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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 00:24 GMT

Baxter bronze boosts Britain's future

BBC Sport's skiing expert Martin Bell hopes that Alain Baxter's Olympic bronze will lead to a brighter future for British skiing.

Alain Baxter's second run in Salt Lake City was part of an incredibly exciting race.

The slalom is unpredictable at the best of times, but when you have a course breaking up as much as that then it is a case of anything can happen.

As a slalom skier you have to gamble - take a few risks and make it to the bottom whatever.

Alain did that perfectly.

Consistency

I've known since he was fourth in the final World Cup of last season that he was capable of it.

And to be honest the results he was getting earlier this season were not so bad that I thought he was completely without hope.

He had a lot of consistent runs that were 13th or 17th, close to the best but not quite there.

"We must remember that Alain did not make his breakthrough until he was 27, so we must be patient with our younger skiers."
Former Olympic skier Martin Bell

In a sense the bronze medal has now seen him consolidate his status as a world class slalom skier.

It helps that he has the right temperament.

The psychological pressure in the slalom is huge.

You have your first run - and Alain would have known after that that there was an outside chance of a medal - and then you have a two-hour break.

Inspiration

This means you have an eternity to get nervous about the second run.

Alain managed to keep calm though - he is a down to earth guy and that has really helped him through.

Hopefully what Alain has done will inspire more kids to go to their local dry ski slopes, join a race training club and go out to the Alps.

"With the right support and funding perhaps some of our other skiers can make the breakthrough too"
Bell 's hope for the future

Maybe more will start to train in their school holidays, and certainly in Scotland hopefully kids will be skiing every weekend in races at Scottish resorts.

If this happens with the eight, nine and ten year olds then a fantastic pool of talent could come through in ten years time.

There is also the hope that the 19 and 20 year olds such as Noel Baxter, Alain's younger brother, and Chemmy Alcott, who has been competing for the women's team, will get more funding.

Rankings

They should now get the right backing for them to follow in Alain's footsteps.

We must remember that Alain did not make his breakthrough until the age of 27 so we have to show patience in our younger skiers.

Skiing is intrinsically unfair. The higher-ranked competitors always get to start first on the smoother courses making it so hard for those down the rankings to ever work there way up.

But with the right support and funding then perhaps some of our other skiers can also make the breakthrough too.


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