Ice hockey player Katherine Gale (Crowthorne - pictured) came within a whisker of winning the first medal for Team GB at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, but ultimately had to settle for fifth place in the ice hockey skills challenge event final.
Gale accumulated the same number of points across the six skill challenge as the bronze medallist - Sharnita Crompton of Australia - but the Australian was awarded the bronze medal on count back as she won one of the six skills outright. While Gale did not finish first in any of the skills, she was the most consistent high performer across the range of skills, which were: fastest lap, shooting accuracy, skating agility, fastest shot, passing precision and puck control. The event, which is a new innovation from the International Olympic Committee attracted a full house of over 2,000 spectators at the Olympiaworld Stadium.
Gale said: “I’m a bit gutted as it was so close. It’s disappointing not to win a medal but I gave it my all and I really enjoyed the competition. I had a few unlucky draws and a couple of unlucky events where I hit a cone or the puck got away from me, it was just an unlucky day overall really. But that’s part of the sport and it was great to be out there in front of a big crowd. I kind of kept track of the events and how it was playing out but the most important thing was to focus on each individual event and giving my best. I was confused at the end about where I had come, I was trying to ask my parents in the stands but they didn’t know either! I’m now going to support the rest of my teammates and tomorrow i’m going to have the chance to meet Olympic Champion Angela Ruggiero, which will be amazing.”
Earlier in the day Britain’s sole snowboarder Lewis Courtier-Jones (Coventry) reached the final of the slopestyle event with after posting a fine qualification run. However in worsening weather conditions in the final he was unable to land all his jumps and finished in 16th position with a score of 39.50. Slopestyle is a new addition to the Olympic Programme and will make its full debut in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Courtier-Jones said: “I was really pleased to put a good run down to make the final. I had some really good runs in practice but the final was not my best. The weather and the conditions today made it really difficult to land and I struggled a bit. It was really flat light and the wind was really strong. Overall it’s been really great, amazing. I've met so many cool people. I really enjoyed this slopestyle course and I enjoyed the pipe the other day. My ambition now is to train hard to make the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic team and do my best there.”
Meanwhile at Seefeld Team GB’s cross country skiers were in action in the individual sprint. Sarah Hale (lives in Dalarna, Sweden) produced an excellent performance in the qualification round to reach the quarter finals, while Scott Dixon (Aviemore) finished a credible 33rd, missing the quarter final qualification by just three places.
Hale said: “It felt very good to make the quarter finals, but to be honest I really wanted to get to the semi finals in this event. A couple of people fell in front of me during the race and that slowed me down a bit but even so I should have pushed a bit harder. But to make the knockout stages is a good achievement and I'm sure I’ll be proud of it when I look back.”
Scott Dixon said: “I felt great in the sprint, all of my training was paying off and I felt like I flew round the course. I couldn’t have given anything more out there, it was all I had and it’s just frustrating that it wasn’t quite enough. The flat sections were unreal so it can only have been the hills that have pushed me out of qualifying so that’s something I will work on. But this is what these Games are all about, it’s an experience for me and I will need to learn from this. It feels good to have proved the seedings wrong; I can take some encouragement from that. These Games have been fantastic, probably the best week of my life in terms of the competition, the friendship, the sportsmanship, it’s just been amazing.”
In the short track speed skating Team GB’s Aydin Djemal (Epsom) and Jack Burrows (Nottingham) finished 13th and 15th respectively in the individual 500m competition.
Burrows, the youngest member of Team GB in Innsbruck, set a new national age group record to finish third in his heat but was penalised for an infringement in his semi final and placed 15th overall. He said: “Of course today was a bit disappointing, to be penalised is never great but these things happen in short track and I'm delighted I got the national record. I’m skating a whole second faster than my personal best out here, the ice is fantastic and the chance to compete against the best in the world is amazing. I would have liked to have done a bit better in the 500m but the record is some consolation for me. The 1000m is probably my stronger event but overall over the two days I'm so pleased with how I’ve skated and there’s the relay still to come so that’ll be fun.”
Djemal, who also placed third in his heat, but fell in the C final said: "The 1000m is probably my stronger event but I enjoy the 500m more and today was a lot of fun. Of course I was a bit annoyed to have that fall in my final because I had a great chance to overtake and I failed to take it. But overall these two days have been great. Jack and I have been doing some of our fastest ever skating and it's been an amazing experience. It just makes me want it even more to see how good these guys are and now we've got the relay still to come which should be a really close race.”
In the Alpine skiing event taking place at Patscherkofel Team GB’s Paul Henderson (Edinburgh) crashed out on his first run in the giant slalom. Henderson will have another opportunity to demonstrate his ability in the slalom competition on Saturday.
Henderson said: “These things happen in skiing. It rained last night so the course was pretty difficult, the snow was very soft and I ended up coming off my inside ski right at the start of the run. It’s frustrating because first and foremost you want to finish but skiing is such a precise sport that if your head or your skis are a few inches out of place it will cost you. It’s up to me to hopefully learn from this now and take it into the slalom at the weekend where I want to prove to myself as much as anything that I can compete when it matters most. The slalom is my favourite event, if I can make a top 15 finish that would be fantastic. I managed 17th in the Super G but I really want to get into that top 15. I think I can do it so it’s a case of going out there and proving it on the slopes.”