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Alain Baxter on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

Lindsey Vonn in action
Vonn is expected to win multiple skiing medals in Vancouver

Alain Baxter
By Alain Baxter
Three-time Olympian and BBC Sport skiing expert

The Olympics are the ultimate for a winter sports athlete because the whole world is watching.

I was used to racing in front of big crowds because some of the bigger World Cups like Kitzbuehel, Wengen and Schladming had tens of thousands of spectators watching.

But I can still remember the roar of the crowd at Salt Lake City in 2002.

"My advice will be to enjoy yourselves but try not to get too caught up in the spectacle because you've really got to focus on performing the best you can on race day"

I've got a montage of pictures of me coming over the last roll near the bottom of the run. The picture is taken from behind so you can see my back and the huge crowd ahead of me. It was pretty cool and the photographs bring back great memories.

I didn't appreciate how big the Olympics were but the media went into a frenzy when I finished third in the slalom, becoming the first British alpine ski medallist at a Winter Games.

I was pictured on the front and back pages of most British newspapers.

And it was then well chronicled what happened afterwards when I failed a drugs test for having a trace of the banned substance lev-methamphetamine in my system from a US version of a nasal inhaler.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared me of any wrongdoing but the International Olympic Committee refused to give me my medal back because of its strict liability rule.

The whole episode was a shame but I've got over that now and, after retiring at the end of last season, I'm looking forward to going to the Winter Olympics as a pundit for the first time.

Every athlete works so hard for four years to qualify for the Winter Olympics, yet you only find out a few weeks beforehand whether you've actually been selected.

It starts to sink in when you are handed all the Team GB-branded gear.

But it's not until you arrive at the Olympic venue you truly realise you are part of something special and feel the proud honour of representing your country.

I never went to an opening ceremony because my event, the slalom, was always one of the last events on the Winter Olympics schedule.

But for those going this time my advice will be to enjoy yourselves but try not to get too caught up in the spectacle because you've really got to focus on performing the best you can on race day.

Dave Ryding's video profile

It will be a first Olympics for the three-strong male British ski team - Ed Drake, Dave Ryding and Andy Noble - and I must admit I do feel sorry for my brother Noel who was not selected, for what would have been his third Winter Olympics.

The British governing body, Snowsport GB, went into administration last week after a battle with financial difficulties and Noel and the others have basically had to pay to be in the British ski team this season.

This has not helped Noel as he has been trying to qualify. I know the criteria is in black and white and he had not satisfied it but he was coming back from injury last year when a lot of the younger guys qualified so I feel it is harsh he is not going.

It's such a shame because in my opinion Britain is going to have one of its best slalom skiers sat at home watching the Olympics rather than competing in them.

"I wouldn't rule out Britain's Chemmy Alcott as I think she's got a great chance of a medal"

As always at an Olympics, it is difficult to predict medal winners because you often find athletes smaller nations managing to pull it out of the bag on race day.

In the women's races I think the gold medals will be split between American Lindsey Vonn, who has been amazing this season, and Germany's Maria Riesch.

But there are a few others, like Sweden's Anja Paerson and Austria's Kathrin Zettel and Marlies Schild who, if they get it right on the day, could upset the order.

And I wouldn't rule out Britain's Chemmy Alcott either as I think she's got a great chance of a medal.

Chemmy Alcott's video profile

She's competing in all five events and if she can get a good first race in and build from there to the super combined, which is probably her most likely event to medal in, then it would be fantastic for her and British skiing.

She's in a great position because there is no pressure on her and I think anyone finishing in the top 20 in World Cup can do well at the Olympics depending on the snow conditions.

The men's speed races look wide open with Swiss Didier Cuche and Carlo Janka in good form, old-time Michael Walchhofer from Austria still very capable while the Canadian locals will be looking to Manuel Osborne-Paradis to bring home a medal.

And you can never write off all-rounders Benjamin Raich and Aksel Lund Svindal.

In the technical events France's Julian Lizeroux, Reinfried Herbst and Manfred Pranger of Austria and Croatia's Ivica Kostelic are on paper the ones to back.

606: DEBATE

But there is a group of others who are consistent top 10 finishers like Canada's Michael Janyk and Julien Cousineau, who will be on home snow and with a bit of oomph from the fans could spring a surprise.

And America will have high hopes for Ted Ligety and Bode Miller, depending on which Miller turns up.

After struggling throughout last season, Miller only decided he was going to race just before the start of the season but he's definitely getting his ski legs back and in the recent races has been skiing well.

He's an incredible skier to watch.

Alain Baxter was talking to Anna Thompson



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see also
Vonn claims World super-G title
31 Jan 10 |  Alpine skiing
GB Olympic bosses to help skiers
05 Feb 10 |  Alpine skiing
Baxter omitted from Winters squad
26 Jan 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Baxter hails moral victory
18 Oct 02 |  Alpine Skiing


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