Izzy Atkin (Ski Slopestyle) and Billy Morgan (Snowboard Big Air) both won bronze medals.
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 competed 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 medal target at Beijing.
For our separate story marking one year to go see here as we ask how Beijing won the Games and look at the preparations underway:
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.
She had an excellent comeback season last winter.
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.
Sisters Izzy and Zoe Atkin live in Park City, Utah, and are both 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.
She was on the podium last weekend at the X Games.
Little sister Zoe is fast becoming a star in her own right and a medal at Beijing is a prospect.
She too was at the X Games which is an invitation-only event for the best riders in the world.
She performed well, but failed to make the podium.
In December 2019, Zoe 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.
His action under the British flag has gone well so far.
Last season he followed up a silver at the Dew Tour in Colorado with gold in the halfpipe at the World Cup in Calgary in February.
Realistically he remains an outside chance for medal success, but a chance nonetheless.
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.
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 was at the X Games last weekend in Aspen and came 7th in big air and 9th in slopestyle.
He would be a hugely popular medalist and it would put the icing on the cake of a glittering career.
Dave Ryding is GB’s most successful alpine skier with two World Cup silver medals and one bronze 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.
This winter, 20/21, he has made the podium in Adelboden and collected World Cup points at other events.
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.
There’s also a promising newcomer to the alpine team, Billy Major.
In 2017 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 last season 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 who has been getting good results.
Andrew Young has done particularly well this season and has perhaps emerged from the shadow of Andrew Musgrave.
He has won a silver and a bronze medal this winter. The best ever results for a GB Nordic skier.
However it should be pointed out that the power house Nordic nations of Norway, Sweden and Finland were not competing as they had concerns about the measures put in place for coronavirus at the WC races.
They both remain outside chances for medal success, but there is reason for hope.
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 season.
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.
All in all the skiers and snowboarders on Team GB have some realistic medal chances for Beijing 2022.
Whether they can add to the overall medal total of the team to provide a platform for GB to become a Top 5 snowsport nation eight years later remains to be seen.
We’ll be watching with interest and cheering loudly.
To make one year to go GB Snowsports has released an interview with the BOA Chef de Mission, Georgie Harland.
Please tell us a bit about your full-time role at the British Olympic Association?
As Chef de Mission for Beijing 2022 I am responsible for the planning and the delivery of the delegation in Beijing.
I am also Deputy Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020 and day-to-day I am a Sport Engagement Manager for the BOA which means I have a portfolio of sports that I am responsible for to make sure that their planning is on track for the upcoming Games.
What is the role of the Chef de Mission at the Olympics?
I have overall accountability for the entire delegation, which includes athletes, coaching staff and wider support staff in country.
Additionally, I oversee the planning phase, to ensure that we create the very best platform for athletes to perform when they get to the start line in Beijing.
That includes everything from operations, to flights, accommodation to pre-Games training, making sure we have all of the nice home from home items in the Olympic Village, the performance services, medical staff and the medical equipment that goes with that, our programme that supports nearest and dearest of athletes, kitting out just to name a few.
We have over 20 different project areas that make up our Beijing plan
The delivery of Beijing in its entirety falls on my shoulders but I’ve got amazing people who are supporting me to ensure that we deliver something special for the athletes.
What are you most looking forward to at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games?
What I’m really looking forward to is seeing the athletes competing.
We’re obviously all experiencing some challenges at the moment due to the pandemic, but just watching the way that the athletes are coping with that has been so inspiring.
There are some extremely talented athletes in the pipeline so I can’t wait to see them in action in Beijing.
What are you focussing on at the moment for Beijing?
There are three main areas we are focusing on at the moment.
The first is the three clusters – typically at a Winter Games you have a coastal cluster and a mountain cluster, but we’ve got three to manage in Beijing.
We’re looking at how we deploy our staff and operations to best support the athletes and sports throughout their time in Beijing.
The second is our footprint around the core Organising Committee which includes things like accommodation for non-accredited officials and pre-Games training sites where athletes can go prior to entering the Olympic Village.
Thirdly is how we manage the unprecedented situation where we have two Olympic Games within six months of each other and making sure that Beijing is at the forefront of everybody’s minds.
In the past it used to be the case that we’d deliver two Olympic Games within the space of six months (with 1992 being the last time this was the case), but what’s different now is our footprint and our deliverables, which are a lot wider than they used to be.
It is a different situation that we find ourselves in, however we’ve got a dedicated team at the BOA that are working on Beijing, so that is their focus.
We’ve also brought some of our planning forward compared to our usual timings to make sure we have as much as we can in place before Tokyo.
There will be a great opportunity for us to learn from Tokyo.
I think the Winter delegation has a great advantage to have gone through Tokyo in the new environment that we find ourselves in.
There’s a real opportunity to implement the learnings we take from Tokyo into Beijing, which can only be a positive.
How are the venues shaping up in Beijing?
We have monthly calls with the Beijing Organising Committee and the latest information is that all the venue construction is proceeding as scheduled and that their timings haven’t been affected by the pandemic, which is great news.
We know that Beijing will have some amazing venues across all three clusters, and we remain in close contact with them regarding the test events due to take place.
What does a normal day look like for a Chef de Mission during the Olympic Games?
Typically, the day starts with a leadership call where we run through any issues from the day before and any actions that need to be implemented.
We then look more broadly at the day ahead to see which sports are arriving, who’s competing and what areas we need to focus on for that particular day.
I often have a Chef de Mission meeting, which takes place first thing in the morning, where all the Chef de Missions from every country come together and we hear from the Organising Committee on anything we should be aware of and are able to raise any concerns we have.
I may also have a meeting with all Team GB sport Team Leaders, where we check in with them and ensure everything is on track.
Following on from that my priority will ensuring those athletes and staff already in country have all that they need and also meeting and greeting new athletes arriving, ensuring they settle into the environment as quickly as possible as well.
Finally, checking in with the athletes who are departing. Around this, supporting athletes competing is always a great part of the day.
No day is ever the same, that’s for sure!
What advice would you give someone that wants to work at an Olympic Games?
My biggest piece of advice would be to grab any opportunities you’re given, which is exactly what I did when I retired as an athlete.
I took up a lot of voluntary opportunities and then off the back of that I realised it was something that interested me; staying in sport but not standing on the start line myself.
What I learned early on from working at the BOA is that there is a lot more to the organisation than I realised when I was an athlete.
Sport is just one part of it; we have a marketing and communications team, a commercial team, legal team, finance team – there’s all sorts of different areas that you can get an understanding from, not just sport.
If you see an opportunity to get involved and it’s something that you’re interested in, then do take up those opportunities where you can.
Tell us something that not many people would know about unless they had worked at an Olympic Games?
As an athlete I had no idea what went on behind the scenes and now I know that the team has a few days to transform what is essentially an empty hotel in the Olympic Village, with some beds and wardrobes, into a home from home for the athletes.
Whether that’s the rugs or cushions that you see, the coffee or the tea or all the branding up on the walls, all of that comes as part of what we call our ‘Home from Home’ strategy; designed to make sure that athletes feel like they are at home rather than them moving into an environment that could be in any country.
We have a catalogue of over 100 different items to enhance the Home from Home experience.
Here are some approximate examples of what we’d usually order for a Winter Games:
- 20,000 teabags and 6,000 coffee pods
- 100 sofas and 80 armchairs
- 200 Team GB dressing gowns and 200 Pride the Lion teddies
- 1,000 clothes hangers
- 180 Union Jack cushions
- 80 Union Jack rugs
- 40 fridges, 60 kettles, 25 irons and 15 coffee machines
GB ATHLETES IN ACTION
And if you want to keep an eye on the GB athletes in action over the coming few days:
4th Feb 2021
FIS – World Cup Deer Valley (USA) – 6th February
GB Snowsport Competing Athlete:
- Lloyd Wallace
FIS – World Cup Garmisch Patenkirchen (GER) – 6th February
GB Snowsport Competing Athletes:
- Jack Gower
FIS – European Cup Santa Caterina (ITA) – 9th – 11th February
GB Snowsport Competing Athletes:
- Jess Anderson
- Sarah Woodward
FIS – World Cup Ulricehamn (SWE) – 6th February
GB Snowsport Competing Athlete:
- James Clugnet
FIS – World Cup Deer Valley (USA) – 4th – 5th February
GB Snowsport Competing Athletes:
- Will Feneley
- Leonie Gerken Schofield
- Makayla Gerken Schofield
- Thomas Gerken Schofield
- Matteo Jeannesson
- Skyler Nunn
- Max Willis