Scottish cross-country skiing star Andrew Young believes his historic bronze medal in Italy last year has given him the confidence – and potentially the finance – to continue making history on the World Cup circuit.
The 24-year-old from Huntly became the first British Nordic-sports athlete to achieve a World Cup podium with success in a freestyle sprint race in Toblach, extending a run of improbable success for the team which had also seen Andrew Musgrave crowned Norwegian champion in 2014. Now Young, who recently finished a four-year stint with the Open University and has based himself full-time in Lillehammer, Norway, hopes the prospect of a more sustained assault on World Cup medals will open up more opportunities for both himself and the Great Britain team.
He said: “I had my podium last year and I backed it up with a couple of other top 10 finishes and going into this new season it has given me the belief that I can be right up there among the best.
“This time last year I was a little more tentative and just hoping to have a good season, but now I’ve really got the confidence. Not only do I know what I want to achieve, but I know that I can go out there and achieve it.”
Hopes of the tight-knit GB cross-country squad had largely been shouldered by Musgrave, whose success at the Norwegian Championships made him a high-profile figure in the build-up to the 2010 Sochi Olympics.
But Young’s sprint success could prove equally significant, with sponsors and equipment makers beginning to take an interest in his exploits and the possibility of cash rewards for those athletes who can underline their regular competitive potential.
“I’m a full-time athlete and this is the first year where I haven’t had to rely on my parents for money,” said Young. “The podium was definitely helpful – it gets you to the stage where you can compete for prize money and appearance money, and sponsors who pay you for each podium finish.
“You’re never going to get into cross-country skiing for the money but it’s obviously a good motivation to know that your results are going to get rewarded and make life a little easier at the same time.”
The Scot is targeting a final place at this year’s World Championships in Lahti, Finland in February and admits he already has one eye on what would be his third Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.
In cross-country, major championships alternate between freestyle and classical forms and the Olympics will feature the latter, which Young admits is not his biggest strength.
He added: “Classic is my weaker of the two techniques so I’ve already started to do some work on that with a view to Pyeongchang. It is my dream to reach an Olympic final, but it is all about concentrating on the small things on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s great to be a British cross-country skier at the moment. We have got the respect of the other nations and I think myself and Muzzy have what is possible with a lot of hard work.”
Young is likely to begin his 2017 World Cup campaign at the opening meeting in Lillehammer at the end of next month.