DOUG Christiansen believes Great Britain’s medal hopes at this week’s World Championships in Budapest will have been boosted by their Olympic qualification run earlier this season.
It is traditional at this time of year, when the UK season has ended, for the GB squad to head off on their annual travels to Europe in order to battle it out with other second-tier nations.
It is normally their only get-together of the year but, after a run which took them to within one step of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Tony Hand’s team should be more familiar with each other than previously, having competed in two tournaments.
An unexpected success in Japan back in November took the GB team to Latvia in February where victories over the hosts as well as France and Kazakhstan would have seen them achieve their Olympic dream.
Although they returned from Riga without a win, Christiansen – appointed as Sheffield Steelers’ new head coach earlier this week – said the experience gained should prove invaluable over the next week in Division 1A.
“I think the opportunity for us to go to Latvia was an outstanding one,” said Christiansen, who flew out with the rest of the squad to Hungary on his fourth assignment as assistant to GB head coach Tony Hand.
“We were able to see what premier Pool A countries look like, how they compete and how they prepare and I think that will definitely benefit us as a squad this time around. And to have the success that we did in Japan is something we can draw confidence from.
“The five teams we are up against are all teams we could beat, but, at the same time, all five of them can beat us. It’s just a very, very competitive group and that is what you want in international tournaments as it brings out the best in your own players.”
On the back of the media interest built up for the Olympic campaign, all of Great Britain’s matches will – for the first time in many years – be screened live on satellite TV, with Hand’s team beginning their campaign against the hosts at 6.30pm tomorrow.
That will be followed by encounters against the group’s two favourites, with Kazakhstan – who beat GB 6-0 in Riga two months ago – scheduled for Monday before an afternoon face-off against top seeds Italy on Wednesday.
Hand’s team certainly have the toughest start possible, but will fancy their chances against a Hungary side who they defeated 5-4 to secure their second-tier status in Slovenia last year.
The final two games against Japan and South Korea are where they would also hope to pick up points, although they have suffered defeats to both teams in the last 12 months.
Christiansen, who will be able to familiarise himself with four current Steelers’ players on the GB roster – Ashley Tait, Jonathan Phillips, Danny Meyers and Mark Thomas – believes a medal is within GB’s grasp.
“A lot can happen in the space of a week like this – both good and bad,” he added. “I think getting a medal is something that is perfectly feasible for us to achieve, as long as we compete to the best of our ability.
“You want to make sure that you are shooting high. We’ve got a few changes to the team compared to what we have had in the past, but I think those players that have come into the team will give us new life and a bit of energy.”