The 2018 Olympic Winter Games is taking place from 9 February in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Team GB has selected 59 athletes from 11 sports, topping the previous 56 who returned from Sochi 4 years ago with a record-breaking 5 medals. The British Olympic Association (BOA) and UK Sport has set a target of 5 medals for the British team in PyeongChang.
Will Team GB bring home a record tally?
With that in mind, here’s our selection of 5 great Team GB Winter Games moments.
1. First GB gold medal: Chamonix 1924
History was made in 1924, as the first ever Olympic Winter Games was held at Chamonix and produced the very first gold for Great Britain. The men’s curling team came out on top, securing a gold medal victory over Sweden in the final.
The British team returned with a total of 4 medals at Chamonix – adding a silver in the bobsleigh, plus 2 bronze medals in the women’s figure skating and men’s ice hockey. This remained Great Britain’s best ever performance at a Winter Games, until it was finally topped 90 years later at Sochi 2014.
A great year for British sport, 1924 also saw GB achieve 34 medals at the Summer Olympics in Paris, including 9 gold. The film Chariots of Fire famously tells the story of 2 British track athletes at these games: Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. Also, British sports manufacturers Umbro International Limited, now owned by sports giant Nike, was incorporated that year.
2. Jeannette Altwegg wins a second medal: Oslo 1952
Jeannette Altwegg had already tasted success as an Olympic figure skater, achieving a bronze at the 1948 Winter Games in St. Moritz. However, it was at Oslo 1952 she would skate into the record books – becoming the first British woman to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Games.
Her outstanding achievement wasn’t matched for nearly 60 years, until Amy Williams won her superb gold in the skeleton at Vancouver 2010. Still, Altwegg remains the only British woman to have won 2 individual medals at a Winter Games*, and was awarded an OBE in 1953 for her success on the ice.
A remarkable athlete, and a true inspiration as we approach International Women’s Day, 8 March 2018.
*[Edit]: On 17 February 2018, Lizzy Yarnold won the skeleton gold medal at PyeongChang. Yarnold becomes the first British athlete to retain a Winter Games title.
3. Torvill and Dean win skating gold: Sarajevo 1984
Ravel’s Bolero will be forever associated with one sporting moment – Torvill and Dean conquering the ice rink with a captivating recital at Sarajevo 1984.
More than 24 million British viewers tuned in to watch the highly-anticipated Valentine’s Day event, as twelve perfect 6.0 scores won gold as the highest-scoring figure skaters of all time. Their performance received maximum points from all judges for artistic impression – a feat that has never been matched.
After retiring from professional skating in 1998, the pair have continued to train and choreograph separately. But, they were coaxed out of retirement in 2006 to perform together once again for ITV’s Dancing on Ice. In 2014, Torvill and Dean returned to Sarajevo to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of their performance, and dance the Bolero one more time.
4. Eddie the Eagle: Calgary 1988
Determined to compete at an Olympic Games, Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards switched from downhill skiing to become Britain’s ski jumping record holder – and a stunt jumping world record holder, clearing 6 buses.
Edwards faced many obstacles to qualify for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. With no financial support for training, he was completely self-funded – borrowing equipment and boots which took 6 pairs of socks to fit into. Physically, he was more than 9 kilograms heavier than any other competitor, and extremely near-sighted. His now-iconic thick glasses would mist-up under his goggles, blurring his vision.
Despite finishing last in both the 70 and 90 metre events at Calgary, his determination and underdog courage symbolised the Olympic spirit and made him a worldwide celebrity. For once, the last-placed competitor was more legendary than the gold medal winner. His inspirational story has even been captured on the big screen, in a 2016 film co-produced by Marv Films Limited – the British production company behind Layer Cake, Stardust and Kingsman.
5. GB’s women in curling glory: Salt Lake 2002
At Salt Lake 2002, Great Britain’s women led by skipper Rhona Martin, secured the country’s first Winter Olympics gold for 18 years with a famous curling victory.
Sometimes called “chess on ice”, curling is an ancient Scottish game whose written history goes back as far as 1541. To this day, the standard granite curling stones specified by the World Curling Federation are manufactured in Scotland from granite at Ailsa Craig. Scottish company Andrew Kay & Co (Curling Stones) Ltd has exclusive rights to this source, making curling stones since 1851. “Kays” has been the exclusive manufacturer for the Olympics since Turin 2006.
A British audience of 5.7 million watched live in 2002 as the tense final came to a thrilling climax, with GB’s women clinching the curling gold medal with the very last stone. Martin, backed by fellow Scots, Fiona McDonald, Margaret Morton, Janice Rankin and Debbie Knox, displayed nerves of steel to secure a dramatic 4-3 triumph over their Swiss rivals.
Their brave performance reignited British interest in the traditional winter sport – bringing the curling gold medal home to its birthplace, and returning to Scotland as Olympic heroes.