As the GB Short Track Speed Skating team prepare for the 6th and final world cup of the season this weekend (10th - 12th February) in Minsk, Belarus, it’s exactly one year to go until the start of the the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea.
Officially known as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, the winter multi-sport event will take place in PyeongChang, between 9th -25th February 2018.
UK Sport is confident Great Britain can achieve its best ever Winter Games, as the nation’s high performance sport agency outlined the medal targets agreed with winter sports for 2017 today.
The final medal target for PyeongChang 2018 will be unveiled ahead of the Winter Olympics with UK Sport aspiring to deliver another record breaking Games next year.
The seven winter sports funded by UK Sport are Bobsleigh, Curling, Figure Skating, Short Track Speed Skating, Skeleton, Ski and Snowboard and Para Ski and Snowboard. UK Sport is celebrating all seven sports this week across social media with the #WinterSportsWeek campaign.
GB Short Track Speed Skating had the opportunity to compete at the Gangneung Ice arena, PyeongChang, where the Olympic competition will be held, at the end of 2016 as part of the ISU World Cup series.
It proved to be a winning venue for British Short Track Speed Skater Elise Christie (pictured) who took double gold in the 1,000m, ahead of the home favourites Min Jeong Choi and Suk Hee Shim . After her experience in the new arena, she said:“It doesn’t get better than that, it’s amazing to be taking on these nations at their home venues. I like the new Olympic stadium and can’t wait to be back here again."
The Short Track qualifying events for the Olympics will take place across 4 competitions starting in September 2017.
Stewart Laing Performance Director commented on the build up to the 2018 Olympic Games:“Although today is marking the one year to go until the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, it has thoroughly been our focus for the last few years. Competing at the Gangneung Ice Arena last December really helped hit home how spectacular this Games is going to be.
"We have a really strong links with South Korea, with Seung Jae Lee being our Lead Coach for the Programme. This has definitely helped the athletes over the recent years to enjoy our visits and competitions to the host country. We have high performance expectations for PyeongChang and are heading to the games with medalling as our focus.”
It would be the third Olympics for Elise Christie, having competed at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, and the second Olympics for Charlotte Gilmartin. The ladies relay team will also be aiming to qualify, with more depth of skaters, including Kathryn Thomson, Jennifer Pickering and Sam and Hannah Morrison.
For the men’s team, it is the younger generation of Billy Simms, Joshua Cheetham, Aydin Djemal, Farrell Treacy, Jack Burrows and Jonathan Moody who will be aiming to step up.
A year out to the Olympics GB Short Track team captain Charlotte Gilmartin described what qualifying for PyeongChang would mean to her:“It would mean so much to me to represent Team GB at the next Olympics. I felt a lot of pressure to qualify for Sochi 2014, and then once I was there I gained so much experience and learning, and finished top 16.
"This time round I am going in more from a performance point of view than development and cant wait to show what I can do. I feel I am in the right space physically, mentally and emotionally.”
In Minsk this weekend, the last world cup of the season before the ISU World Championships in March, the team will be hoping to qualify for more finals and continue on their medal run following success from both Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin this season.
Gilmartin, who took the bronze medal place in the 1,500m last weekend in Dresden, Germany is now World Cup ranked 4th in the 1,500m distance.
Elise Christie, who was unable to compete at World Cup 5 because of concussion will now also miss World Cup 6, because of the consequential time out from preparation.
Her focus will now be on the World Championships in March. Elise is currently ranked 2nd place in the 500m, and 3rd in 1,000m at World Cup. She said:“I’ve had some problems with concussion, so haven't been able to race but I’m getting better. These things take time and my focus is the World Championships in March and getting better for those.
"I’m feeling really confident on the ice at the moment, and feel like I have a presence which is a good feeling and it’s the best form I have ever been in for sure."