Cautious Hay looks to Sochi feeling optimistic and confident

Great Britain's Winter Olympic team boss Mike Hay claims there is a strong belief of winning medals at next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi - but is still urging caution.

Team GB will take a 56 strong team to Russia - four more than travelled to the 2010 Games in Vancouver - with medal hopes in a range of sports from skeleton and bobsleigh to short track speed skating, snowboarding to freestyle skiing.

British athletes won five medals at World Championship level last season, including two golds, and have enjoyed a solid season so far, with regular podium appearances at World Cup and European Championship level.

But Hay - who coached Rhona Howie's curling rink to gold in 2002 and will serve as chef de mission to the British team for the first time - still wants to manage expectations.

"I should be optimistic and confident and I certainly feel very privileged about leading this team," he said.

"I don't want to put undue pressure on the athletes. We don't have the depth of other nations and we are fragile at the top and we need to stay focussed.

"You don't want to make excuses but there is an unpredictability with winter sports, they are high risk and I'm on the cautious side."

However, Hay has warned against setting expectations too high in the wake of the haul of 29 gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics, with Britain's best Winter Olympic medal return, one gold, one silver and one bronze, at the 1936 Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

This will be the biggest British Olympic team since the 1988 Games in Calgary but approximately six in ten of those selected will be making their Olympic debut.

"We understand expectations and we take that as a vote of confidence that this could be the most successful delegation since 1936," added Hay, who flies to Sochi today to lodge the squad with Olympic organisers.

"It's a challenge, it's a stretch target and the stars need to be lined up correctly for us.

"To think we could challenge for three medals shows how far we've come since Vancouver, because we could not have delivered that four years ago. It's a challenge but it's certainly possible.

"I'm hoping athletes don't think about targets or worry about future funding but focus on the job in hand. I'm looking for people to deliver their personal bests and peak at the right time, because it's obviously not realistic for some of our team to make the podium."

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