28th January 2022 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on January 31st, 2022
The Beijing Games are just a few days away and there are realistic chances of snowsports medals for Team GB. The opening ceremony on Friday 4th February will mark the start of a feast of winter sports action over the following two weeks. We look at the Team GB skiers and snowboarders who’ll be there and assess their prospects.
GB Snowsport will have 21 athletes in Beijing competing in nine different disciplines.
Almost all – 18 – are skiers with just three snowboarders selected.
11 are men, 10 are women.
There are some genuine medal prospects and others whose strong form suggests they should make the top 10 in their events.
Nine of those selected will be competing at their first Olympics.
They include Team GB’s youngest competitor, 17-year-old freestyle skier, Kirsty Muir.
In January 2020, aged 15, she won big air silver at the Youth Winter Olympics.
In March 2021, she won slopestyle silver in the World Cup at Aspen.
She made her X Games debut this month, finishing 5th in slopestyle.
Three of the team will be competing at a Winter Games for a fourth time.
Inevitably, fans of ski racing will have their eyes on one of them, 35-year-old Dave Ryding.
Beijing is likely his last Olympics.
After racing into the history books with the nation’s first Alpine World Cup victory in Kitzbühel on 22nd January, he can’t be ruled out as a medal contender.
However, the margins are so tight in slalom racing, with a straddle just a split second away, that anything could happen.
The six World Cup men’s slalom races so far this season have each had a different winner.
There’s no front runner.
Ryding himself has had a rollercoaster of a season, starting off with a 5th place in Val d’Isere, then twice failing to finish.
He’s also had a 16th place and a 20th place finish.
He’s currently 7th in the slalom standings.
Dave Ryding – photo © PlanetSKI
“It’s such a huge honour to be named as part of Team GB again, and I can’t wait to get out there and get racing,” Ryding said before his victory in Austria.
“As athletes, we take all our competitions seriously, but there’s something undeniably special about representing the country at an Olympic Games.
“This is a really exciting time for British skiing and snowboarding, and like the whole squad I’m looking forward to giving my all in Beijing.”
The men’s slalom is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 16th February in the early hours of the morning in Europe.
Ryding will be joined in the start gate for the slalom by 25-year-old Billy Major in his Olympic debut.
Billy Major at the 2017 British Alpine Championships – photo © Vanessa Fry Photography
With great timing, in the last race before the Olympics, the Schladming night slalom, Major earned his first World Cup points.
He finished 18th, ahead even of Ryding.
Perhaps the best prospect for a gold medal for GB is Charlotte Bankes.
Charlotte Bankes – photo © PlanetSKI
The reigning Snowboard Cross World Champion, Bankes has been a dominant force this season with three World Cup victories and a silver medal.
She is leading the World Cup standings and has another race this weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo before turning her attention to the Olympics.
Bankes competed at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics for France but she switched to represent the country of her birth in November 2018.
This will be her first Olympics under the Union Flag.
It will also be the third Olympics for another ‘defector’, Gus Kenworthy.
The Essex-born freestyle skier was previously on the USA team and won slopestyle silver for the US at Sochi in 2014.
Gus Kenworthy – photo c/o GB Snowsport
He joined GB Snowsport at the end of 2019 and topped the World Cup podium for the first time representing GB in Calgary in February 2020.
He will compete in ski halfpipe.
Among the other freeskiers in the team are: PyeongChang Olympics bronze medallist in ski slopestyle, Izzy Atkin; James ‘Woodsy’ Woods, who finished 4th in ski slopestyle at PyeongChang; Izzy’s younger sister, Zoe Atkin, who will have her Olympic debut in ski halfpipe; and the previously mentioned teenager Kirsty Muir, who competes in slopestyle and big air.
All could be in with a shout for a medal on their day.
Izzy Atkin, bronze at 2018 Winter Olympics – photo © PlanetSKI
A large contingent of the GB Snowsport squad left for Beijing on Thursday 28th January, among them Woodsy.
The sole snowboard slopestyle and big air athlete travelling to Beijing is Katie Ormerod.
She was a real hope for two gold medals at PyeongChang before suffering a horrific injury in training there before the competition began.
In 2019-20, her first season back after injury, she became the overall World Cup snowboard slopestyle champion.
Ormerod has not been on the podium this season though she came close with a 4th place in slopestyle at Mammoth Mountain earlier this month.
In Cross Country, there’s always a chance that Andrew Musgrave and Andrew Young will upset the apple-cart by challenging the traditional Nordic nations.
They’ve done it before and they have the experience behind them.
It’s the fourth Olympics for them both.
Andrew Musgrave at the 2019 World Championships – photo © PlanetSKI.
The full list of GB skiers and snowboarders competing can be found at the end of this article.
There are some notable absences.
In alpine, neither Laurie Taylor nor Charlie Raposo made the squad.
In moguls, the Gerken Schofield sisters, Makayla and Leonie, are selected for their first Olympics, but there’s no place for their brother, Thomas.
“My dream has always been to compete for my country at the Olympics but with my twin brother and little sister by my side,” Leonie said on social media.
“In all honesty I have mixed emotions as I feel excited yet deeply upset for my brother.
“We started learning how to ski together, joined the local ski club together, did our first races together, we did and do everything together. It is only normal my sister and I feel sad and crushed by the fact that he won’t be with us for our first Olympics.”
Thomas made sporting history when he won World Cup silver in March 2020.
“This was the most competitive selection process that a British skiing and snowboarding team has ever undergone, and every athlete selected richly deserves their place on the team,” GB Snowsport Olympic Team Manager, Sophie Morrison, said.
“This is also an important moment to acknowledge the incredible efforts of those athletes who missed out on selection, but whose performances on snow and in training have helped push all of us to raise our game in readiness for Beijing.”
The GB Snowsport Head Coach, Pat Sharples, said he was proud of every single athlete in the Squad.
“Behind every name on this list is a huge amount of hard work, determination, and commitment, and every single squad member really deserves their place.
“It’s true, though, that the hard work is only just beginning.
“The next few weeks are going to be a huge challenge, but we back every athlete on this squad to do themselves and their country proud in Beijing.”
Billy Major* Dave Ryding
Charlie Guest Alex Tilley
Moguls – Women
Leonie Gerken Schofield* Makayla Gerken Schofield*
Moguls – Men
Freeski Halfpipe – Men
Freeski Halfpipe – Women
Freeski Slopestyle Big Air – Men
Freeski Slopestyle Big Air – Women
Izzy Atkin Kirsty Muir* Katie Summerhayes
James Clugnet* Andrew Musgrave Andrew Young
Snowboard Cross – Men
Snowboard Cross – Women
Snowboard Slopestyle Big Air
You can find the schedule for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games here
Beijing 2022. Image c/o IOC.