Short track speed skaters Jack Burrows (Nottingham) and Aydin Djemal (Epsom) made history by becoming the first Team GB athletes to win medals at the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria today.
Burrows and Djemal won gold and silver respectively in the 3000m mixed nations team relay at the Olympiaworld Stadium. The event sees two male and two female skaters from different nations competing in each team. Burrows team consisted of Jung Hyun Park (Korea), Xiucheng Lu (China) and Aili Xu (China) while Djemal competed alongside Mariya Dolgopolova (Ukraine), Chunyu Qu (China) and Hongzji Xu (China).
At just 14 years of age Burrows is the youngest member of Team GB. Shortly after receiving his medal he said: “It means so much to me, I can go home and be able to look at it, train even harder and use it as motivation now. We managed to get in front and then held on for the medal. It’s all about skating as hard as you can for your lap and a half and we did that four times each to take the win. I learnt a lot from the individual racing about how to skate at this level, my overtakes improved a lot and now for future competitions I know I have to be even better. Winning a Youth Olympic medal feels absolutely brilliant.”
Djemal, aged 15 said: “I'm gobsmacked to be quite honest. I really didn’t think coming here that I was going to get a medal. This was supposed to be somewhere that we could come and learn about the sport so to have done that and to have won a medal is just amazing. It was really difficult to communicate with my teammates and I had to bring my laptop down and use the translator so we could all understand each other. But we all got the message and a lot of it was instinctive, once we were clear in second we just relaxed. Speed skating is my life and this just means so much to me. The support has been great.”
Earlier in the week Burrows and Djemal had finished seventh and tenth respectively in the 1000m individual competition.
The mixed nation events are a core element of the Youth Olympic Games vision of International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge. They are designed to encourage cultural exchange and lasting friendships between young athletes from different countries around the world.
Also in mixed-nations team action at the Olympiaworld Stadium were Team GB ice dancers Millie Paterson (Rotherham) and Edward Carstairs (Nottingham). The British pair were placed in a team with an individual male and an individual female figure skater, with each performing their routine to earn ranking points for the team. Paterson and Carstairs performed a faultless free programme to rank eighth in the ice dance element and contribute to a fifth placed finish for their team, with 13 ranking points.
Carstairs said: “We’re pleased with another personal best score and we definitely skated better than last time. We corrected a few things from earlier in the week. It’s good to be constantly improving competition on competition. This is only our third competition together as a pair but so far we’ve improved every time which is really good.
On the team competition format: “It’s something a little bit different, something that we haven’t experienced before but I think it’s a great thing to do to get everyone working together to do well. You want obviously to do well yourself, but also your teammates from other countries, which doesn’t normally happen in skating
Paterson said: “We’re really happy with our performance. There was a couple of things we could still do better but it was probably one of our cleanest skates and we’re pleased with it. It was really good to skate in front of such a big crowd.”
Team GB curling skip Duncan Menzies (Arbroath) made it through to the quarter finals of the mixed nations doubles competition with partner Taylor Anderson from the USA. They won a tense round of 16 match 5-4 against opponents from Estonia and Finland. However they were then beaten 7-4 in the quarter final by the pair from Japan and Korea to end Britain’s interest in the curling competition.
Menzies said: “The doubles event was a lot of fun and Taylor and I made a good pair but we just couldn’t come up with the shots when we needed them in the quarter final. In the team event I struggled to read the ice at the start of the competition and we left ourselves too much to do. But the event as a whole has been a fantastic experience and hopefully I can learn from this and bounce back a better player. I want to be at an Olympic Games some day and to have this experience under my belt could prove very useful. I’ve had a great time but overall I would have to say I'm a bit disappointed with our results, we could have done much more here.”
Earlier in the day fellow Team GB curler Rachel Hannen (Hamilton) and her partner lost 7-1 in their round of 16 match.
Team GB Alpine skier Paul Henderson (Edinburgh) raced in the slalom, his fourth and final event, during heavy snow conditions in Patscherkofel. Henderson was fast through the top half of his first run, but fell just a few gates from the end and did not finish the run, bringing an end to his Youth Olympic campaign.
Henderson said: “I'm disappointed about the slalom, as it was the last race and I was going really well but about ten gates from the finish I just got caught and fired off the course. It’s a shame because everyone was finding the course very tough and my split time halfway down meant I looked in pretty good shape for a top-ten finish. That would have been fantastic and I was pretty angry at the end of the race but these things happen and I can’t change it now. I gave it everything I had, I was right on the edge and I don’t have any regrets. This is a once in a lifetime chance to be at a Youth Olympics and before you know it will be gone so I wasn’t going to ease off, I wanted to go as hard as I could. The course and the competition here is by far and away the toughest I have ever skied against so when I come back to easier competitions this will be a great experience for me to have. It’s all about learning and improving and I certainly feel I have done that here, the Games have been fantastic and I've learnt so much about new cultures and made new friends, it’s just a shame it’s all coming to an end now.”