Lausanne 2020: Future Team GB stars set for Winter Youth Olympics

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January 28, 2020
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    Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics flag

    The 2020 Winter Youth Olympics get under way on 9 January with the opening ceremony live on the BBC Sport website

    The largest-ever British Winter Youth Olympic squad will begin their quest for medals in Lausanne on Thursday.

    The 28-strong team will be competing in 11 of the 16 sporting disciplines across 13 days of competition in what is the third edition of the Games.

    The previous edition – Lillehammer 2016 – saw the emergence of USA freestyle snowboarder Chloe Kim.

    She claimed two Youth Olympic titles before landing senior success with halfpipe gold at Pyeongchang 2018.

    Britain’s Mica McNeill also competed in South Korea, six years after claiming bobsleigh silver at the inaugural Innsbruck 2012 Games, while partner Jazmin Sawyers moved back to athletics and participated in long jump at Rio 2016.

    Taekwondo fighter Jade Jones, diver Tom Daley, swimmer Duncan Scott and gymnast Sam Oldham all competed at summer Youth Olympics before going on to win senior Olympic medals.

    BBC Sport takes a look at some of the ones to watch in Switzerland.

    Kirsty Muir, 15, freestyle skiing

    Kirsty Muir

    Since snowboarder Jenny Jones claimed Britain’s first Winter Olympic medal on the snow in 2014, the GB freestyle programme has gone from strength to strength.

    Skier James Woods has claimed multiple X Games podiums, with snowboarder Katie Ormerod a regular World Cup medallist, while Izzy Atkin (ski slopestyle) and Billy Morgan (snowboard Big Air) both won Olympic bronze in 2018.

    Kirsty Muir is the latest exciting prospect to emerge from Britain’s production line of freestyle talent and she is expected to challenge for Youth Olympic honours in both the ski slopestyle and ski Big Air events.

    “I just want to push myself as far as I can,” she told BBC Sport. “I enjoy the rails and love just being in the air, learning new things.”

    Jamie Rankin, 16, curling

    Jamie & Janice Rankin

    Curling is traditionally one of Britain’s most successful winter sport disciplines with the nation having won three medals since the turn of the century.

    Britain’s Jamie Rankin is seen as having real talent, which perhaps is not surprising given his mum – Janice – was part of Rhona Martin’s team which famously claimed Olympic gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

    “Ultimately it’s a dream to go to a senior Olympics, but this (Lausanne 2020) could be make or break for me because I have other interests like chemistry and business at school,” he told BBC Sport. “I also play lots of sports so we’ll see what happens, but for now I just really want to enjoy this experience.”

    Olivia Weedon, 17, short-track speed skating

    Olivia Weedon

    Short-track speed skating has endured a difficult few years in Great Britain with the national programme shut down following UK Sport’s decision to remove funding after Team GB’s failure to win an Olympic medal at Pyeongchang 2018.

    For youngsters like Olivia Weedon – who carried the flag for Team GB at the opening ceremony of last year’s European Youth Olympic Festival – it has led to a lot of uncertainties.

    However, the Europa Cup junior bronze medallist is undeterred and would like to one day emulate her uncle Jon Eley, who competed at three Olympics.

    “It’s been tough without funding, but this is a massive opportunity to show we’re still producing athletes who can compete at this level,” she told BBC Sport.

    Charlotte Longden, 17, bobsleigh

    Charlotte Longden

    In a bid to improve gender equality in bobsleigh, women will have two events in the sport for the first time at a Winter Olympics come Beijing 2022.

    A singlehanded monobob is being added to the programme and Britain’s Charlotte Longden will have the chance to show her potential after a move from heptathlon, which could become permanent.

    “My athletics coach saw an advert to give bobsleigh a go, which I did and although it terrified me more than anything I’d ever done in my life it gives you the biggest adrenaline rush,” she said.

    Theo Collins, 16, long-track speed skating

    Theo Collins

    There is no UK Sport-backed national programme for long-track speed skating and there are not even the facilities to train or compete in the discipline in the UK.

    Theo Collins, who will become GB’s first Olympic speed skater since 1992, receives some support from SportsAid and that allows him to travel to the Netherlands and Germany once a month for training on a 400m ice rink.

    “I’m currently studying for my GCSE’s and want to do A Levels and with the funding situation I’m not sure how much of a career there could be in it, but I’m excited and looking forward to taking on the world’s top skaters,” he told BBC Sport.

    Other Team GB ones to watch

    14 of the 28 athletes that will represent Great Britain in Lausanne

    • Think of ski jumping and you will probably picture Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards and his infamous performance at the 1988 Calgary Games. Leading British talent Sam Bolton heralds from the Canadian city. The 17-year-old, who qualifies for Team GB via his parents, has already jumped considerably further than the 55m Edwards achieved 32 years ago.
    • Britain has never won a Winter Olympic biathlon medal and have rarely managed to finish inside the top 50, but Shawna Pendry aims to change that. The 17-year-old was born in the UK but moved to France at the age of four and trains at Ski club Capcir Haut-Conflent which developed Olympic champion Martin Fourcade and brother Simon.
    • Women’s nordic combined, which consists of ski jumping and cross-country skiing, narrowly missed out on senior Olympic inclusion for the first time at Beijing 2022, but it will debut at the Youth Games in 2020. Mani Cooper will become the first British woman to compete from an Olympic ski jump.
    • At 14 Abby Rowbotham is not only the youngest member of the Team GB squad for the Games, but the youngest in the field for the new 3v3 ice hockey competition. The Sheffield-based athlete has been competing since the age of five and will line up alongside players from around the world in a mixed nation event.

    International ones to watch

    Kelly Sildaruwas

    • The women’s freestyle events could be a big clue as to who may be able to challenge the established elite come the next Winter Olympics. Estonian Kelly Sildaruwas expected to be a halfpipe medal contender at Pyeongchang 2018 but the then-15-year-old missed the Games due to injury. However, she went on to claim the senior world title last February and has also won X Games medals in both slopestyle and big air.
    • In the women’s snowboard events the battle between Japan’s two-time halfpipe world junior champion Mitsukii Onoand and USA’s two-time runner-up Tessa Maudcould be one of the most exciting showdowns of the Games.
    • Germans traditionally excel in sliding sports and 17-year-old Lukas Nydegger is the favourite for the men’s skeleton title having won the 2019 Youth Series and claimed medals in the senior Europa Cup circuit this season.
    • Latvian alpine skier Dzenifera Germane excelled at the FIS Alpecimbra Children’s Cup and previous medallists include Mikaela Shiffrin as well as Lindsey Vonn.
    • One of Switzerland’s leading medal prospects is bobsledder Fabian Gisler who won the 2019 Youth Series to seal his place at Lausanne 2020.


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