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Five best Team GB medal hopes for 2022 Winter Olympics

The Independent
The Independent
 2022-01-24

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Team GB head to Beijing 2022 hoping to win a record medal tally.

Having secured five medals at Sochi 2014, Great Britain matched that total four years later in Pyeongchang.

While lacking the overall cross-sport competitiveness, they will travel to China with more than a handful of viable medal contenders.

Great Britain have named a 50-athlete team for the event, hoping to better a performance of a sole gold and four bronzes last time around.

Here are five of Team GB’s best hopes of a medal at Beijing 2022:

Dave Ryding, men’s slalom (alpine skiing)

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Fresh from becoming the British winner of and Alpine Skiing World Cup gold medal with a remarkable victory in Kitzbuhel, Dave Ryding heads to Beijing full of confidence and Team GB’s only realistic contender in alpine skiing. It appeared the 35-year-old’s hopes of a major success were fading after a middling season, but a stunning performance on the Hahnnenkamm means he is the in-form man in a wide open men’s slalom.

Ryding had the misfortune of arriving in the era of Marcel Hirscher, the greatest male technical skier in history, but the Austrian has now bowed out of the sport, leaving a vacancy at the top that is yet to be convincingly filled. Five World Cup events this season have brought five different winners and 13 podium finishers - none of whom are the enormous Ramon Zenhäusern and classy Michael Matt, who will be back and looking to repeat their medal-winning performances from four years ago. Andre Myhrer, gold medallist last time around, is another retiree.

Norwegian next-gen starlet Lucas Braathen and compatriot world champion Sebastian Foss-Solevåg are among, but the potential medal picture is made all-the-more opaque by an unfamiliar course. China has never hosted a World Cup event and planned test events at Xiaohaituo Alpine Skiing Field had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, which means virtually every skier will get their first sighting of the piste during the Olympics. Course conditions and an ability to adapt quickly may be key come 16 February, and Ryding could be right in the hunt.

Great Britain have stood on an Olympic men’s slalom podium before - Alain Baxter was controversially stripped of his 2002 bronze after testing positive for a banned substance.

Bruce Mouat and Jen Dodds, mixed doubles (curling)

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Mixed doubles curling action begins the Winter Olympics two days before the scheduled opening ceremony, which means two of Britain’s medal contenders will have an early opportunity on the ice. Bruce Mouat and Jen Dodds are the reigning world champions in the mixed doubles, securing a popular home triumph in Aberdeen in May 2021.

They swap the Saltire for the Team GB banner in Beijing as Britain enters the format for the first time having missed out on the inaugural edition last time around. Norway, Sweden and Switzerland will provide tough opposition, while Canada are also strong contenders to defend their crown on 8 February despite a selection policy that does not allow them to pick competitors also involved in the men’s and women’s team events.

That is not the case for Great Britain - Mouat skips the men’s unit and Dodds forms a key part of Eve Muirhead’s female rink. Both Scottish groups are the reigning European champions, and Great Britain have an outside chance of three medals in the game of stones.

Izzy Atkin, slopestyle and big air (freestyle skiing)

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One of three British athletes with a bronze already in their pocket back for another go at Olympic glory, Izzy Atkin goes again in the slopestyle (14 February) for Team GB, and will also target success in the big air (8 February) discipline, new to the freestyle skiing programme for these Games.

The 24-year-old has added another Winter X Games silver and World Championships bronze since securing a podium place in Pyeongchang with a brilliant final run, but has had her recent preparations heavily disrupted by a serious pelvic injury suffered just before Christmas. If fully fit and firing, she will be right in contention, and look out for junior teammate Kirsty Muir, a Youth Olympic silver medallist and a rising star at seventeen.

Izzy’s younger sister Zoe is another fringe medal contender with a halfpipe Worlds bronze already to her name at 19, while James Woods has returned from a break from competitive skiing to go for a slopestyle medal having narrowly missed out at each of the last two Winter Olympics.

Charlotte Bankes, snowboard cross

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The carnage and chaos of snowboard cross makes it tough to predict but Charlotte Bankes might be Britain’s best hope of an individual gold in Beijing. Bankes swapped allegiance from France after the last Winter Olympics and has built her reputation since, claiming a brilliant world title in Sweden last year.

Bankes is another British snowsporter in encouraging form, taking twin World Cup triumphs in Russia at the start of January, and has the calm and cool to navigate the lumps, bumps, twists and turns of Genting Snow Park. Italy’s Michela Moioli and Eva Samková of the Czech Republic, who is battling an ankle injury, could again be lead protagonists, while there would be few more popular winners than Lindsey Jacobellis.

The American veteran’s Olympic career has rather been defined by misfortune, most notably her dramatic tumble in the final metres of the Turin course in 2006 that denied her what would be her only Olympic title. It is the one thing missing from a remarkable career ahead of a fifth Games. The women’s snowboard cross is on 9 February.

Another British contender on the board in Beijing will be Katie Ormerod, seemingly peaking at the right time four years ago before being so cruelly denied a chance to challenge by a serious heel injury in training in South Korea just days before her slopestyle and big air competitions. Her season performances haven’t been quite at her peak level, but a recent fourth on Mammoth Mountain in the USA will be a confidence-booster ahead of Beijing.

Brad Hall and Nick Gleeson, two-man (bobsleigh)

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Great Britain have established a staunch record of sliding success at the Winter Olympics, taking home at least a medal from every women’s skeleton event ever held at a Games. Laura Deas, bronze medallist behind double Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold four years ago, returns and will again have a medal in her sights, while Marcus Wyatt had a standout showing at the Olympic test event at the National Sliding Centre.

Yet it is Britain’s bobsledders who this time might stand the best chance of securing a medal. Brad Hall pilots both the two-man and four-man bobs, and has a combined six podiums across the two disciplines in the World Cup this season. Hall is partnered by Nick Gleeson in the smaller sled (15 February), with the pair supplemented by Greg Cackett and Taylor Lawrence for the four-man (20 February).

Team GB were well off the pace in Pyeongchang four years ago and have since struggled for form, fitness and funding. That seems to have spurred Hall and his units on, though, and a timely injection of £40,000 UK Sport funding has provided extra encouragement after strong test event performances.

Don’t rule out the women’s two-person team, either. Though the Americans and Germans, particularly, have tended to dominate, Mica McNeill and Montell Douglas finished second in Sigulda in Latvia in January and could capitalise on any major errors from the main contenders. Douglas makes a bit of history of her own with a second Olympic appearance in Beijing - the former sprinter becomes the first woman to represent Team GB at both a Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

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