Winter Olympics 2014: Team GB’s women poised to outclass men in medal race
Training against their male peers has given Britain’s female contingent an extra edge going into Sochi – raising hopes of the team’s best return since 1936
Susie Mesure writes interviews, news and features for the Independent on Sunday, Independent and i, and has done for the last ten years or so give or take two lengthy maternity leaves. She is interested in just about any topic, especially anything Scandinavian, food, or consumer-orientated, and used to be the Independent’s Retail Correspondent
Wednesday 22 January 2014
There’s something unusual about the freeskier James Woods. Not because he is tipped to take bronze at Sochi next month, but because he’s the only British man expected to win an individual medal at the Winter Olympics.
And that’s not because we aren’t predicted to do well. Quite the reverse: Britain is hoping for its best medal haul at a Winter Games since winning a gold, silver and bronze in Germany in 1936. It’s because all the other medal contenders are women.
From Lizzy Yarnold, the 25-year-old skeleton racer from Kent, who hopes to repeat the gold Amy Williams won four years ago in Vancouver, to the Scottish speed skater Elise Christie, tipped for a bronze, Britain’s women are expected to grab the headlines.
Winter sports coaches believe the unusual gender imbalance is no quirk of fate but instead reflects how our female athletes train: against their male peers, which makes them stronger. This is partly because numbers competing in disciplines such as speed skating are low, but also because young girls and boys are entering some of the newer sports like freestyle skiing as equals. Nicky Gooch, Christie’s coach, said her “extra performance had come from training up to the boys’ level. The [men’s] training group is harder; men are stronger.”
The other women tipped for individual medals are skeleton’s Shelley Rudman and curling’s Eve Muirhead. The 57-strong team announced today also included the three-time Olympian Chemmy Alcott. Both Winter Paralympic individual medal hopefuls are also female: the visually impaired skiers Kelly Gallagher and Jade Etherington are aiming to win Britain’s first golds at the games.
Warren Smith, a freeskier coach who is helping to train contestants on Channel 4’s new reality show The Jump, said the newer freestyle disciplines such as halfpipe and slopestyle, were attracting equal numbers of girls and boys. But he stressed that the big advantage was that for the first time Brits didn’t need to travel abroad to find the snow. “The most important thing is they can be practised at indoor snow domes and ski slopes in the UK. It’s big news for us because it means we can go head to head with other nations for the first time.”
Again, the two contenders are female: 18-year-old Katie Summerhayes from Sheffield, who trains at Castleford Sno!Zone, and Rowan Cheshire, also 18, from Stoke, who goes to Sochi a firm favourite after winning gold in a Ski Halfpipe World Cup event in Calgary this month.
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: Compare the Barcelona and Real Madrid players in El Clasico
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo
Manchester United vs Chelsea: Jose Mourinho to push for Diego Costa to play at Old Trafford
Tim Sherwood: The mavericks have always needed special handling – but Balotelli is not delivering his side of the bargain for Liverpool
Sunderland vs Arsenal: Premier League match preview
- 1 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 2 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts