According to British sporting chief and Olympic gold medalist Katherine Grainger, Team GB bosses have targeted a record-breaking haul from the Beijing Winter Olympics, with funding aimed at excelling in more sports than ever before.
UK Sport have set a medal target of between three and seven for next month’s games, with the potential to surpass the previous record of five medals from Sochi in 2014 and PyeongChang four years ago.
British Sport Chief Sally Munday said: “Our information tells us that British athletes have the potential to win between three and seven medals at the Olympic Games and between five and nine medals at the Paralympics. We have a young, dynamic and motivated team with real potential to engage and inspire the public.”
While the majority of these medals would come from sports funded by the National Lottery, UK Sport has also set up a Beijing Support Fund which has paid out significant sums to non-Lottery funded sports, with a total of seven sports ahead of Beijing of this new funding receive .
Chief among them is bobsleigh, who has now been awarded £120,000, with 31-year-old Brad Hall looking like a medal contender who has already claimed six World Cup podiums between the two-man and four-man events this season and won silver at Test event in Beijing.
And Grainger, Britain’s most successful rower of all time, who has won five Olympic medals including gold in London, believes that expanding investment across a wider range of sports with targeted funding will allow the public to see athletes in action, who otherwise would not have made it to Beijing.
Grainger, who leads UK Sport’s mission to create the greatest decade of sporting moments and to reach, unite and inspire the nation, said: “We are committed to becoming an ever-growing force in winter Olympic and Paralympic sports, and we know that there is a real privilege to be part of the world-class performance system and it should always feel special. As an athlete, and certainly when I was an athlete, you never took it for granted, you felt incredibly privileged to have access to everything that comes with it.
“But it should feel like it’s accessible and that it’s possible to reach and achieve it. So it was clear how we could open the door to more sports and more individual athletes who have the potential but didn’t have access to world-class program funding. It was really exciting for the Winter Games, we managed to support seven sports, which was very important for us.
“Bobsleigh has already seen the greatest return on the success they have. We all wait until after the games and don’t put any more pressure on them than necessary.
“But we haven’t seen a long track speed skater in British colors for a long time. Depending on how qualifying plays out in the coming days, we could see Team GB appear in a record nine sports at the Olympics, including other Beijing Support Fund sports such as figure skating, luge and biathlon. So just numbers, we’ll make a lot of progress.
“At the end of the day, the return on investment cannot only be measured by the number of medals. The fact that they will be in their Team GB kit and on this big stage will already be a return.
“The public will see athletes they might not otherwise have seen and sports they might not have seen in a very long time. That’s exciting because you wanted to see as many British representatives as possible at the Games. It’s great for the athletes and their sports and it’s great for the public to have more ways to connect with the team.”
For a long time, the focus for Olympic teams has been medal return on investment, but Grainger explained how UK Sport has introduced a wider range of success measures for Beijing.
She added: “What is important to us is performances in a growing number of events and from a range of athletes for both men and women, as well as greater gender balance. It’s equally important to share stories from athletes who started their winter sports journey at facilities in the UK and those who have had world-class training experiences around the world. We can’t wait to see British Olympic and Paralympic athletes excite and inspire British audiences with their performances in Beijing as they take the baton from the summer sportsmen who lit up Tokyo.”
UK Sport aims to make Britain an ever-growing force in winter sports. The Beijing Support Fund demonstrates UK Sport’s commitment to a broader group of sports, athletes and teams in the high-performance community as part of its mission to create the greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments; to reach, inspire and unite the nation. For more information visit www.uksport.gov.uk