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Great Britain hopes for best Winter Olympic medal haul

By Anna Thompson

Shelley Rudman was Britain's sole medal winner in Turin in 2006
Rudman was Britain's sole medal winner in Turin

Despite the obvious handicap of a lack of natural resources when it comes to winter sports facilities, Great Britain tends to win a medal or two every four years when the Winter Olympics come around.

And, if everything goes to plan, the 2010 Games could be the most successful in history from a British perspective.

The current British record for a single Games is four medals, back in the first winter Games at Chamonix in France in 1924.

Great Britain won gold in curling, silver in the four-man bobsleigh and bronze in ice hockey. Ethel Muckeldt, 38, from Manchester, also won a bronze medal in figure skating.

Andy Hunt, the British Olympic Association's chef de mission at Vancouver, will not put a figure on the number of medals Team GB can win, but is positive about their chances.

He told BBC Sport: "It's quite miraculous. We are a non-alpine nation but to get 55 athletes set to qualify for the Games, and to have the medal potential that we do, is quite awesome really."

So where could medals come from? BBC Sport assesses Team GB's chances.

SKELETON

Shelley Rudman was Britain's sole medallist at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin when she unexpectedly took silver in the skeleton.

Shelley Rudman

Rudman wins skeleton silver in 2006 (UK users only)

It was the second time in consecutive Games that Britain had won a medal in the sliding sport, after Alex Coomber's bronze four years earlier.

Despite not possessing a race track in the country, Britain has become a powerhouse in skeleton over the last decade, thanks in no small part to the sled technology developed by slider and former world champion Kristan Bromley, who also happens to have a PhD in the subject.

In Vancouver, Team GB is expecting big things and could win multiple medals as four athletes - Bromley and Rudman have been on the podium this season and Amy Williams and Adam Pengilly won medals at last season's World Championships.

Meet Shelley Rudman

FORM: Rudman is back to her pre-pregnancy best, winning gold in a World Cup race in Italy in December and currently topping the standings. Williams has yet to record a podium but is knocking on the door with a fourth and sixth place and is fifth in the rankings.

Bromley recorded a top-three in the first race of the season in Park City but has struggled since then.

MEDAL CHANCE: Very strong. Team GB will be mightily annoyed if they do not succeed here, expecting at least one medal.

WOMEN'S BOBSLEIGH

Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke became the first British bobsleighers to win a gold medal in the sport for 44 years when they triumphed in the World Championships in Lake Placid last February.

That extraordinary achievement capped a fine season for the duo, who finished third in the World Cup series of races.

It will be Minichiello's third Winter Olympics after finishing 12th in the inaugural event in Salt Lake City, and ninth in Turin four years later.

FORM: Their form has not been headline-grabbing so far - a seventh and two eighth places after the first three races of the World Cup season - and there is a concern over Minichiello's eyesight after she suffered a loss of vision in her left eye.

MEDAL CHANCE: They can definitely win a medal and will be expecting to do so if Minichiello is 100% fit.

CURLING

Scotland's men, led by skip David Murdoch, are the current world champions after defeating Canada 7-6 in April.

The team will essentially be the same but will be rebranded Great Britain for Winter Olympic purposes.

At the past two Winter Olympics, they have been fancied but have bottled it, missing out in the bronze play-off to the United States last time out in Turin.

FORM: The season is just getting under way and they are in action at the European Championships, being held in Aberdeen.

MEDAL CHANCE: Murdoch was bitterly disappointed that Great Britain left empty-handed in 2006, and is determined to succeed this time around. If he can keep a cool head, his team should be among the medals.

FIGURE SKATING

Can you believe it's a quarter of a century since Torvill and Dean's epic gold medal-winning Bolero performance in Sarajevo?

Britain's favourite ice dance couple returned a decade later to win another medal, this time a bronze at Lillehammer in Norway.

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

Torvill and Dean skate to gold in 1984 (UK users only)

Since then, British ice skating has struggled to find medal winners at the Winter Games. Could that change in Vancouver?

Scottish siblings Sinead and John Kerr have quietly gone about their business moving up the rankings and, at the end of last season, won a bronze medal at the European Championships in Helsinki. This season they reached the Grand Prix final for the first time.

FORM: Perception is everything in this sport. This season, the Kerrs have upped the ante with their technical skills and excellent results have followed: two top-three finishes in ISU Grand Prix meetings against the world's best. At the Grand Prix final, in Japan, they finished fourth, just two points off a podium place.

MEDAL CHANCE: Possible, although bronze is the most likely colour.

OTHER MEDAL CHANCES

Short-track speed skater Jon Eley won a silver medal at a World Cup race in Dresden last season and is ranked in the world's top 10 in 500m. He finished fifth in the last Winter Olympics final in that event, and his goal for 2010 is "to push for medals at the Olympics".

Zoe Gillings competes in snowboard-cross and has finished on the podium five times in World Cup races, including winning in Chile in 2004.

She competed in Turin in 2006, finishing 15th, but had only just returned from a serious foot injury and was not 100% fit.

Gillings is ranked fifth in the world and came 10th in the opening race of this season in Chile. The World Cup resumes in Telluride, Colorado, on 19 December.



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see also
Ten to Tackle - Winter Olympic special
10 Dec 09 |  Fun and Games
Medal hope to undergo eye surgery
11 Dec 09 |  Vancouver 2010
Rudman slides to World Cup gold
04 Dec 09 |  Vancouver 2010


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