Ahead of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Kendal Snowsports Club member and Team GB skier Emma Lonsdale takes time out to discuss medal hopes, the inspiration of future generations and any lingering security concerns with Ross McLean.
WHILE fully backing Great British athletes to amend an age-old statistic in Sochi, Winter Olympian Emma Lonsdale insists the unpredictability of snow sports mean there can be no guarantees.
The 29-year-old is part of the 56-strong British squad – the largest since Calgary in 1988 – which is heavily tipped to record its biggest-ever medals haul.
However, in the ninety years Britain has been competing at the Winter Olympics not one athlete has won a medal on snow.
But with freestyle skiing making its Olympic debut in Russia in the coming weeks, the Settle-born competitor believes the new-look squad has plenty of scope for success.
“We have definitely got some medal potential and quite a few athletes who could get on the podium but at the same time you have to realise that anybody can have a bad day,” she said.
“With the inclusion of the new sports, Britain is going to be strong but these sports are so unpredictable one tiny little edge catch can have you on your bum before you even realise anything has happened.
“You hope you’re going to get to the bottom on your feet but that doesn’t always happen – you can be stood up one second and the next your goggles are full of snow.
“I hope the people that have medal potential have the best day ever but the unpredictability of our sport means anything can happen and you just don’t really know.”
Slopestyle and halfpipe skiing will make a first appearance at these Olympic Games, with British athletes not at such a disadvantage in these disciplines as alpine skiers for instance.
Indoor snow centres and dry ski slopes in this country offer facilities which replicate slopestyle parks and halfpipes, allowing athletes access to domestic resources.
And with a strong contingent of rising stars – known as “fridge kids” – in Britain’s squad for the new sport intake, the nation’s freeski future appears bright.
“The appetite within Great Britain for freestyle skiing is phenomenal and the “fridge kids” generation is quite unique,” she added.
“When you put them on the snow you can see other nations stop and look because of the enthusiasm and the fact they have grown up in a different situation.
“None of us were put in ski lessons on the Alps while in primary school, we have come through with a different drive because we went every week of the year to the fridge or dry slope, which breeds a different mentality.
“In addition, the younger generation now have people to look up to, aspiring to be people like James Woods who is one of the best in the world at what he does.
“He didn’t grow up skiing in the Alps in some glamorous way either – he slogged it to Sheffield every week – and the younger generations will definitely recognise they can achieve something as well and come through.”
As for the Games themselves, with Russia instigating one of the biggest security operations in Olympic history to safeguard the Black Sea resort, does Lonsdale have any overriding concerns?
“We’re in the most secure area and as far ago as last February security measures were in place for the locations I’ll be in,” she said.
“We’ve not been warned by the British Olympic Association not to go so there is no reason to be overly concerned.
“We’ve all worked very hard for the last four, eight, ten years – our whole lives really. We’ve been assured we’ll be in very secure areas with every measure taken to prevent any problems."
*Halfpipe skiing will take place on Thursday February 20 and Emma Lonsdale will be providing the Gazette with updates direct from Sochi