Team GB officials say they are “bullish” that next year’s Winter Olympics will be the most successful in their history – and have identified 10 to 12 realistic medal prospects.
With only 101 days to go before the Games get under way, the British Olympic Association has confirmed it expects to name a 60-strong squad for Pyeongchang and believes it will surpass the four medals the team won in Sochi in 2014. Bill Sweeney, the chief executive of the BOA, said: “We are very bullish. We look at the lineup and it is the strongest team we have ever had for a Winter Olympics.”
UK Sport has set a target of four to eight medals for Pyeongchang, having invested more than £30m across Winter Olympic and Paralympic sports for 2018 – a figure more than double that set aside for Sochi. But Sweeney made it clear that while winter sports can often be more unpredictable than their summer counterparts, the BOA is aiming for a figure towards the upper end of UK Sport’s target.
“We have about 10 or 12 that are realistic medal chances and if we convert half we will be in really good shape,” he said. “There’s Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas in the skeleton and Elise Christie, who is speed-skating world champion. The new sports are particularly good for us too. And if you look at ski and snowboard, people like Katie Ormerod, Katie Summerhayes, Billy Morgan, James Woods, they are all proven competitors in these sports.”
Mike Hay, the team’s chef de mission, insisted Great Britain are on course to become a “creditable” team having got six athletes on the podium at world championships in the past year, as well as two fourth-place appearances, as signs of further progress since Sochi. “We are heading in the right direction,” he added. “Sochi was a quantum leap for us, albeit it was four medals and we are not getting carried away, but that’s quite a big jump from a non-alpine country to do that.”
Huge swathes of empty seats in Pyeongchang are in prospect after the International Olympic Committee admitted it is struggling to sell tickets for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Just 31% of tickets for the Winter Olympics have been sold, despite considerable efforts by the organisers. The figures for the Winter Paralympics are even worse, however, with only 499 individual tickets sold in South Korea as of last week. The IOC confirmed that 9,401 have been sold in total, a figure which equates to 4.2% of those put on sale.