GB Snowsport Chief Executive, Vicky Gosling, looks back at the post-Beijing decisions that underpinned our most successful season of all time
A year ago, I spent a lot of time thinking and talking about lessons learned.
What happened in Beijing that caused our Olympic ambitions to fall short? Why was the potential in our team not turning into consistently winning results on the snow? Were other nations better equipped to deal with challenges that affected all of us? How could we keep building momentum around a sport that doesn’t benefit from the same cultural footprint of so many of our summer sport siblings?
Time will tell if the answers we developed over a long, difficult summer last year were the right ones, but the early indications are encouraging: the best season in British snowsport history; 50 World Cup, World Championships and X Games podiums; a podium in every single discipline under the GB Snowsport banner; four Crystal Globes; two World Championship titles.
It’s worth saying, these aren’t the fruits of some grand reset. Last season wasn’t a case of tearing things up and starting again, just as this season won’t – can’t – be a case of sitting back on our laurels.
With small fractions of a difference, these are the results we could have seen last year. But we didn’t, and perhaps it was facing down that challenge that gave us the push to reach the point we have today.
Going back to last summer, it wasn’t just us asking questions. We faced a lot of scrutiny over whether we were truly on a winning track. And I think all of us – our staff, our athletes, our coaches – understood where those questions were coming from. But even then, we’ve always been confident in the ability of British skiers and snowboards to make a real mark on the world stage.
Ironically, perhaps the only place British snowsport performances weren’t being seriously questioned was among other nations; I can remember really distinctly the surprise among some of the more traditional snowsport countries about the criticisms after Beijing. In some ways, that’s been true this season as well; there’s probably been more surprise back home than there has been around the world at just how strong the team has been this year.
One of the most exciting things about that strength is just how much visibility it’s received. Whether it’s the regular support of Ski Sunday and Eurosport, the international excitement around the medals won by Mia Brookes, Charlotte Bankes, Huw Nightingale, and Zoe Atkin at the Freestyle World Championships, or the astonishing week in January where Dave Ryding, Mia Brookes, Makayla Gerken Schofield, Zoe Atkin, Kirsty Muir, Menna Fitzpatrick, Neil Simpson, and Charlotte Bankes all took World Cup and X Games medals, British excellence has been there in front of millions of people the world over. If there was ever an exciting moment to be a part of British skiing and snowboarding, this is it, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the partners and sponsors who’ve believed in what we’re building, as well as to all of the fans and supporters who’ve backed us and our athletes at every step of the way.
These are difficult times for people right across the country. As a sport – particularly as a sport funded by the generosity of National Lottery players – we have a responsibility to give something back, and right now I think what we can give back the most is a bit of feel-good for the nation. And if you want a feel-good story for Britain, what’s better than the unfancied little guy going toe-to-toe with the world’s most established snowsport nations?
Going into this summer, we’re in a more settled place than we were a year ago. The decisions we took at the end of last season were tough, but they were a necessary step in the journey we’re on. Our focus remains on improving in every area that we can, and building even more on the strength-in-depth that exists across British skiing and snowboarding.
We’re not going to stop learning lessons, but I’m glad that we’re learning them a higher point on the mountain.