As thoughts turn towards pre-season, we look back at an historic 2021/22 season for GB Snowsport athletes
As a season of record-breaking highs and heart-breaking disappointments draws to a close, the British snowsport scene can look back on a year where the history books were rewritten, even as we felt the joy and the despair of an Olympic and Paralympic Games like no other.
In Beijing, British athletes battled covid restrictions, challenging snow conditions, crashes, injuries, and disruption, and returned home with pride, disappointment, new successes, agonising defeats and, from the Paralympic squad, six medals from the Alpine and Snowboard events. But those are results that only tell a fraction of the story.
26 World Cup and World Championship podiums
On the World Cup and World Championships stages, British athletes took 26 podiums with Charlotte Bankes’ Crystal Globe winning Snowboard Cross season and Dave Ryding’s history-making Slalom victory in Kitzbuehel leading the way. Europa Cup contests added another 25, including four for the remarkable Mia Brookes, each a victory, and all before she has turned 16 years of age. FIS level races saw British athletes notch another 12 podiums, including seven victories, in Alpine, Freeski, Snowboard and Ski Cross. World Championships and World Junior Championships, meanwhile, accounted for an additional nine. On podium places alone, British skiers and snowboarders at every level, are showing themselves among the world’s best athletes.
And off the slopes, yet more progress has been made. New partners in Redrow, Fusalp, and Williams Advanced Engineering have helped to grow the sport at home and overseas. More work is underway to champion equality and diversity at every level. Efforts to bring our sport closer to people at home have taken root.
Highs and lows in Beijing
We cannot, though, forget the frustration felt in Beijing. For the Olympic squad to return without a medal was a disappointment given the good form of so many athletes going into the Games, but even among the sense of missed opportunities there were green shoots to be found. Kirsty Muir’s Olympic debut hinted at the promise her talent holds, Makayla Gerken-Schofield’s best-ever Moguls result for a British Olympic skier, and Zoe Atkin’s top-10 in the Halfpipe all showed a core of young talent with their best years ahead of them.
Even as the emotions of defeat were present, so the grit and determination among the team came to the fore, whether in Leonie Gerken-Schofield’s ability to get back up again and put down a run after a fall in the Moguls, Charlotte Bankes’ breath-taking display of overtaking in the Snowboard Cross Team event after her shock elimination in the Women’s competition, or Gus Kenworthy’s determination to finish his Olympic career with a clean run after a bone-shuddering fall in the Halfpipe Finals.
Where Olympic results didn’t deliver a medal, the Paralympic squad was a regular fixture on the podium throughout the Games. Its six medals – one gold, one silver, and four bronze – came through a mix of old hands (Millie Knight and Menna Fitzpatrick both adding to their remarkable Paralympic records) and new blood (medals on debut for Neil Simpson and, for Ollie Hill a first ever British Paralympic snowboarding medal), and built on a World Championships that saw Britain return home with seven medals from Lillehammer.
A new cycle begins
As one four-year cycle draws to a close another begins, and eyes are already beginning to turn to Milan-Cortina, the venue for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. As plans for that cycle begin to take shape both the current and the next generation of British stars are making an ever-stronger mark.
As a country and as a Governing Body, we are still at the beginning of our journey to become one of the world’s leading snowsport nations. Results aside, the performance standard for British snowsport athletes has increased dramatically in the four years since the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, with the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic squads the strongest a British team has ever sent to a Winter Games. These are the levels that athletes will now have to meet and exceed as Milan-Cortina approaches, and the potential that a new generation of skiers and snowboarders is showing gives us reason for optimism.
In Snowboard Cross, the first Crystal Globe of Charlotte Bankes’ career shows the depth and consistency of her talent, with Huw Nightingale also enjoying a breakthrough season, while Ski Cross prospects are encouraging with Ollie Davies and Max Vaughton both making an impact this year.
In Alpine, Charlie Guest continues to go from strength-to-strength, with repeated forays into World Cup top-20 spots, while Reece Bell’s long-awaited World Cup debut has arrived, and Charlie Raposo has delivered the best British men’s performances in Giant Slalom for decades.
The Para Nordic squad has grown in stature with a series of career-best performances over the season hinting at the potential to come, while in the Para Snowboard ranks new talent continues to break through with Ollie Hill, Nina Sparks, and Jon-Allan Butterworth all bolstering British hopes at the highest levels.
Mateo Jeannesson’s development in Moguls has catapulted him to the top of the podium.
Mia Brookes looks ready to conquer the world after a season which saw her take eight wins and one runner up spot from nine FIS, Europa Cup and Junior World Championship event entries.
The country’s Freeski prospects look encouraging, with Kirsty Muir, Zoe and Izzy Atkin, Connie Brogden, and Tyler Harding all showing promise this year.
Britain’s Kitzbuehel King
The future, then, looks in good hands. But in the present, the 2021/22 season leaves behind a moment that will never be forgotten in British snowsport history. As the man himself said, “I remember in the past comments like ‘Ah, I’ve been beaten by a Brit’, or calling us an ‘exotic’ nation. Those comments have gone pretty quiet now. I’ve always said to the younger generation that it’s possible; I don’t have to say that anymore. I can just put the video on and say: ‘watch that’.”
A victory to showcase a great sportsman’s talent, and to mark Britain’s place on the global snowsport map.
Header image: Charlie Guest at Schladming World Cup, January 2022. Photo: GEPA pictures/ David Geieregger
On a superb day for British athletes in Beijing, Ollie Hill took Snowboard Banked Slalom bronze in a nailbiter, while there were best ever Paralympic Games results for Owen PIck and Scott Meenagh
Ollie Hill rounded out his Paralympic Winter Games debut with a stunning Bronze in the Men’s LL2 Snowboard Banked Slalom. Sitting in third after the first run, Hill’s time was enough to secure him a superb podium spot less than two years after starting out in the sport, and with it take ParalympicsGB’s first ever Snowboarding medal. Sitting just behind him in fourth spot was Owen Pick, who came within tenths of a second of grabbing a podium spot of his own, his time of 1:10.64 coming fractions behind teammate Hill’s 1:10.45, and securing his best ever Paralympic Games finish. Andy MacLeod, meanwhile, rounded off his own Paralympic debut with a solid performance and a top-20 finish.
There was disappointment, meanwhile, for James Barnes-Miller, whose Games finished with a ninth-placed finish in the UL class. He nevertheless finishes the Games with two top-10 finishes under his belt after the fifth spot he took in the Snowboard Cross.
Speaking afterwards, Ollie Hill said:
“I’m absolutely stoked. I said earlier in the week I felt I had a bit more confidence in Banked Slalom, and we proved it today. To think I’ve come away with a medal, I cannot put it into words. I wanted to push for the gold, but the second run was a bit slower, the snow was caving in a bit.
“I’ve been off social media which has been qite nice but as soon as I get home I’m sure it will go a bit wild. My sisters have helped me so much through this; mum and dad will be so proud too.”
🥉 BRONZE 🥉
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Ollie Hill who just won bronze on his Paralympic Debut in Banked Slalom SB-LL2!!!
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) March 11, 2022
Scott Meenagh‘s impressive showing at the Games continued with a career-best sixth place finish in the Biathlon Individual Sitting. In a race again dominated by the host nation, who took Gold and Bronze, Meenagh’s outstanding performances in Beijing were rewarded with a stunning result, his third time setting a career-best result over the course of the Games, his time of 41:32.5 leaving him more than a minute clear of Dan Cnossen of the USA in seventh. Callum Deboys, meanwhile, posted a gutsy 18th place finish with a final time of 49:53.8.
⭐ A CAREER’S BEST FOR SCOTT MEENAGH ⭐
Congratulations to @SMeenagh for 6️⃣th in the Biathlon Individual Sitting 💪
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) March 11, 2022
In the Women’s Giant Slalom, Menna Fitzpatrick took seventh spot in the VI category with Guide Gary Smith, while Millie Knight had to settle for ninth alongside Brett Wild in a race won by Austria’s Veronika Aigner, taking her first Paralympic title.
The Women’s Seated Giant Slalom saw Shona Brownlee finish up in ninth spot, her top-ten finish coming with a combined time across her two runs of 2:32.08.
Header Image: BEIJING, CHINA – MARCH 11: Bronze medallist Ollie Hill celebrates after competing in the Men’s Banked Slalom Snowboard SB-LL2 during day seven of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park on March 11, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
A busy day at the Games will see the Women’s Alpine, Nordic, and Snowboard teams all in action
Alpine – Women’s Giant Slalom
In the Women’s Sitting Class, Shona Brownlee‘s Games are set to continue with the Seated first leg scheduled between 1.00am and 3.00am, following the conclusion of the Standing Class.
Second runs begin with the Women’s VI from 3.45am.
Watch on: Channel 4 and YouTube
Nordic – Men’s 12.5km Biathlon
The Men’s Seated race gets started at 2:30am.
Watch on: Channel 4 and YouTube
Snowboard – Banked slalom
The Men’s UL classification follows the Women’s UL, which starts at 3:00am, with the Men’s LL2 class following later in the morning.
Watch on: Channel 4 and YouTube
Header Image: YANQING, CHINA – MARCH 06: Shona Brownlee competes in the Para Alpine Skiing Women’s Super-G Sitting during day two of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre on March 06, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
On International Women’s Day, GB Snowsport Paralympic Team Leader, Jayne Kavanagh, explores the powerful legacy that British female Paralympic athletes have had on snowsport
Among the many incredible things about our Para Snowsport programme, one that feels worth drawing attention to today is the significant mark made on the sport by female athletes.
Take the recently retired Kelly Gallagher, for example. Just eight years ago, Britain had never won a Winter Paralympic gold medal. And only a few years before that, Britain had never won a medal of any description at a Para Skiing World Championships. Kelly was the trailblazer who shattered both glass ceilings.
Kelly left an indelible mark on our sport, and alongside her Paralympic gold retired with four World Championship silver medals and five bronzes. She also left behind a legacy which has been picked up by some of our most successful athletes today.
Millie Knight was just 15 years old when she competed at the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games, becoming Britain’s youngest every Winter Paralympian. Three years later she was taking World Championships gold in Downhill, and then returned from the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games with three medals, two silvers and a bronze. She’s since added medals in Lillehammer and Beijing, with the prospect of more to follow.
Her teammate, Menna Fitzpatrick, is also carrying that legacy forwards. Her astonishing PyeongChang Games successes – a gold, two silvers, and a bronze – sit alongside her eight World Championships medals (three golds, three silvers, two bronzes) as testament to the impact she has already had on Para Alpine skiing at the age of just 23. Her record shows no signs of slowing: she’s already taken two more medals in Beijing. Those first medals in PyeongChang were themselves won with another female Paralympic trailblazer in her guide up until the beginning of this season, Jen Kehoe, who herself made a huge impact on the sport before returning to her career in the armed forces.
And in our squad at these Games, there are yet more inspirational female figures to be found. Take Shona Brownlee, for example. Our first Alpine sit skiing Paralympian since Anna Turney last turned out at the Games in 2014 and an athlete who has made astonishing progress since beginning to race competitively just three years ago.
Or Hope Gordon, an outstanding Para Canoeist who competes as part of the British Canoe high performance programme, set to become ParalympicsGB’s first ever female Nordic athlete.
Back home, we have yet more athletes showing the astonishing strength-in-depth of women leading the way in British Para Snowsport, including Nina Sparks who is making waves in her first season in the Para Snowboard squad.
At the height of competition, no athlete is really thinking about their legacy, or their impact. Their thoughts and focus are on delivering the best performances they can, and giving an account of themselves that they can be proud of.
It’s for the rest of us, then, to make sure we have our eyes open to the bigger picture: that athletes like Kelly, Millie, Menna, Jen, Shona, Hope, Nina, Katie, and so many others are at the top of the game and reminding us, this International Women’s Day, that in our sport women really do lead the way.
Header Image: SOCHI, RUSSIA – MARCH 10: Gold medallists Kelly Gallagher of Great Britain (R) and guide Charlotte Evans celebrate during the medal ceremony for the Women’s Super-G – Visually Impaired during day three of Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on March 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
GB’s medal tally rose again with bronze medals in the Super-Combined for Menna Fitzpatrick and Neil Simpson
Fitzpatrick and Simpson take bronze medals in Super-Combined
Menna Fitzpatrick‘s fine record at the Paralympic Winter Games continued with another medal – her sixth in two Paralympic Winter Games – as she took bronze in the Women’s VI Super-Combined. Sitting fifth after the Super-G stage, Fitzpatrick’s outstanding Slalom leg saw her and guide Gary Smith take third place ahead of teammate Millie Knight and her guide, Brett Wild.
With the races brought forward a day because of warming weather conditions in Beijing, Knight and Fitzpatrick sat in fourth and fifth places after the Super-G run, with Fitzpatrick’s medal position confirmed when Slovakia’s Alexandra Rexova skiied out at the halfway point.
🥉 BRONZE 🥉
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) March 7, 2022
Neil Simpson and Andrew Simpson followed up their Day 2 gold with a bronze in the Men’s VI Super-Combined after a blistering Slalom leg catapulted them into the medal spots. Sitting in fifth after the Super-G stage, the pair were fast out of the gate and put enough on the board to hold off the challenge of others above them in the first-stage standings, their medal position confirmed when France’s Hyacinthe Deleplace, leading from the first stage, lost time to a huge error in the upper half of the Slalom.
🥉 BRONZE 🥉
Another medal for Neil and Andrew Simpson in @ParalympicsGB's second Bronze of the day in the Super Combined VI 🇬🇧
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) March 7, 2022
In the Women’s Seated category there was frustration for Shona Brownlee with a DNF in the slalom leg having finished the Super-G stage in sixth position, while in the Men’s Standing class James Whitley picked up a DSQ in the Super-G stage to end his Super-Combined bid early.
Brits miss out in Snowboard Cross
In the UL division, Barnes-Miller made smooth progress through the Quarter Finals before a hard-fought Semi Final battle saw him finish just outside the Final qualification spots.
Hill and Pick, meanwhile, were eliminated in the LL2 Quarter FInal stages, each finishing third in their respective contests.
The squad are due back in action later in the Games for the Banked Slalom competitions.
Header Image: Menna Fitzpatrick competes in the Para Alpine Skiing Women’s Super Combined Super-G Vision Impaired at Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre during day three of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics on March 07, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
In a change to the planned schedule, Alpine skiing is back on the agenda tomorrow morning, while three Brits are set for the Snowboard Cross Finals
Alpine – Super-Combined
Due to changes in weather conditions in Beijing, the Super-Combined races have been brought forward to Day 3 of the Games, with Millie Knight and Brett Wild, Menna Fitzpatrick and Gary Smith, Neil Simpson and Andrew Simpson, Shona Brownlee, and James Whitley all set for action.
The races begin with the Women’s VI class from 1:30am.
Watch on: Channel 4 and YouTube
Snowboard – Snowboard Cross Finals
The Men’s UL Quarter Finals, featuring James Barnes-Miller, follow the completion of the Women’s LL2 division, with the Men’s LL2 following a little later in the morning. Events are expected to continue up to the Finals at around 5:30am, depending on progress on the evening.
Watch on: Channel 4 and YouTube
Header Image: ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA – MARCH 06: James Barnes-Miller competes during the Men’s Snowboard Cross SB-UL Qualification during day two of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at on March 06, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
As the Paralympic Winter Games show us once again, impairment needn’t be any barrier to the slopes
With the world’s sporting eyes on Beijing, British athletes are once again excelling at the Paralympic Winter Games. Medals in the first two days for Millie Knight, Menna Fitzpatrick, and Neil Simpson have demonstrated that Britain’s recent history of bagging medals at the Paralympic Winter Games shows no sign of slowing down.
If the breadth of the talent on show demonstrates anything, it’s that Para Snowsport is a field with something to offer for everyone. Take two of our Alpine Games debutants in 2022 – Neil Simpson is making his first appearance in the Men’s Visually Impaired category as a 19-year-old, while in the Women’s Seated events Shona Brownlee is making hers at 42.
Or take Para Nordic where, in 2018, Scott Meenagh competed for ParalympicsGB as the nation’s sole representative, but now sets out as part of a squad of five athletes, each with their own story to tell and their own route into the Games.
For some of the athletes representing ParalympicsGB out in Bejing, their journey towards the pinnacle of the sport hadn’t even begun when the 2018 Games took place. The opportunity to get inspired, get involved, and excel is genuinely available.
Of course, the cut and thrust of competition isn’t for everybody, but that needn’t mean adaptive snowsports aren’t an option. Across Britain, specialists in skiing and snowboarding for disabled people provide access to the snow for people of any age, any impairment, and any level. Whether it’s the Home Nations National Governing Bodies, the indoor snow domes, or the dedicated specialists at Disability Snowsport UK, there’s support and opportunity available for anyone inspired to give it a try.
Ahead of the Games, Disability Snowsport UK CEO, Virginia Anderson, explained:
“We know our work is transformative for disabled children and adults, their families and the wider community and we’re thrilled that the Winter Paralympic Games will inspire more people to think they can have a go too. Snowsport truly is for everyone and disabled people can realise their ambitions and follow their Paralympic heroes onto future podiums. Our ski schools across the UK welcome everyone to come and try it out – it might just change your life”.
Elaine Boyd, a charted accountant, has cerebral palsy which affects her mobility and balance, but it hasn’t held her back.
Elaine took up skiing when a milestone birthday came around and she wanted to try something new. She’s gone on to ski regularly at Glasgow’s Snow Factor and has travelled abroad with her friends, husband and daughter. She says:
“My instructor has found ways for me to maximise the movement I have and connect it all up to my wonky brain ability. This has enabled me to use my left side in ways that has not been possible previously.
“I have also gained more confidence generally and I’m sure that’s down to learning to learning to ski. He has taught me to that it’s ok to fall you just need to stand up afterwards. For the first time ever, we have been able to take part in a sport together as a family.”
If the Paralympic Winter Games has inspired you to think about routes into Para Snowsport, find out more about where to start in our Para Snowsport Pathways hub
Header Image: YANQING, CHINA – MARCH 06: Menna Fitzpatrick reacts in the Para Alpine Skiing Women’s Super-G Vision Impaired during day two of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre on March 06, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Neil and Andrew Simpson made British Paralympic history in the Super-G, while Menna Fitzpatrick took her Paralympic medal total to five with her first of the Beijing Games
Simpson and Fitzpatrick in the medals
ParalympicsGB’s medal tally climbed to three as Britain grabbed a gold and a silver in the Super-G on a day where British Paralympic history was made.
Neil Simpson, guided by his brother Andrew Simpson, became the first man to take a Winter Paralympic title with the performance of a lifetime in the Men’s Visually Impaired Super-G. In a strong field which saw only 0.83s between the podium places, the Simpson brothers’ time of 1:08.91 blew the field away, and was enough to see them home 0.40s ahead of Giacomo Bertagnolli in silver. For the 19-year-old, it represents the second major medal of his career following silver in the Super Combined at the Para Snow Sports World Championships in Lillehammer and an astonishing way to announce himself on the world stage.
Speaking afterwards, Neil Simpson said:
“I am just really thrilled, it’s not really sunk in yet. This is our first season doing Super-G. Initially when we came down and Andrew said we had gone in to first place, there was a bit of an anxious wait. I wasn’t thinking about it being a winning performance, I was just thinking that it was a good run. We put it all down on the line and really went for it and I’m just very happy with the performance – it felt good. There was a sketchy moment coming into the bowl but we knew we needed to get back on it and really went for it down the bowl, so I’m really happy with that.
“Yesterday gave us a good boost for today – we went out with some clear goals and achieved them. We knew what we wanted to do today, come out with the same attitude and I think we did that well. I could tell it was quick but I didn’t know how special it was.“
🥇 IT’S GOLD FOR NEIL AND ANDREW SIMPSON 🥇
— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) March 6, 2022
Earlier in the night, Menna Fitzpatrick and guide Gary Smith took silver in the Women’s VI Super-G, behind Slovakia’s Alexandra Rexova. The pair’s time of 1:18.79 left them half a second clear of bronze medal position, and meant that Fitzpatrick now boasts five Paralympic medals, following the four she took home from the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.
In the Women’s Sitting classification, Shona Brownlee‘s Paralympic Winter Games debut saw her take sixth spot in a race won by the dominant Japanese sit-skier, Momoka Muraoka. In the final Alpine race of the day, James Whitley came in in 19th spot just over a second outside of the top-10.
Barnes-Miller, Pick and Hill progress in Snowboard Cross
The qualifying rounds of the Snowboard Cross event saw James Barnes-Miller, Owen Pick and Ollie Hill all safely progress to tomorrow’s Finals, but Andy MacLeod was desperately unfortunate to finish just outside of the qualifying spots in the LL2 classification, coming in 17th with the top-16 progressing.
In the UL division, Barnes-Miller’s qualifying time was good enough for ninth spot, with the draw putting him into the first of the Quarter Finals to take place tomorrow morning. Pick and Hill meanwhile took 11th and 12th in the LL2 division respectively and were drawn apart in the Quarter Finals, with Hill set for the second QF grouping and Pick the third.
Meenagh 12th in Long-Distance XC
Scott Meenagh followed up his first ever Paralympic top-10 finish from yesterday’s Biathlon Sprint with a 12th place in the Long-Distance Cross-Country competition. In a race dominated by the host nation, who took first, second and fourth spots, Meenagh’s time of 50:41.6 saw him miss out on consecutive top-10s by just 16.3s.
Header Image: YANQING, CHINA – MARCH 06: Neil Simpson celebrates gold with guide and brother Andrew Simpson in the Para Alpine Skiing Men’s Super-G Vision Impaired during day two of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at on March 06, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With one medal already in the bank, the Alpine, Nordic and Snowboard teams all take to the slopes for the second day of action in Beijing
Alpine – Super-G
Fresh from the first day’s Downhill races, Millie Knight and Brett Wild, Menna Fitzpatrick and Gary Smith (Women’s VI), Neil Simpson and Andrew Simpson (Men’s VI) and James Whitley will all be back in action for the Super-G races. Also joining the action for her Paralympic debut is Shona Brownlee, who goes in the Women’s Sitting class.
Races begin at 2:00am with the Women’s VI, with all other classifications following.
Watch on: Channel 4 from 1:30am, or on the Paralympic Games YouTube channel
Para Nordic – Long-Distance Cross-Country
Just a day after their exploits in the Sprint Biathlon, Scott Meenagh and Callum Deboys will be back in action for the Men’s Long Distance (18km) Sitting Cross-Country race – the longest Nordic discipline on-show during the Games. The race gets underway at 2:00am.
Watch on: Updates on Channel 4, or via the Paralympic Games YouTube channel
Para Snowboard – Snowboard Cross Qualifiers
The Para Snowboard squad make their bow at the Beijing Games with the qualifying round for the Snowboard Cross event, starting from 3:00am. Games veterans James Barnes-Miller and Owen Pick will be joined by debutants Ollie Hill and Andy MacLeod.
Watch on: Channel 4, and the Paralympic Games YouTube channel
Header Image: BEIJING, Menna Fitzpatrick with guide Gary Smith, prepares to compete during a training session for the Women’s Downhill Vision Impaired ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at National Alpine Ski Centre on March 03, 2022 in Yanqing, China. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)