Join Team GB

Countdown to Sochi: Winter sports week in review

January 20, 2014 08:03 am

Andrew Musgrave is playing down expectations after securing one of the most improbable British winter sports successes in recent history.

Musgrave beat the best of Norway at their own game, winning the sprint title at the cross-country skiing Norwegian Championships in Molde.

He claimed the scalps of a world champion and multiple World Cup winners and left a home media scratching their heads in disbelief, the headline on the broadcaster NRK read 'This hurts for Norwegians' while one newspaper wrote 'Brits can ski, it's time to forget Eddie the Eagle'.

Conditions were harsh and the demanding course was unlike the challenge that awaits in Sochi, with Norwegian team officials using the race to drill down their highly competitive selections for the Olympics.

But to beat the best of a nation who have won 96 nordic skiing medals at the Games remains some achievement.

"The goal is of course to win a medal but there are many others that compete with the same goal," said Musgrave, who has enjoyed his most successful season on the World Cup circuit.

"The guys here are going to go faster then and it will not be easy to beat them then. And I guess everyone on the Russian team will be on form, so it will be very tough."

Fellow Scot Andrew Young also finished 16th while Musgrave also ranked sixth in the 15km race.

Elsewhere, British nordic skiers also shone at the Swiss Championships in Leysin, Fiona Hughes taking silver in the women's 5km and Posy Musgrave coming home in fifth. They also ranked fourth and fifth respectively over double the distance.

Lizzy Yarnold's season to remember continued as she won her fourth World Cup skeleton title of the campaign - and secured a seventh consecutive podium finish - in Igls.

Yarnold leads nearest rival Noelle Pikus-Pace by 225 points with just one race remaining in Kognissee next weekend, which also doubles up as the European Championships.

World champion Shelley Rudman claimed another top five finish as Great Britain's women confirmed two quota places for Sochi, with Igls representing the final chance to qualify for the Games.

Team officials will also be able to select two men for the Olympics - with the official announcement due on Wednesday.

However, that selection will be far from straightforward. Ed Smith is showing signs of late season form after securing his first top ten of the season, while Dominic Parsons, a World Cup bronze medallist in the first race of the campaign, ranked 11th. 

Former world champion and three-time Olympian Kristan Bromley finished 18th after struggling on his second run.

Lamin Deen secured Britain a second four man bobsleigh quota place in Sochi after a tactical switch of personal reaped dividends.

Deen needed to be ranked inside the world's top 20 after the race and benefitted from a push start provided by first choice driver John Jackson's normal crew Stuart Benson, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon.

The move secured him 11th place and Jackson ranked 20th, alongside Deen's regular support of Craig Pickering, John Baines and Ben Simons.

Pickering, who competed in the 100m and 4x100m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is now in line to become one of a rare breed of British summer and winter Olympians.

Meanwhile, former world junior champion Paula Walker hopes she's done enough to secure a women's bobsleigh slot in Sochi after 14th with Sarah Adams in Igls.

"Eight years of hard work has gone into this," said Walker. "Competing in Vancouver was a bonus, so I hope this is enough [for Sochi]." 

Ski slopestyle specialist Katie Summerhayes claimed the second World Cup medal of her career to underline her Olympic ambitions.

Summerhayes, fourth at last year's World Championships, spent the early part of the season sidelined with a knee injury but seems to be hitting form at the right time.

She finished second to fellow teenager, Germany's Lisa Zimmermann, in Gstaad while team-mate Anna Vicenti just missed out on the final, finishing 11th.

World bronze medallist James Woods wasn't in action in Switzerland having secured the Olympic qualifying standard. He is focussed on the forthcoming X Games in Aspen but British team-mate Tyler Harding ranked 35th in the men's ski slopestyle.

Ben Kilner narrowly failed to make the halfpipe final at snowboarding's World Cup in Stoneham, Canada, finishing 14th as team-mate Dom Harrington ranked 16th.

Meanwhile, both Aimee Fuller - who has also earned an invite to the X Games - and Jamie Nicholls enjoyed solid performance in the snowboard slopestyle finals, ranking fifth and sixth respectively.

Chemmy Alcott was left cursing the very thought of World Snow Day, celebrated on Sunday, in Cortina.

Three-time Olympian Alcott was hoping to make her first World Cup downhill appearance of the season and prove to selectors she was back to full fitness.

But heavy snow has delayed the event until later this week, after British team selectors have convened to finalise their squad for Sochi.

"The disappointment of not having the chance to race this weekend is tough anyway but to know that these were the only chance for me to show my form is really frustrating," she said.

Elsewhere, Europa Cup champion Dave Ryding failed to qualify for a second run at the slalom World Cup in Wengen.

Great Britain's short track speed skating performance director Stuart Horsepool insisted there was work to do despite a two medal return from the European Championships in Dresden.

Elise Christie won gold in the 1000m - her signature event - to underline her Sochi ambitions and then joined forces with Charlotte Gilmartin,  Kathryn Thomson and the retiring Alex Stanley to win relay silver, ahead of three teams who had all qualified for the Olympics.

Richard Shoebridge finished 12th overall, one place ahead of team-mate Jack Whelbourne while Christie finished second overall in the women's classification.

“The four skaters who competed individually here (Christie, Gilmartin, Richard Shoebridge and Jack Whelbourne) have all performed well, however we do still have some work to do before the Games," said Horsepool.

"The Europeans have highlighted a few areas we need to work on, but we can take a lot of positives out of these championships.

“I’m also delighted that Alex (Stanley) has ended her career on such a high. It will be sad to see her go because she’s been a part of the team for a long time, however it was a fantastic end to a great short track career.”

Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland claimed the biggest result of their career with a ice dance bronze medal and personal best score at figure skating's European Championships in Budapest.

They are the first British skaters to make the podium at the event since two time Olympians and their former training partners Sinead and John Kerr in 2011.

Jenna McCorkell finished 24th in the women's event while Stacey Kemp and David King ranked 13th in the pairs competition. Matthew Parr, who will be part of the team skating event in Sochi, was 27th in the men's and didn't qualify for the free dance.

World champion Eve Muirhead enjoyed a confidence boosting win over Canadian skip Jennifer Jones at curling's Continental Cup in Las Vegas. 

But the rest of the world team, which also included three-time Olympian David Murdoch, were well beaten by the best of north America.

“We underperformed this week," said Team World and Team GB curling coach David Hay.

"We didn’t perform as well as we should have done. The Canadian and American teams played very well. Some of our guys played very well at times but not well enough all the way through, so they were deserved winners.

“The next event (Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games) will be life changing for someone. There’s going to be some close contests out there and if the ice is as good as it was here there will be some outstanding games of curling.”

© Sportsbeat 2014