Winter Olympic Games: Numbers `no barrier to the medal zone' for Britain

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The Independent Online
Britain will be taking their smallest Winter Olympic team in nearly 30 years to the Games in Nagano, Japan. Mike Rowbottom reports.

Just 33 competitors have passed the strict British Olympic Association criteria to earn selection for the Winter Games in Nagano beginning on 7 February - the lowest number since 17 Britons competed at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley.

However, the BOA chief executive, Simon Clegg, is cautiously optimistic about the impact the team can make.

"I am confident that we are taking a solid team to the Games," Clegg said. "We are not a winter sport nation, but we have a number of athletes who we will be expecting to reach the medal zone in their events."

Top six places are expected from the men's curling team, the four-man bobsleigh team led by Sean Olsson and the speed skater Nicky Gooch, who will be part of a relay team also aiming to be in with a medal chance.

The announcement of the final party ended the lingering hopes of two Britons - Keith Yandell in the luge, and Lesley McKenna in the snowboarding event. Yandell failed to satisfy the BOA with his performances this season, and McKenna did not do enough to convince the International Ski Federation to allocate a place to Britain, despite at least one top-20 placing in recent World Cup competition.

The team contains at least two members who may not be British for long. David Allardice, of the speed skating relay squad, recently received Canadian citizenship, and Sophie Ormond, the 18-year-old named in a nine-strong alpine and freestyle skiing team, is expecting to receive a French passport two months after the Games are over.

Graham Bell, named in the alpine skiing, will be making his fifth Winter Games appearance, as will Michael Dixon, a 35-year-old Army officer who competed in the cross-country skiing event at the Sarajevo Games of 1984 but has now switched to the biathlon.

GREAT BRITAIN TEAM (for Winter Olympic Games, Nagano, Japan, starting on 7 February): Skiing (Alpine): A Baxter, E Carrick-Anderson, G Bell, A Freshwater, S Ormond, J Ormond. Skiing (freestyle): T Dudgeon (moguls), K Harbut (aerials), S Temple (moguls). Biathlon: M Gee, M Dixon. Bobsleigh: S Olsson, L Paul, D Ward, L Johnson, P Attwood, C Rumbolt. Short-track speed skating: N Gooch, M Jasper, R Mitchell, M Rowe, D Allardice. Figure skating: S Cousins. Curling (men): D Dryburgh, P Wilson, P Wilson, J Napier, J Dryburgh. Curling (women): K Hay, E Loudon, K Loudon, J Lockhart, F Bayne.