Great Britain falls short on medals target in Beijing despite curling success

Curling delivered a gold and a silver but heavily funded Skeleton, and Ski and Snowboard sports, drew a blank

Great Britain’s curlers delivered a stunning return on their investment but other sports disappointed in Beijing (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Great Britain’s curlers delivered a stunning return on their investment but other sports disappointed in Beijing (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Great Britain’s failure to meet its broad medals target in Beijing is sure to raise some serious questions relating to support and funding in the weeks and months ahead.

UK Sport set a target of three to seven medals in Beijing and Team GB delivered two – both in curling.

Here the PA news agency assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each of the main separately funded areas that come under the broad winter sports umbrella.

BOBSLEIGH

Brad Hall worked wonders with his four-man bobsleigh team (Robert Michael/PA)

Funding: £120,000

Grade: B

Despite having funding effectively stripped in the wake of a poor Pyeongchang cycle, Brad Hall worked miracles to fashion a team that could compete close to the world’s best. His sixth-placed finish in the four-man competition was a valiant effort that will surely be acknowledged with a funding upgrade.

CURLING

Eve Muirhead’s curling team sealed a spectacular Olympics for the sport (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Funding: £5.2m

Grade: A+

The emphatic over-achievers of the winter sports programme, Eve Muirhead’s gold medal and Bruce Mouat’s silver will spark calls for more cash to be be poured in and extra rinks and facilities to spring up around Britain. The country’s quadrennial love affair with curling deserves to become a much more permanent affair.

FIGURE SKATING

Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson have podium potential (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Funding: £40,000

Grade: C+

Good judges, including former Olympic champion Robin Cousins, believe British ice dancers Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson are fresh and talented enough to nudge their way towards medal contention in four years’ time in Milan-Cortina. Their impressive ‘Lion King’ routine will certainly have won a few hearts back home.

SHORT TRACK

Farrell Treacy rode his luck to reach a final (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Funding: £720,000

Grade: D

After years of near-misses, short-track was a disappointment in Beijing, with only Farrell Treacy’s somewhat fortunate advance to the 1500m final to brighten the gloom. Yet short-track remains an exciting and relatively accessible sport in the UK, and is perhaps deserving of a more profitable long-term plan.

SKELETON

Laura Deas was one of four skeleton sliders to disappoint (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Funding: £6.4m

Grade: F

The big losers in this Olympic cycle, questions will have to be asked about the continued funding of a sport which, despite yielding years of sustained British success, is yet to really leave a broad legacy. As far as return-on-investment was concerned, the performances in Beijing were frankly a failure.

SKI/SNOWBOARD

Kirsty Muir starred in the freestyle Big Air (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Funding: £9.5m

Grade: D-

For all the freshness of Kirsty Muir, and Dave Ryding’s ebullient one-man band, the ski and slopestyle disciplines offered little in the way of medal prospects. New generations will emerge through the indoor snow-domes, but fashioning them into world-class competitors is clearly quite another issue.

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