Team GB bosses insist British athletes’ Beijing fortunes represent just one small step towards cracking their wider Winter Olympic conundrum.
Britain are still yet to bank a spot on the podium at the Games after UK Sport had set an ambitious target of winning three to seven medals.
Snowboard star Charlotte Bankes and curlers Bruce Mouat and Jennifer Dodds carried two of Britain’s biggest hopes but after all three failed to fire on Chinese snow and ice, Team GB’s chances of matching the five medal haul from PyeongChang 2018 appear slim.
Curling and skeleton have been traditional medal bankers for Britain but smaller sports like speed skating, figure skating, bobsleigh and luge have always struggled to churn out a consistent stream of genuine contenders.
That’s a pattern Team GB chiefs hope their Beijing Support Fund – that invested over £200,000 in smaller winter sports – will help change and Katherine Grainger, UK Sport Chair, insists enhancing British diversity remains their overarching priority heading into the next four-year cycle.
The Glaswegian, 46, said: “It’s always easy to judge how successful a team are by the number of medals they come back with, or where they place on the medal table.
“But we also recognise the Winter Olympics is such a brilliant platform for sport and a great opportunity to inspire the nation.
“Looking forward from a UK Sport point of view, we want to make it really clear that the Winter Games are a massively important part of our future strategy.
“We discuss it a lot round the board table and among the executive team – there’s a huge responsibility of where sport is going in the future and what role we play with it.
“It’s a real desire to make sure we’re not too narrowly-focused on one sport or discipline, create as broad a spread as possible and reach as many athletes as we can.
“We want to feel like we can help smaller projects and innovate individual athletes with bespoke and specific things.
“This is the exciting thing and one of our biggest areas of growth – we want people to get hooked on them every few years and for them to become part of our sporting family.
“Winter sports have this exciting, edgy and different feel – the more we see means more people will want to have a go themselves.”
Bankes, Mouat, Dodds and Britain’s skeleton stars – spearheaded by PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallist Laura Deas – have all fluffed their lines in Beijing but Team GB still have a week to break their medal deadlock.
Bobsleigh and figure skating represent two smaller sports where Britain could spring a surprise while elsewhere, alpine skier Dave Ryding arrives at the Games fresh off the back of his brilliant World Cup triumph in Kitzbuhel.
UK Sport’s Beijing Support Fund injected vital cash into sports not in receipt of World Class Programme funding such as figure skating, speed skating and bobsleigh in a bid to bolster their Beijing chances and lay the foundations for the next generation.
Grainger hopes the funding can help them follow in the footsteps of popular summer sports as Team GB build for a more prosperous Olympic future heading into Milano Cortina 2026 and beyond.
“There’s a real crossover between summer and winter sport and that feels like a really nice thing,” added the five-time Olympic rowing medallist, who spearheads UK Sport’s mission to reach, unite and inspire the nation.
“They can learn from each other, and that relationship is really important in terms of us becoming one sporting family.
“We want to show that we’re a really strong force in a winter sport and ignite the public’s imagination once again.
“That connection to the public and that ability to bring people together represents a great opportunity for us.”
UK Sport has an ambition to become an ever-greater force in winter sport. The Beijing Support Fund, which utilises Government and National Lottery investment, demonstrates UK Sport’s commitment to a wider group of sports, athletes and teams in the high-performance community as part of its mission to create the greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments; reaching, inspiring and uniting the nation. For more information visit www.uksport.gov.uk