Wrong sort of snow...but no excuses from British hopefuls
February 12, 2014 07:12 am
Usually the wrong sort of snow causes grief to British Rail but yesterday it just derailed British medal ambitions.
"Cool. Hot. Yours." is the logo of these Olympics and, for Andrew Musgrave and Katie Summerhayes, it was a bit too hot and just not cool enough.
This weeks temperature on the coast in Sochi is expected to peak at 18 degrees - warmer than some days of the London 2012 Olympics - and while it's chillier up in the mountains, conditions under ski are best described as 'slushy'.
For cross-country skier Musgrave that meant he it found the going hard in his target event, the men's sprint, while for Summerhayes, who competes in freestyle skiing's slopestyle, it was all a bit too soft.
However, to their credit neither were blaming the conditions for their disappointment.
Musgrave, buoyed by his recent win in the Norwegian national championships, progressed through qualifying to become the first British skier to ever make the quarter-finals of the sprint event.
However, as the 1.8km course kicked spitefully upwards in the closing stages of his race, he fell from being in contention to qualify to finishing well behind his five rivals.
"I wouldn't call that the definition of having 'a good go'. I just didn't have a good day, the prologue went pretty rubbish," said Musgrave, who claimed finishes of 51st, 55th and 58th on his Olympic debut in Vancouver in 2010.
"I skied terrible, that's the best word to describe it. I just didn't have anything to give over the hills or anywhere basically.
"It is an amazing course for me and if I'm having a good day I should be able to beat anyone in the world.
"It is a bit hard to swallow right now. If I was in the same shape that I was at the Norwegians I think I would have been fighting for a place on the podium. I am never going to be happy with this, it was basically terrible."
Summerhayes did her best to put a brave face on her disappointment, dabbing away the tears and flashing a resigned smile to show off her Union flag mouthguard. But her body language said it all - she was far from stoked.
Summerhayes is the youngest member of the 56-strong British team in Sochi, celebrating her 18th birthday just a few months ago.
It means her chance will come again but that didn't ease her disappointment yesterday, as she settled for seventh in the first-ever women's ski slopestyle final.
Older heads, including her coach Pat Sharples, will be keen to accentuate the positive and underline the value of this experience when the opportunity rolls around again.
But Summerhayes, like most teenagers, wants it all and wants it all now.
She arrived in Sochi as a genuine medal hope after her fourth place at last year's World Championships and recent World Cup silver in Gstaad.
And she underlined that potential by advancing to the final in third place, her cause boosted by the failure of Canada's Kaya Turski, the defending world and X Games champion, to make the final.
However, a fall on her first run and a second run that saw Summerhayes twice put her hands down on landing her jumps, meant her score failed to make an impact on the podium places.
Even in Turski's absence Canada dominated, Dara Howell taking gold and Kim Lamarre bronze while the USA's Devin Logan claimed silver.
"I'm gutted and there's been tears. It happens, that's our sport and people fall," said Summerhayes. "I'm still happy with how I skied, so I need to take some positives.
"The first run was really slushy and I'm not really sure what happened, I landed a bit back seat and the next thing I was on the floor.
"The second run I did I wanted but I put my hands down twice on landing and that's the difference between winning and losing.
"It's my fault and it's just one of those things. I want to push this sport and I knew if I put my run down I was in with a good chance but it just didn't go my way."
Summerhayes' final run was delayed after her close friend, Canadian skier Yuki Tsubota, suffered a heavy fall, which left her with a suspected broken jaw.
"I was conscious of the conditions but it wasn't really a problem," insisted Summerhayes.
"We've been skiing on this sort of snow for a few days now and we ski in these conditions in summer, so there's no excuse."
No excuse...at least Britain's Olympians aren't like British Rail.
From James Toney, Sportsbeat, in Sochi
© Sportsbeat 2014