Winter Olympics: Norwegian camp to improve skiers

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S past and potential Olympic skiers are for the first time experiencing an intensive training camp on foreign slopes in the hope that performances at the Lillehammer Games in 1994 show a marked improvement after the disappointments of Albertville last winter.

A squad of 47 of the nation's best performers in the cross-country, alpine and freestyle disciplines are in Lom, Norway, close to the venue for the next Winter Olympics. The British Olympic Association has put up pounds 100,000 to finance the venture, which will provide not only active training but also instruction for athletes on the important background areas including physiology, nutrition, psychology, sport science and medicine.

Kevin Hickey, the training camp director, said that for Lillehammer, the skiers 'will be better prepared than ever. The quality of performance will exceed anything we have seen before'.

The Lillehammer Games will be the first on the new four-year cycle which places the Winter Olympics two years apart from the Summer Games rather than in the same year, so this time there is less time for younger skiers to break through into the team. However, there are high hopes for Emma Carrick-Anderson, the 17-year-old Scottish alpine skier who was one of the few to perform better than expected at Albertville.

Also among the alpine contigent are established Olympians, like the brothers Graham and Martin Bell and Ronald Duncan. Jilly Curry heads the list of freestylers, while Michael Dixon, Britain's best ever biathlete, is with the nordic squad.

The aim is to avoid the sort of disappointment provided by the downhiller Martin Bell, who had raised expectations by coming eighth in Calgary in 1988. He finished half-way down the field in France.

Enterprises like the 10-day training camp should have a significant impact, but such are the complexities of skiing that the best possible preparations are not proof against having a disaster on the day. Hickey cautioned that great strides will be impossible without better finance, and he pointed to Spanish success at Barcelona as an indication that 'it is possible to buy medals'.