Countdown to Sochi: Winter Sport Week in Review

04 September 2013 / 09:39

Stuart Horsepool insists it is the performance not the outcome that Britain’s short track speed skaters will take from their trip to Heerenveen into the first World Cup of the Olympic season later this month.

World Cup champion Elise Christie and Jack Whelbourne were the stand-out performers at the Invitational Cup in the Netherlands, claiming the overall women’s and men’s titles respectively.

Christie, who won World Championship bronze and double European gold last season, was victorious in the 500m and 1000m while Whelbourne emerged triumphant in the 1000m and 1500m, both for overall success.

The Invitational Cup acted as preparation for the World Cup opener in Shanghai, from September 26-29, and British performance director Horsepool admits it is the nature of the results that will breed the most confidence.

“It was a good competition for the squad,” he said. “The idea of a preparation competition is that the athletes get back into competing, because even though training preparation is of course vital, the nature of short track means that you also have to be sharp when you race.

“Jack and Elise did well this weekend, but true value of this competition is not the titles they have won here, but the race practice that they and the squad now take into the World Cup in a few weeks time.”

In addition to Christie and Whelbourne’s individual success in Heerenveen the men’s 5000m relay team won both events while the women’s remains a work in progress in their bid to qualify for Sochi 2014.

“The men in the relay did well to win against the Dutch in final one, it was very close and they beat them on the finish by just 0.01seconds,” added Horsepool.

“Even though they performed well, racing has been valuable because we have been able to identify some areas we can work on ahead of the World Cup Series.

“The women also competed in the relay and finished third behind the Netherlands and Hungary, but significantly ahead of Poland who are one of the teams they are up against in qualification for Sochi.

“The girls showed that they still have a lot to work on in their relay, but they will also take a lot of important lessons away from Holland.”

Elsewhere, Britain officially selected their first athletes for the Olympics in Sochi; Eve Muirhead and her World Championship gold medal winning rink confirmed on the team.

Skip Muirhead, along with fellow curlers Anna Sloan, Claire Hamilton and Vicki Adams, are the first four athletes chosen to represent Team GB in Russia next February.

Muirhead is only one of the four to have played at an Olympics before, having skipped the British team to seventh place at Vancouver 2010 at the age of just 19.

And Adams, who plays second, admits she is excited by what the four can achieve in Sochi, saying: “I am absolutely delighted to be chosen to compete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

“All the hard work that has been put in by the team over the last two years has really paid off and is a dream come true. It’s great to be able to work towards the Olympics with these girls.

“Not only are they teammates, but also best friends. We all know what our final goal at the Olympics is, and are doing as much as we can to give ourselves the best chance.”

Meanwhile, Chemmy Alcott revealed that she had re-broken her leg but dismissed the severity of the injury as a slight set back; adamant she will still be at the Olympics in Sochi.

Alcott will now begin the road to Sochi later than expected but has no doubts that she will be lining up at her fourth Olympic Games in Russia in February.

“Slight set back in my Sochi prep as the last day of a fabulous camp where I was skiing technically stronger than ever, I had a little whoopsie,” Alcott wrote on her Facebook page.

“Rebroken my leg. Clean, easy break already weight bearing. Medical opinion is I will miss first races but will be good to go full speed ahead after.

“Unfortunate set back but I am used to the adversity, just another chapter before the Hollywood finish in Sochi!!”

And, in their opening races of the new season, TJ Baldwin and Douglas Crawford achieved seven top-ten places between them in the Nevados de Chillan Super G and Super Combined FIS race series.

© Sportsbeat 2013