Winter Olympics – the cost of gold

Congratulations to Amy Williams. Our solitary medal at Vancouver was thoroughly deserved and it demonstrated that we can compete, as a country, at the winter Olympics. However it also shows, maybe a little cynically, that in order to do so we need money and plenty of it. Of all the Winter events, the sliding sports secured the funding, partly because of success at the last Olympics but also because of the nature of the sport. Reliant on a good start, for which acceleration off the mark is paramount, the potential talent pool for skeleton is large (discounting psychological profiling!) and as such UK sport targeted it as a medal source. It worked, we got a gold and it cost £2.5 million.

I recently posted a video of the US Winter sports training facility, this is the kind of thing needed in the UK. A place where all winter sports can reap the benefits of funding instead of just the one. Start gates for alpine skiing, sliding events, ski-x and boarder-x could be included, an ice rink or two for speedskating and figure skating, a nordic course (for roller skiing without snow) and of course a gym and plyometrics track for all sports could be included. This way all winter sports could benefit instead of just the one that happens to be lucky enough to receive the mainstay of the funding for that Olympic cycle.

Sir Steve Redgrave has mentioned a facility similar to this but aimed at speedskating. The issue I take with this is mainly due to my affiliation with skiing. There is a thriving ski and snowboard industry in the UK with 5 million partaking nationwide, a large number I think you’ll agree. How many skeleton, luge, bobsleigh and speedskating participants are there? Someone within the winter sports industry (hopefully whoever picks up where snowsport GB left off) has to ensure that our skiers and snowboarders, as well as speed and figure skaters, are able to compete with the best in the world as Amy Williams did so successfully. I know there are issues with the organisation of the sports and competing on tours but it’s no different for the US teams and it’s no different for other sports like tennis. This facility could also greatly benefit the junior athletes on performance pathways that don’t compete all the year round as well as our top performers when they’re back in the UK.

Neil Welch

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