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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there