Mark Hatton may have one of the lowest profiles in British sport, but by the end of these Winter Games he could emerge as no more a figure of fun, but one of great significance. After tomorrow, the Cambridge graduate turns from luging to lobbying, bidding for a seat of power alongside Princess Anne and Sir Craig Reedie on the International Olympic Committee.
The hard-up Hatton, 32, who has to pay his own way at €20 (£13.60) a run on the training circuit, has been nominated with 14 others as an athletes' representative. This is a position once briefly occupied by Sir Matthew Pinsent, who failed to get re-elected in 2004.
Hatton's prospects may be almost as slim as his medal hopes here, but he reckons it worth a shout, and has been working hard at the networking business. "He's a hugely popular personality and would be a fantastic ambassador for British sport," says Britain's team leader, Simon Clegg.
Hatton, whose injuries have included a spinal fracture, has no realistic hope of a top 10 place in today's final runs of the event in which Germany's fabled "Speeding Sausage" Georg Hackl, who is among his rivals for the IOC post, is seeking a sixth successive medal in his final Games. After yesterday evening's two runs Hatton was 25th, behind Italy's overnight leader, Armin Zoeggeler, with Hackl fifth. Britain's second luger, the New York resident Adam Rosen, who has UK citizenship through his British mother, is the better placed of the pair at 18th. They may well laugh at the luge, but Hatton is crazy enough to reckon that lying on your back and hurtling helter-skelter feet first at 90mph down Turin's refrigerated tube, which put nine competitors in hospital in a test event a year ago, is "a lot of fun". He calls it "a wonderful, ridiculous adventure".
So much of the Winter Games is. Take the biathlon, the ski-and-shoot endurance test for the Ironmen of the snow. Here Germany's Michael Greis was a surprise winner of the opening gold medal of the Games after a near-perfect performance in the men's 20-kilometre individual race, missing just one of his 20 targets on the shooting range to clinch his first Olympic title with a combined time of 54min 23.sec.
Norway's five-times Olympic champion, Ole Einar Bjorndalen, was denied a second clean sweep of gold medals, having won at all four distances four years ago. He finished second. It was an ominously inauspicious start for Britain, with the 30-year-old Weymouth soldier Tom Clemens among the tail-enders in 57th place, 7min 29sec behind Greis.
Germany already have a golden glow, with a second shock victory when Georg Hettich won the Nordic combined individual gold. However, the bad news for them was that yesterday's appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by their Olympic cross-country champion, Evi Sachenbacher, to be allowed to compete in today's pursuit race after she was suspended for having high haemoglobin levels in her blood was rejected.
The German was one of 12 cross-country skiers who were given five-day suspensions on health grounds following blood tests. She was hoping for better luck than Zach Lund, the top slider on the US bob skeleton team, who was banned from the Games on Friday also after losing an appeal to CAS for taking a hair restorer which contained an ingredient that can be used to mask steroids. Whether it works or not, it could turn out to be a restorative tonic for Britain's fourth-ranked Kristan Bromley, as Lund was the gold-medal prospect.
For most Britons, podium hopes depend as much on the fallibility of the favourites as their own efficacy. This is summed up by the speed skater Sarah Lindsay, who begins her challenge in the 500m short-track event today. "It's a bit like the Grand National, with lots of fallers," she said. "You've just got to hang on in there."
A message worth heeding. So is that delivered at the opening ceremony by the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, to athletes to "above all complete cleanly by refraining from doping". Alas, one already doubts it will be.Reuse content