The British Olympic Association (BOA) today announced that five short track speed skaters have been officially selected for Team GB for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The five athletes join the curlers and figure skaters already selected bringing the total Team GB size to 21.
The selected athletes are:
Last month at the Turin and Kolomna World Cups the athletes, who are all training at the National Performance Centre in Nottingham, raced successfully to secure quota places across all race distances in both male and female individual events. Christie, despite her heart-stopping crash in Kolomna, along with Whelbourne, 22, and Gilmartin, 23, are now set to compete at Sochi in all individual distances; 500m, 1000m and 1500m.
Eley’s selection will make Sochi his third consecutive Olympic Winter Games, having competed at both Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. The 29-year-old will contend in two distances which will include his speciality, 500m, the event he placed 5th and 6th in respectively at the last two Winter Olympics. For Gilmartin, who is a European bronze medallist, and World Cup medallist Shoebridge, 28, this is their first selection for an Olympic Winter Games.
At Christie’s Olympic debut at Vancouver in 2010, she placed 11th, 20th and 19th in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m respectively, while Whelbourne placed 16th in the 1500m. Since then, the young duo have established themselves as Team GB’s highest ranked male and female short track skaters on the world circuit.
Christie’s accolades last season alone include a world number one ranking (1000m) following her multiple medals successes at the 2012/2013 World Cup series, as well as becoming the first British woman to win an individual World Championship medal. Former World Junior Champion Jack Whelbourne is the youngest member of the short track team for Sochi, but over the last two seasons the former European Champion has come into his own as a senior skater and has achieved a number of top 8 rankings at World Cups.
The short track speed skating at Sochi takes place from the 10-21 February, a much longer period than other international short track events, giving Team GB the opportunity to compete for medals in multiple distances.
Short track was introduced as a full medal sport in 1992 and is one of the most exciting spectator sports at the Olympic Winter Games for its unpredictability, high-speeds and notoriously dramatic races.
Team GB have won just one bronze medal at the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games courtesy of Nicky Gooch. Now the National Coach for GB Short Track, Gooch’s experience and knowledge has been invaluable on the team’s journey to qualify for Sochi.
Commented Sochi 2014 Team GB Chef de Mission Mike Hay:
“I am pleased to welcome five short track skaters to Team GB today. The speed and unpredictability of short track makes it a thrilling sport to watch, but equally excruciating as anything can happen. We have a nice mix of youth and experience with Jon Eley attending his third Olympic Winter Games and others selected for their first. I am sure they will all make a significant contribution to Team GB in Sochi.”
Said Stuart Horsepool, Team GB Short Track Team Leader and Performance Director of GB Short Track:
“I’m very pleased with the athletes that have been selected for Sochi. They have all worked incredibly hard to earn the right to be part of Team GB, not just this season but over the course of the last four years.
“The short track programme over the four year cycle has shown continual improvement on results at a world level, with more skaters winning more medals in more disciplines than ever before.
“This is without doubt the strongest British team we have ever put together, and a number of the selected athletes have opportunities of bringing home medals from Sochi.
“There is just one block of training left before we go to the Olympic preparation camp ahead of the European Championships in January, and all our focus is on making sure the athletes are in the best position to skate to their full potential at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.”
Commented Elise Christie:
“I’m really proud to have been picked for my second Winter Olympics and I can’t wait to get out to Sochi and try to win medals for Team GB. I feel really lucky to have this opportunity and I’m so thankful to my team, support staff and everyone that has helped me get to where I am now.
“With the experience I’ve already gained from Vancouver 2010, I hope I can go to Sochi and do more than just take part this time. I want to compete for medals and I’m going to fight to be at the top of the pack.”
Said Jon Eley:
“Even though this will be my third Olympic Winter Games, it feels just as special to be selected to represent Team GB at Sochi. In some ways I’m more excited because I’m part of the strongest ever squad that Team GB has sent to a Winter Olympics and history could be made in Sochi.
“I’d like to thank everybody that has helped me get to this point, especially UK Sport and the National Lottery for all their support in not only getting me to Sochi, but throughout my whole career. I hope I can make Sochi my best Olympics yet.”
Commented Charlotte Gilmartin:
“I’m ecstatic to have been selected for my first Olympic Winter Games. I’ve been told that only just over 600 people have ever been chosen to compete for Team GB at a Winter Olympics, so to be part of such a small number is something really special.
“It has also been a relief to make the team because I narrowly missed selection for Vancouver 2010 so I’m delighted to be part of the team for Sochi. It’s been eight years of relentless hard work to reach this point, and it’s so exciting to think about stepping out onto the ice at Sochi and being on the world’s biggest sporting stage.”
Commented Jack Whelbourne:
“I’m really pleased to have the opportunity to skate for Team GB at the Olympics again. Vancouver was a brilliant experience, but next year will be even more special as I get to skate all the individual distances.
“I want to thank everyone who has helped me get through another four year cycle. I’ve come a long way since the last Winter Olympics and I’ve had some good results at the World Cups this season, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Sochi brings.”
Said Richard Shoebridge:
“It’s going to be an honour to represent Team GB in Sochi. It’s always been one of my childhood dreams, so being selected for my first Olympics and finally fulfilling that dream is a great accomplishment for me.
“Without the support and influence of my family throughout my career I would not be where I am today. I’d also like to thank my fellow teammates and support staff for the last four years and helping to prepare me for the upcoming games. I’m excited to compete for Team GB against the rest of the world and I hope I can give my best performance.”
Added Nicky Gooch, GB Short Track National Coach:
“The athletes that have been selected are delighted and I believe they have the potential to produce Team GB’s best ever performance in short track. It’s been a long road, but now they are more driven than ever push forward and come back from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics with the best possible result.
“We are now focused on closing any remaining gaps between our athletes and other nations to give them the best opportunity to medal at Sochi. Our aim now is to keep the momentum going from the start of the season and continue building on the strategies and skills that have already helped Elise and the team win medals at the World Cup against the best athletes in the world.”