Winter Olympics: Yorkshire’s six of the best aiming high in Pyeongchang

MEDAL HOPE:  Katie Summerhayes Picture: David Davies/PA.
MEDAL HOPE: Katie Summerhayes Picture: David Davies/PA.
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No representative team is complete these days without a hashtag.

The social media age we live in dictates that a slogan is required to accompany a team on their travels, even if the one chosen for Team GB at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang is a little ambitious.

#WeAreTheGreat might be met with approval by positive-thinking sports psychologists but it could be viewed by the delegation from Norway – the most decorated nation in Winter Olympic history, for instance – with a little amusement.

#WeAreTheQuietlyConfident might be a more appropriate moniker for the British squad in 2018.

Coming off the back of their joint-best medal haul for 90 years in Sochi four years ago – four medals against the 26 won by Norway to give a little context – and a doubling of funding since then, Team GB begin the Winter Olympics in South Korea today with genuine hopes of eclipsing that tally.

The rise in funding to £28m from UK Sport has brought with it loftier-than-normal expectations with four being the minimum medal target and 10 being the height of anticipation.

Brighouse's Katie Ormerod was ruled out of competing at the Games on Thursday after fracturing her heel in training.

Brighouse's Katie Ormerod was ruled out of competing at the Games on Thursday after fracturing her heel in training.

Given Britain’s 59-strong team competes in only 11 of the 15 disciplines on snow and ice over the coming fortnight, it represents a tall order, but there are enough medal contenders within the British ranks to justify what is an air of quiet confidence rather than a prophetic claim to greatness.

Elise Christie is one of Britain’s great hopes. The short-track speed-skater from Nottingham competes in the 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m events at the Gangneung Ice Arena and could be our biggest hope or our greatest failure.

Very much a boom-or-bust athlete, Christie could end up with gold medals as she did at last year’s world championships, or three disqualifications as she did four years ago in Sochi, such is her win-at-all-costs mentality.

Staying in Gangneung, the men’s and women’s curling teams are possibly Britain’s safest bets for a medal return.

The rise in funding to £28m from UK Sport has brought with it loftier-than-normal expectations with four being the minimum medal target and 10 being the height of anticipation.

Nick Westby

In 2014, they accounted for half the tally, with the men taking silver and women bronze.

Much of the curlers who made up their teams are back again this time, led predominently by the clan Muirhead, with Eve skippering the women’s team and her two brothers, Glen and Thomas, forming part of the men’s team.

Britain’s strength in curling dates back to Rhona Martin and her pioneering team in Salt Lake City in 2002, which was one Olympics before another unlikely success story began developing in the skeleton.

Shelley Rudman, once based in Sheffield won a silver medal in skeleton in Turin, paving the way for gold-medal runs by Amy Williams in Vancouver and Lizzy Yarnold in Sochi. Flag-bearer Yarnold is back to defend her title in PyeongChang, as well as Great Britain’s honour.

FROZEN ACES: Yorkshire's Six Olympians.

FROZEN ACES: Yorkshire's Six Olympians.

Staying with sliding, and the four-man bobsleigh team, piloted by Lamin Deen, has genuine aspirations to improve on the fourth position they achieved four years ago, a result which may still be upgraded if the Russian athletes who finished ahead of them are stripped of their medal for doping offences.

Even on the mountains – traditionally the most unlikely venue to produce for British heroes – medal contenders abound.

Dave Ryding could be the man to make the headlines. In a ski racing landscape dominated by the alpine nations and North America, the 31-year-old from Chorley has forced his way into the top 15 on the back of a strong 18 months which saw him claim a first World Cup medal by a British skier in 36 years in Kitzbuhel.

His chances in the slalom at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre depend on his ability to put two solid runs together, but his journey over the coming weeks will be fascinating to watch.

As will that of the six Yorkshire athletes that form part of Team GB in PyeongChang.

All of them – four from Sheffield and two from West Yorkshire – will be found over the next fortnight on the freestyle skiing and snowboarding slopes of the Phoenix Snow Park.

Brighouse’s Katie Ormerod was considered one of Britain’s best medal hopes, scheduled to compete across rails and jumps in slopestyle and then in the debut event of ‘Big Air’, a one-off jump that demands of its protagonists a degree of difficulty in the routine they perform as well as a high standard of execution.

But last night she was ruled out of competing altogether after fracturing her heel in training.

The 20-year-old had already fractured her wrist during Wednesday’s first day of slopestyle training, only to do more signficant damage 24 hours later.

While a huge blow for her and Team GB, there remains hope for a Yorkshire medal.

On the men’s side, Sheffield’s James Woods is also a strong contender for a podium place in his second Olympics. Fifth in Sochi as ski slopestyle made its Games debut, Woods is an X-Games ‘Big Air’ champion and a multiple World Cup medallist.

He is joined by three more graduates from the now-closed Sheffield dry ski slopes; the Summerhayes sisters, Katie and Molly, who compete in skiing slopestyle and skiing halfpipe respectively, and Peter Speight – who like Molly is an Olympic debutant in the skiing halfpipe.

Halifax’s Tyler Harding and Bradford’s Jamie Nicholls – both of whom learnt to ski at the dry slopes in Halifax – contest the ski and snowboard slopestyle, respectively, while Nicholls, in his second Olympics, also has a go at ‘Big Air’.