In late September of this year the ISU World Cup Short Track got underway in Shanghai, marking the start of an emulous season of racing as athletes from all over the world look to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next February. We are now in November and the competition for places is beginning to take some sort of shape and after a number of impressive performances. Team GB is right in the mix.
Over the next few weeks, Britain’s short track speed skaters will be competing for the illustrious Winter Olympic Games spaces at two ISU World Cup events: Turin, which takes places from 7-11 November, and then another qualification event in Kolomna, Russia, the following week.
Earlier in the year, Team GB competed at an ISU World Cup event in Sochi, acting as a trial run for the real Games next year. Encouragingly it was here that Britain recorded their best performance of that World Cup series, showing promising signs for the rest of this season and the Games themselves. The team’s 2012/2013 season was one of their most successful to date, resulting in 13 medals over the course of the year, including eight medals throughout the ISU World Cup Series, four medals at the European Championships and one at the World Championships.
Britain’s World Cup squad travelling out to Turin and Kolomna looking to emulate such successes over the course of November consist of Paul Stanley, Jon Eley, Richard Shoebridge, Jack Whelbourne, and Josh Cheetham on the men’s squad, and Elise Christie, Charlotte Gilmartin, Alex Stanley and Kat Thomson on the women’s squad.
These nine athletes will be competing at these upcoming events in the hope of securing a place in the 32 individual distance spaces and eight relay places available at the Games at Sochi in February. However Britain’s speed skaters will be up against over 130 men and 110 women who will also be vying for one of the precious spots.
In spite of these daunting figures, Performance Director Stuart Horsepool is feeling optimistic over the squad’s chances of qualification for the iconic Games in February. He stated that the team is targeting to qualify three individual male and three individual female quota spaces, as well as both the men’s and women’s relay.
And Horsepool’s positive ambition is most certainly justified when you look at Team GB’s achievements so far this season. They took a bronze medal in the men’s 5000m World Cup relay in Seoul back in October and a number of individual skaters made semi-final and final appearances, placing them amongst the top 16 in the world.
These performances and rankings come as great news for Britain as they go into the events at Turin and Kolomna. The qualification criterion states that all individual athletes must finish within the top 32 places over the course of the World Cup competitions so as to earn enough points and secure a place in the Sochi Games.
For Team GB, the men’s and women’s squads have differing qualities that Horsepool feel will stand them in good stead as they race for points between now and the final qualifying event. The Performance Director described the British men’s team as being “experienced” rather than “complacent,” following their medal success in Seoul. He added that the women’s team, although young “are constantly improving,” pointing to their British record-breaking display in Seoul, which gave them a realistically auspicious chance of qualifying.
In order for the teams to qualify for a relay place, Britain will have to finish in the top 8 following the impending World Cup events. This does become complicated however if the home nation Russia finishes outside the top 8, meaning they will therefore take the place of the nation placed in 8th.
So as the penultimate World Cup events get under way, the final race is now well and truly on for a place at the 2014 Winter Olympics. With Team GB looking good, Britain has every reason to be hopeful of a strong contingent appearing in Sochi contending for honours next year.
The World Cup schedules for both events in Turin and Kolmna will be as follows:
1500m – Male and female (heats)
500m – Male and female (pre-preliminaries, preliminaries, heats)
1000m (pre-preliminaries, preliminaries, heats)
Men’s 5000m relay (heats)
Women’s 3000m relay (heats)
1500m – Male and female (quarterfinal, semi-final, final B, final A)
500m – Male and female (quarterfinal, semi-final, final B, final A)
1000m (quarterfinal, semi-final, final B, final A)
Men’s 5000m relay (semi-final, final B, final A)
Women’s 3000m relay (semi-final, final B, final A)
How do the Winter Olympics help to draw attention to lesser known athletes and sports, such as speed skating? How will a successful Team GB inspire young athletes to pursue winter sports?