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

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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable