The exponential investment in winter sports has transformed the British team into a team with record medal potential, but Olympic champion Amy Williams is convinced funding must follow British ambition.
On the slopes and slides, mere hundredths of a second will decide who wins gold, silver and bronze in Beijing.
But behind the scenes, huge whole numbers play a huge role in fractional gains, and Bath-based Williams is eager to see if the extra millions of pounds bestowed on British winter athletes since her skeleton gold in 2010 might lead to unprecedented success over the next few weeks.
“Athletes train completely differently now,” Williams, 39, said as he watched the track at the University of Bath headquarters of British Bobsleigh and Skeleton.
“We didn’t even have a nutritionist, we only had a psychologist a few hours before the Olympic Games. Now, all of this is daily and weekly normality.
“It’s an exciting thing in all sports that progress is there for athletes to get better and better.
“It’s just that one percent.
“One percent in so many different areas, it could be a tenth of a second for you in your sport. It could be a medal or no medal.
If money talks, it will certainly remind you that almost a third of Britain’s 32 Winter Olympic medals have come in the last two Games.
Team GB equaled South Korea’s best team medal haul, matching the five won at Sochi 2014, with optimistic forecasters projecting as many as seven in Beijing in sports including snowboarding, skeleton and curling .
And if the books make progress, perhaps no one would be more grateful for the injection of cash than freestyle skier James Woods, who narrowly missed out on a medal in PyeongChang, finishing just 1.4 points from bronze in slopestyle.
Investment in GB Snowsport has more than doubled over the past four years, from £5.2m for the PyeongChang cycle to £11.1m for Beijing, with ambitious targets to become the one of the top five snow sports nations by 2030.
Mindset, Williams believes, is the other fractional factor – another reason having a full complement of year-round support staff can make or break a dream come true, especially under added stress. of the pandemic.
“He’s good enough,” she insisted. “He has the skills, he has the knowledge, he has the experience.
“So it’s just in that spirit, that little one percent. You know, do you wake up and are you too nervous that day? That little extra body tension might be enough to not land a round.
“This is where it really happens. You can have all the athletes who have all the skills physically, but whoever maintains them mentally will be the one who succeeds.
Williams’ gold was the third in a dynastic six-medal skeleton run for British women, stretching five consecutive Olympics since Alex Coomber’s bronze medal in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Along with back-to-back champion Lizzy Yarnold hanging up her sled after PyeongChang, 33-year-old Laura Deas, who clinched bronze four years ago, is the only veteran squad for Team GB heading to Beijing.
In July 2021, UK Sport injected an additional £90,000 into the backbone, both to strengthen the Beijing-bound squad and to develop new talent for Milano Cortina 2026.
Bobsleigh, on the other hand, has not been funded by UK Sport for most of this Olympic cycle despite a better UK result in two-man bobsleigh by returning pilot Mica McNeill, but received a £40,000 raise in October.
Williams acknowledged there was still a catch: Money fuels progress, but performance inspires investment, so athletes will be under pressure in China.
She explained, “Year on year, as all sports are more successful, success usually brings more money, more support.
“And the advancements in technology are huge, that means your equipment can be better, the money and the research that goes into technology and research development.”
For a rare few, like Williams, all the hard work eventually pays off.
She added: “The relief, to be so proud to have that gold medal to take home to your country, singing that national anthem is a moment I will never forget.
“And I just wish other athletes could have the same feeling and bring home medals for Great Britain.”
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