Yet More British Wintersport Success!
The Ski Club have reported already on Dave Ryding’s excellent skiing form in the FIS Slalom World Cup, but there has been loads of British success elsewhere. Our athletes are rightfully gaining more recognition than ever and I’ve found myself glued to the TV coverage, watching our athletes compete at the very highest level.
What drew me in most in recent weeks was watching Andrew Musgrave, a cross-country skier from Dorset now living in Norway, and his efforts in the Tour de Ski. A relatively recent innovation by the FIS (the sport’s governing body), the Tour runs over a period of nine days, covering three countries, with seven races over varying distances.
The final leg, held in the Italian ski resort of Val di Fiemme has to be one of the most brutal races in sport. 9km on cross-country skis sounds tough enough, but add 70km of racing in the previous eight days and the fact the racers must ski 420 vertical metres up the Alpe Cermis red ski piste… That’s 1 ½ times higher than the Shard, with the steepest section hitting 28% – almost bringing some racers to a standstill.
Watching Musgrave deal with all of this was extremely impressive and his 20th place overall was an incredible achievement. He even secured the fastest time in the 25km pursuit race in Toblach. Let’s hope he, and his ever-improving teammate Andrew Young, can build on this through into the World Championships in Falun, Sweden, which begin on the 18th of February.
Ice sports are also proving to be highly productive this season for British athletes, building further on the success of Sochi. Skeleton in particular has seen a surge in popularity since the Olympics and Lizzy Yarnold’s gold medal; so much so that skeleton is now heavily backed by the BBC with races even streamed live online. I’ve caught both of Yarnold’s World Cup victories this season live on the BBC, including the latest from Königssee in Germany.Even when Yarnold missed the second race of the season due to illness, her 25-year old teammate Laura Deas stepped up to the mark to finish second. So now not only does Britain have an Olympic champion, but we also have a potential world-beater in Deas and steadily improving men’s racers in Dominic Parsons and Ed Smith. I wouldn’t be surprised if more World Cup and then Olympic victories are on the cards.
A mention must also go out to the British bobsledders, who continue to go from strength to strength. A 5th place in Calgary, by Lamin Deen and his team in the Men’s 4-Man has been the highlight so far. But our women have also recorded some excellent results, with both sleds gaining two top-10 finishes each this season. To have three British teams finishing in the top-10 is very impressive, especially when there are no track facilities in the country. Surely this will only increase the pressure to build an ice track in the UK, which can only be a good thing!Heading inside and I also caught some of the short-track speed skating Star Class Cup from Nottingham last week. The event was a massive success, and with 3,000 local children attending the noise levels inside the arena were seriously impressive. British victories helped to fuel the party atmosphere, with 14 medals won by our athletes, including by Elise Christie and John Eley. This backed up Christie’s twin bronze medals from the World Cup in Seoul before Christmas. I will be posting fortnightly updates on this blog and hopefully will be able to report on more British success next time around!
– Chris Madoc-Jones