Britons start Winter Olympics quest

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October 22, 2021
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    Britain's James Woods in action in big airSki big air will make its Winter Olympics debut in Beijing 2022

    Great Britain will be aiming for their best Winter Olympic medal haul in February 2022, beating the five won at each of the past two Games – but first the athletes have to qualify for Beijing.

    The winter sport season gets under way in earnest this weekend with a number of British Olympic hopefuls in action in skiing, snowboarding and short-track speed skating.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has caused havoc over the past 18 months with a number of races and events cancelled.

    British skiers and snowboarders lost 90% of their on-snow training and the short-track speed skaters have not competed on the international stage since 2019.

    But former X Games gold medallist James Woods, Chris McCormick and Katie Summerhayes will be in Switzerland for the ski big air World Cup, before it makes its Olympic debut in China.

    And Katie Ormerod and Billy Cockrell will be flying the snowboard flag in a specially-constructed scaffolded jump in Chur.

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    The alpine season is also starting with the traditional curtain-raiser giant slalom in the Austrian resort of Soelden with Charlie Raposo and Alex Tilley racing.

    Raposo, who is aiming to qualify for his first Olympics, said: "The first race of the season is always so hyped, because everyone has missed the racing during off-season.

    "Over the past 18-months, I probably spent more time in my own head than I ever have. As for my sport, it certainly made me stare a lot of things in the eyes and figure them out for myself."

    In China, there is a strong British contingent competing in the first short-track speed skating World Cup which is also doubling up as a test event ahead of the Games.

    The 2017 world champion Elise Christie and Kathryn Thomson are among those in action.

    Head coach Richard Shoebridge said: "It's going to be a great opportunity to see our athletes back in action on an international level.

    "It has been a difficult 18 months behind closed doors and I'm just really excited to see our athletes compete against the world's best athletes. Our team has worked extremely hard and are ready to deliver to their potential."

    There are four World Cup races and a European championships before the Winter Olympics, which take place from 4-20 February.

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