Team GB expected to deliver record medal haul at Winter Olympics

Livingston speed skater Elise Christie is a medal prospect. Picture: Getty.Livingston speed skater Elise Christie is a medal prospect. Picture: Getty.
Livingston speed skater Elise Christie is a medal prospect. Picture: Getty.
UK Sport has challenged Great Britain to claim their biggest medal haul in Winter Olympics history at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games next month.

The funding agency which distributes money to elite Olympic and Paralympic sport, is seeking at least five medals, with a range of four to ten medals, in South Korea. The XXIII Games run from 9-25 February.

Britain won four medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics, equalling the 1924 haul from Chamonix, but the Sochi haul could rise following the Russian doping scandal.

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For March’s Winter Paralympics, UK Sport has set a target of at least seven medals, and a range of six to 12 medals.

UK Sport’s investment for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics cycle was £14 million.

That has more than doubled to £32m over four years for Pyeongchang, but the sums involved contrast starkly with the £100m annual investment in summer Olympic sports.

UK Sport wants a return, but recognises the fine margins involved in disciplines such as short-track speed-skating in which Livingston’s Elise Christie is a serious medal prospect.

UK Sport director of performance Chelsea Warr said: “One of the unique aspects of winter sport is its unpredictability. It is high risk, it has high reward, it has high stakes in a very competitive arena. That’s what makes it so exciting, but also very nerve-wracking.”

Britain is not renowned as a winter sports nation. Team GB won one medal at each of the 2006 and 2010 Games, both in skeleton. Lizzy 
Yarnold succeeded Amy Williams as Olympic skeleton champion at the Sochi 2014 Games in a four-medal haul.

However, that is poised to rise to five as the disqualification of two Russian sleds following the uncovering of systematic doping means Britain’s four-man bobsleigh team, led by pilot John Jackson, is in line to be promoted from fifth to third.

Official confirmation from the International Olympic Committee is yet to be received.

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Yarnold has struggled for form this season. She and team-mate Laura Deas have been given a minimum target of a top-eight finish.

UK Sport’s other targets are: two to three medals from skiing and snowboarding; one to two medals in curling; one medal in bobsleigh; and a minimum top-eight finish in figure skating.

Short-track speed-skating has been given a target of one to two medals, based on the talents of Christie.

Christie was disqualified three times in Sochi, but has since won numerous World Championship medals, including two golds in 2017.

ParalympicsGB won six medals at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, with visually impaired skier Kelly Gallagher and her guide Charlotte Evans claiming Britain’s first gold on snow in Winter Olympic or Paralympic competition.

Gallagher has not been initially selected for Pyeongchang, but could yet join world downhill champion Millie Knight and 2016 World Cup champion Menna Fitzpatrick in the ParalympicsGB squad.

The medal target announcement was made at the Korean Cultural Centre UK in central London. South Korea ambassador Joonkook Hwang welcomed the likely participation of neighbours North Korea.