Scotland will be “punching above its weight” at the Winter Olympics, with athletes making up almost a third of the British team, officials said yesterday.
A squad of 56 athletes, including 18 from Scotland, was named yesterday for the Games, which start in Sochi, Russia, on 7 February. Curlers make up more than half of the Scottish contingent, with representation also in skiing, snowboarding, speed-skating and bobsleigh events.
Team GB management have set a minimum target of three medals at the Games, with both curling teams, made up entirely of Scots, among the favourites in their field.
The women’s curling team of Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams, Claire Hamilton, Anna Sloan and Lauren Gray were the first athletes to be named on the British team last year, quickly followed by David Murdoch, Tom Brewster, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow and Greg Drummond. Muirhead’s rink won gold at last year’s World Championships and added European silver, while the men won bronze at both events.
A number of staff based at the sportscotland Institute of Sport are travelling to Russia to support the British team, with physiotherapists, doctors and a psychologist helping the athletes prepare for the events.
Mike Whittingham, director of high performance at sportscotland, said: “I am immensely proud that so many Scots have been selected to represent Great Britain in Sochi. It is a significant achievement for a country
with around one-twelfth of the British population to provide one-third of the GB Olympians.”
The other Scots taking part in the Games are snowboarder Ben Kilner; Elise Christie in short track speed skating; Andrew Musgrave, his sister Posy, Andrew Young and Callum Smith in cross-country skiing; Murray Buchan in freestyle skiing; and Stuart Benson in bobsleigh.
Sport minister Shona Robison said: “Scotland continues to punch above its weight and the future of Scottish winter sports is in robust health. We have much to be proud of as a nation.
“The legacy of these Winter Games will inspire young people to take to the ice or snow, the first step to representing Scotland on the world stage.”
Skeleton star Lizzy Yarnold is arguably Britain’s strongest gold medal hope for the Games after claiming four victories out of seven World Cup races this season, and finishing on the podium in each of the other three.
Apart from Muirhead, Yarnold’s skeleton team-mate and rival Shelley Rudman is also a reigning world champion.
Yarnold said: “I have dreamed my whole life about becoming a British Olympian and for the last five years since I took up skeleton, competing at Sochi 2014 has been my primary focus.
“I don’t take part in races to come second, so I will approach the Olympic Winter Games as I do every race and give it everything I’ve got.”
Great Britain chef de mission Mike Hay added: “To think we could challenge for three medals shows how far we’ve come since Vancouver, because we could not have delivered that four years ago.”
There was relief yesterday for skier Chemmy Alcott, who will go to her fourth Olympics after convincing selectors she is fit enough to compete after breaking her leg a third time.
But there was no place for former world bobsleigh champion Gillian Cooke, who is now expected to turn her attention back to the long jump and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
• Secondary picture courtesy of Team GB’s Instagram; shows Elise Christie
WINTER WONDERS: TEAM GB IN FULL
*Eve Muirhead (skip, 23)
*Claire Hamilton (24)
*Vicki Adams (24)
*Anna Sloan (22)
*Lauren Gray (22)
*David Murdoch (skip, 35, right)
*Tom Brewster (39)
*Greg Drummond (24)
*Scott Andrews (24)
*Michael Goodfellow (25)
FIGURE SKATING (6)
Jenna McCorkell (ladies, 27)
Nick Buckland (ice dance, 24)
Penny Coomes (ice dance, 24)
David King (pairs, 29)
Stacey Kemp (pairs, 25)
Matthew Parr (men’s, 23)
SHORT TRACK (5)
*Elise Christie (23)
Jon Eley (29)
Charlotte Gilmartin (23)
Richard Shoebridge (28)
Jack Whelbourne (22)
Lee Jackson (33)
Amanda Lightfoot (26)
John Jackson (pilot, 36)
*Stuart Benson (32)
Bruce Tasker (26)
Joel Fearon (25)
Craig Pickering (27)
John Baines (28)
Ben Simons (27)
Paula Walker (pilot, 27)
Rebekah Wilson (22)
James Woods (ski slopestyle, 22)
Katie Summerhayes (ski slopestyle, 18)
Rowan Cheshire (ski halfpipe, 18)
Emma Lonsdale (ski halfpipe, 29)
James Machon (ski halfpipe, 23)
*Murray Buchan (ski halfpipe, 22)
Billy Morgan (slopestyle, 24)
Jamie Nicholls (slopestyle, 20)
Jenny Jones (slopestyle, 23)
Aimee Fuller (slopestyle, 22)
Dom Harrington (halfpipe, 29)
*Ben Kilner (halfpipe, 25)
CROSS COUNTRY (4)
*Andrew Musgrave (23, right)
*Andrew Young (21)
*Callum Smith (21)
*Rosamund ‘Posy’ Musgrave (27)
Lizzy Yarnold (25)
Shelley Rudman (32)
Kristan Bromley (41)
Chemmy Alcott (31)
Dave Ryding (27)