Beijing approaches, but reasons for excitement can be found in every corner

Beijing approaches, but reasons for excitement can be found in every corner

GB Snowsport Chief Executive, Vicky Gosling, looks at what’s to come in an exciting year for British skiing and snowboarding

Like everybody involved in high-performance winter sports, I’ve had 2022 circled in my calendar for what feels like a lifetime. And while the past two years have been dominated by talk of covid-19 and its impact on what an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will look like, for most of us involved in the effort to bring British athletes to the competitions, the focus has never wavered.

What that doesn’t mean, though, is that our entire focus is on what happens in Beijing over the next few months. 2022 is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting year for snowsport in Britain and while the Olympics and Paralympics are a key part of that, they’re far from the only reason to be enthused.

Already this season, we’ve seen some exceptional results and performances from British athletes in competitions across the world. Some of our household name athletes – athletes like Charlotte Bankes, Zoe Atkin, Dave Ryding, Menna Fitzpatrick, Charlie Guest, Andrew Musgrave, Kirsty Muir, Chris McCormick – have been leading the way, but we’ve got reason to feel extremely excited by some of the coming generation too.

Reece Bell’s World Cup debut brought a real sense of excitement, along with the very welcome sight of a member of the Bell family once again racing World Cups in British colours. Nina Sparks and Shona Brownlee have both delivered some astonishing performances in the Para Snowboard and Para Alpine squads. Max Vaughton has transferred to Ski Cross as if he was born for the discipline. Mani Cooper is looking like one of the nation’s brightest sporting prospects. Connie Brogden’s back on snow and looking the part again. Mia Brookes catches the attention every single time she competes.

Those performances from some of our newer and younger athletes are an indication of what we’re trying to build, and why this year is so important. We want to harness the enthusiasm that people have for snowsport and turn it into a powerful tool to capture the next generation’s attention, and we want to do it in a way that’s sustainable for the future.

We want to work more closely with the country’s Home Nations Governing Bodies on a host of areas – from pipeline to diversity and sustainability – to ensure the country has a purposeful, integrated approach to skiing and snowboarding.

And we want to foster a culture that makes snowsport the most welcoming place for athletes, coaches, staff and supporters to compete and work as their authentic selves, in a way that reflects 21st century Britain.

All of these are reasons to be excited in 2022 that extend far beyond the reach of the coming Games.

Returning for a moment to thoughts of Beijing, though, we do need to accept that these will be a Winter Games like no other. The experiences of our summer counterparts in Tokyo last year can provide some indication, but whether it’s first-time Olympians and Paralympians, or those who’ve represented the nation in Vancouver, Sochi, or PyeongChang, the experience is going to be very different to what might have been expected just a couple of years ago. And, like every country participating, we can’t escape the shadow of covid. It’s highly possible that some athletes will find the spread of covid impacts their Games preparation or, worse still, prevents them from participating at all. That’s not a situation we want to confront, but it’s one that we must be prepared for anyway.

We know that the eyes of the country will be on our sport and our athletes in the coming months in a way we rarely get to experience it. It’s right that we’re excited about that, and it’s the reason that 2022 has been marked in my calendar for such a long time now.

But the biggest reasons for excitement are the ones that point beyond Beijing, to an ever more successful future for British skiers and snowboarders, and all that we can achieve together.

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