The first Winter Youth Olympic Games came to a close in Innsbruck, Austria today with Team GB finishing on a high by winning three medals in the final two days of competition. Saturday’s gold and silver medals for short track speed skaters Jack Burrows and Aydin Djemal in the 3000m team relay were followed by an historic silver medal for the two-man women’s bobsleigh duo of Jazmin Sawyers and Mica McNeill at the Olympic Sliding Centre on Sunday.
Team GB’s 24 athletes from 10 sport disciplines will be led at the Closing Ceremony by ice hockey player Katherine Gale, who was given the honour of carrying the Union Flag after agonisingly missing out on a medal in the ice hockey skills challenge event, despite recording the same number of points as her Australian rival who claimed the bronze medal.
The Closing Ceremony will see the Olympic Flame extinguished to mark the end of the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics and the Olympic Flag will be passed from Innsbruck to Lillehammer in Norway, host of the next edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2016.
The first Youth Winter Olympics saw over 1,000 competitors aged 14-18 from over 70 nations compete across all seven sports on the Olympic Programme. They events were attended by over 100,000 spectators and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge today declared the Games a success and praised the Organising Committee for delivering a great event. He said: “The first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games have exceeded all expectations and laid solid foundations for future Youth Olympic Games. We owe a debt of gratitude to the organisers and the many volunteers. These were ten glorious days of competition.”
Reflecting on the Games Team GB Chef de Mission Sir Clive Woodward said: “The Winter Youth Olympic Games have provided a fantastic learning experience for Team GB’s 24 athletes.
“Over the last nine days they have competed with great spirit, determination and talent to achieve their personal best. I have no doubt that every single athlete, whether in victory or defeat, has gained a great deal from their unique Youth Olympic experience. For the four British athletes going home with medals around their necks, they have a moment I’m sure they will remember forever.
“Crucially, the experience gained in Innsbruck goes well beyond the sporting competition. The athletes have learnt about the special Olympic atmosphere of living in an athletes’ village, competing in a multi-sport environment, dealing with the media and participating in the culture and education programme. I’m pleased that they have fully embraced all these aspects and it has been fantastic to watch athletes from different sports and different backgrounds really support each other as part of one Team GB.
“The organising committee is to be congratulated for delivering high quality facilities and support for the athletes throughout the Games, and the International Olympic Committee’s clever innovations in many sports have been well enjoyed by the athletes.
“I am particularly proud of the way Team GB’s athletes have conducted themselves, both on and off the field of play. They have all cherished becoming members of Team GB and have demonstrated the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect during the Games. I have every confidence that they will use this unforgettable experience as a springboard to continue their development into world class sportsmen and women.
“I look forward to watching these athletes develop their careers and I hope that the past ten days have provided them with an important stepping stone in their journey towards fulfilling their ambition to compete for Team GB at future Olympic Winter Games.”
As the flame goes out in Innsbruck, the full attention of the Olympic Movement, and the eyes of the world now turns to London and the final six month count down to the 2012 Olympic Games.