Congratulations Mike on being appointed Chef de Mission for Team GB at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Firstly, how does it feel?
It is a great thrill, I was obviously delighted to accept the offer from our chairman Lord Sebastian Coe and our Board to head up the delegation for Sochi – thrilled and excited to be given the opportunity.
Now that you have taken on the role, what’s next?
One of the next priorities is to sit down with the senior management team, the British Olympic Association and Lord Coe and talk about, not necessarily the people, but the roles we will need to have and the HQ to make the team operate.
You’ve been to Sochi several times, what are your impressions?
It was a bit disconcerting the first time I went as you have got beaches and palm trees. You think this is a funny place to have the Games but you realise there is a massive difference in Sochi, the coastal cluster with ice rinks and up in the mountains with the snow sports and sliding venues. I am impressed and the whole concept of having a Winter Olympic Park is fabulous. You hear a lot about the construction and ‘are they behind time?’ but I think they did great test events and I’m sure they will have everything in place.
Where are Team GB at in terms of qualification of teams and athletes for Sochi?
Curling have qualified two teams we know that and there are other sports that are going to be coming up and qualifying. But a lot of our team won’t know their quota places and therefore qualification until January 19 so that is quite late on and that is all the snow sports and sliding sports.
Britain enjoyed their most successful Olympics for over a century at London 2012. Will the success transfer across to our winter athletes?
I think the inspiration of the London Games has rubbed off on a lot of our winter athletes and potentially that has given rise to some great performances the past season. A lot of them were invited on the Olympic Ambition Programme for London. I firmly believe they were inspired, rather than pressured, and that is great for us.
We won five World Championship medals across the winter sport disciplines the past season, is there reason to be excited that Sochi could be one of Britain’s best ever Winter Games?
If you look at the evidence, World Championships are pretty good indicators, it doesn’t necessarily mean to say you will convert that into the Olympic events but it is a great position to be in. We have got to be realistic about it and keep form and fitness of our top athletes if we are going to achieve on the greatest stage in the world.
One of those medals came in a discipline new to the Winter Olympic programme in Sochi, freestyle ski slopestyle courtesy of silver from James Woods, how promising is that?
It is really exciting for us and a real shot in the arm to the British team. These disciplines capture the public imagination and we have a number of people capable of doing well. I know Pat Sharples pretty well, he has done a great job with the freestyle programme as their head coach. He is a great guy, extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic and it just rubs off on everybody around him.
The team for Sochi looks like being a similar size to the one that went to the Vancouver Games in 2010, which was 50-strong, how will they differ?
In curling only two of the players who competed at the World Championships this past season went to Vancouver. I won’t preempt any selection at the moment but clearly the team that went to the World Championships are certainly going to be foremost in selectors mind. But there will certainly be a number of people who went to Vancouver that will go to Sochi and that makes a big difference. Statistics show you’re more likely be successful in your second Games than your debut Games.
And finally, you’re a curling man, how do you rate the men’s chances?
The guys have gone silver, silver, bronze in the last three years at the World Championships, they are there or thereabouts. I think what it does show is that there is not much between the top four or five nations. It is going to be tough for them; there is no doubt about that, because come the Olympics all the teams will be pretty strong.
And the women?
The girls have done remarkably well but there is huge pressure on them now having won the World Championships – they have put a pretty big target on there I back. Eve Muirhead and her team have lived with a bit of pressure though, they have won world juniors three times, won Europeans and now won worlds and she’ll be pretty focused on trying to get a medal in Sochi so what that space.