Imaginations run wild as Chemmy scales the peaks

History teaches us that British performances at the Winter Olympics are best appreciated in relative terms. Thus, while Chemmy Alcott's 11th place in the downhill skiing on the sixth day of the Turin Games might not appear much to celebrate, it actually is.

Although the 23-year-old from Twickenham, south-west London, has already been to the Olympics - she finished 32nd four years ago - her efforts in the Italian Alps represented the best Olympic showing by a British female skier in 38 years.

More importantly, it indicates she has a genuine chance in her strongest event, Sunday's super giant slalom. On a day when Rhona Martin suffered her first defeat in defence of the curling gold medal she won in Salt Lake City, that was just the kind of cheery news Britain's team needed as it settled into a campaign that the chef de mission, Simon Clegg, has predicted will yield one medal. Fortune permitting.

On the eve of yesterday's event, Alcott had sportingly ruled out any possibility of romantic entanglement on Valentine's Day. "No boys in my room tonight," she said. "I need to stay focused."

It seems the strategy worked. Indeed, for a few tantalising minutes the name Alcott stood in second place on the leaderboard at Sestriere, before subsequent performances shifted it down the order. "I should take a picture before it disappears," Alcott commented, wistfully. But by coming to rest where she did, 1.36sec behind the winner, Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, Alcott convinced many seasoned observers that her days as a charming and dizzy outsider were over.

Newsworthy Britons on skis are few and far between, and the news has rarely been good. Eighteen years ago, the world took the hapless ski jumper Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards to its bosom. In 2002, there was reason to rejoice as Alain Baxter won the slalom bronze, only to have it confiscated after he failed a drugs test.

Alcott's good looks and bubbly personality have meant she is a marketing opportunity waiting to happen. She has made a good living from sponsors including the sportswear manufacturers Witan and Marks & Spencer, for whom she has modelled.

Her full name, Chimene, is that of Sophia Loren's character in the film El Cid. "Everyone said my mother looked like Sophia Loren, so she thought I might turn out like her too," Alcott said. "I feel sorry for my mother because she... thought she'd have a girly girl. Instead, she gets a ski-racing speed junkie."

Britain's winter warmers

1964 Innsbruck: Tony Nash, of the RAF, and Grenadier Guardsman Robin Dixon win gold in the two-man bobsleigh.

1976 Innsbruck: John Curry becomes first British man to win Olympic figure skating gold.

1984 Sarajevo: Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's ice dance to Ravel's Bolero earns the first perfect scores in the event's history.

1988 Calgary: Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards, the ski jumper, captures the imagination of the British public.

2002 Salt Lake City: Rhona Martin leads curlers to gold with the last delivery as millions watch on television.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower