After Team GB equalled their best ever Winter Olympics in Sochi four years ago, the pressure is on for 2018’s representatives to step up once again.
The Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea see a 49-strong team of British athletes look to top the four medals brought home from Russia in 2014. And with the largest GB contingent seen at a Winter Games, there is a good chance of them doing so.
As athletes from all around the globe prepare for action after February 9th’s opening ceremony, we’ve taken a look at Britain’s best medal hopes.
Women’s Short-Track Speed Skating
Elise Christie spearheads a three-pronged attack from GB’s ladies in this fast, and sometimes chaotic, event. After a bitterly disappointing Sochi, in which she crashed out in all three disciplines she competed in (500m, 1000m and 1500m), the Scot comes into these Games in fine form having had a much smoother preparation.
The 2017 World Championships in Rotterdam saw Christie return home with two gold medals (in the 1000m and 1500m events), one bronze (3000m) and a world record time in the 500m. The latter event is the one the bookies see as the most likely to be plundered by the Brit, with Christie put in as second-favourite to claim the 500m gold.
Charlotte Gilmartin, bronze medallist in the 2017 European Championships over 500m and Kathryn Thomson, making her Olympic debut, will be looking to make an impact on the ice alongside their team-mate in Korea.
Men’s Freestyle Skiing – Slopestyle
Making just it’s second appearance at a Winter Games, the Slopestyle discipline of the broader Freestyle Skiing event is not to be missed. Taking inspiration from other sports such as BMX riding and skateboarding, this event is all about exciting tricks and flips.
Britain’s James Woods finished fifth in the Slopestyle event four years ago as the USA claimed a clean sweep of the medals. He did manage to bag bronze medals at both the Winter X Games in Norway and the World Ski Championships in Spain last year, despite crashing on his final run. One place ahead of him in Andalucia was American Gus Kenworthy, one of the aforementioned medallists in Sochi; who was actually born in Chelmsford, Essex!
Also hoping to shine on the slopes for GB is Tyler Harding who will be looking to cause an upset and help Woods end the USA stronghold.
Women’s Skeleton Bob
Undoubtedly the key event for Great Britain at the Winter Olympics, the Skeleton Bob gold has returned to these shores after the last two Games. Prior to those successes, Alex Coomber (2002) and Shelley Rudman (2006) also landed medals in the event.
Sochi champ, and GB flag-bearer for these Games, Lizzy Yarnold heads to Pyeongchang to defend her crown but will have to be on top of her came to defeat red-hot favourite Jacqueline Lolling. The German has won four of the eight Skeleton World Cup events this season and been third in another. The 22-year-old also claimed victory when the World Cup visited Pyeongchang back in March.
Yarnold did bag third place in Lake Placid at the start of the year, but currently sits in ninth in the overall standings. Above the defending Olympic champion in the standings is compatriot Laura Deas, according to the bookies, a more likely winner.
Deas finished fourth in the European Championships in Innsbruck in December, so will be hoping to carry that sort of form into her maiden Winter Olympics.
Men’s Alpine Skiing – Slalom
Great Britain has never won an Alpine Skiing medal, but there is a small amount of hope that could change. Dave Ryding is chalked up as a 20/1 chance with the bookmakers to land gold in the Slalom event, making him fifth-favourite.
‘Rocket Ryding’ has recorded seven top-10 finishes in World Cup and National Championship events in the past 12 month so certainly heads to the Asian pistes with a chance of glory.
He finished 17th in Sochi, an improvement from a 27th-placed finish four years previous, so appears to be on an upward trajectory when it comes to the major events. A second-placed finish in Kitzbuhel last year also marked him out as the first Brit to land a spot on a World Cup Event podium since 1981.
Despite an increased amount of talk about his medal hopes, Ryding is keeping his feet firmly on the ground; “I don’t worry or take much notice of what other people say about me… There’s no extra pressure on me. It all boils down to what I do on the day,” he told the Lancashire Evening Post.
Having served in the military Lamin Deen will have put himself to the test an awful lot. However, compared to taking charge of a bobsleigh on it’s nothing according to GB’s four-man bob pilot.
“You haven’t been as scared as when you are at the top of one of those big tracks,” he told The Times. “The Army, that’s baby stuff! This is frightening. There are always butterflies and fears because you are running off the top of a mountain with no brakes.”
Deen and his team finished 17th in the same event in Sochi in 2014, but are chalked up as sixth-favourites for Gold by some bookmakers this time around. A silver medal at last-year’s World Cup event is undoubtedly a great way to prepare for battle in Korea for the 37-year-old and his crew.
With two medals (one of those gold) in the last four Winter Olympics, Great Britain’s Women’s Curling team are generally fancied to compete with the rest of the world on the rink. And that is no different in Pyeongchang.
Eve Muirhead, who led GB to the bronze medal in Sochi is back again, and alongside her Royal Caledonian Curling Club team-mates is in great recent form. The team finished third again in Beijing when competing in the World Championships last years, before claiming continental dominance with a European Championships Gold in St Gallen, Switzerland.
With that triumph just two months ago, and a bronze in Russia to improve upon, Muirhead and co are well fancied to finish on the podium.
The Muirhead family have a say in the performance of Team GB’s male curlers too. Younger brothers of Eve, Thomas and Glen are part of the Men’s team who are out to follow up a medal from the most recent Winter Games.
A silver medal for Britain’s Men’s Curling team in Russia will undoubtedly act as a huge target to aim for in South Korea. Like their female counterparts, the Muirheads, along with Kyle and Cameron Smith and Kyle Waddell, are priced up as third-favourites to take the gold at 14/1 with some bookmakers.
Although the line-up of the team has changed completely from four years ago, and are all making their Olympic debuts, a silver medal in St Gallen last year will stand them in good stead. Add in that all five come from champion curling families; alongside sister Eve, the Muirhead’s father Gordon competed in the 1994 Winter Games, the Smiths’ father David was 1991 World Champion and Waddell’s grandfather was European Champion in the 1970s, and the hope of Olympic glory cannot be far away.