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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 23:38 GMT

Land of hope and glory

BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson praises the amazing turnaround in Britain's Winter Olympic fortunes.

From zeros to heroes.

In the space of 10 minutes, Team GB's Winter Olympics went from a poor performance so far to their best showing in 54 years.

It proved to a lucky day 13 at the Salt Lake Games for Britain.

"We told everyone not to judge us on the first week but sadly some people did"
Team GB boss Simon Clegg

Skeleton slider Alex Coomber clinched a bronze medal at Utah Olympic Park while Britain's women curlers made it to the final of their event at Ogden Ice Sheet - guaranteeing them at least a silver.

Simon Clegg, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, punched the air with joy when the results were known.

Immense pressure

He told BBC Sport Online: "We are absolutely delighted.

"All the athletes should be commended. Alex performed well in very tough conditions while the curlers were under immense pressure to beat the odds-on favourites. It is amazing."

At the end of the first week, Team GB were being heavily criticised after spending more than 1m on the Winter Games, while the athletes were performing well below their capabilities.

Snowboarder Lesley McKenna finished 17th, biathlete Mike Dixon - in his record-breaking sixth Olympics - barely troubled the top 80 while the men's curling team, medal hopefuls before the start, were soon out of the reckoning.

Clegg said: "We always said there were some stronger competitors in the second half of the Games. "We told everyone not to judge us on the first week but sadly some people did."

Coomber's bronze is not just good for Great Britain, it is also fantastic for her sport, which was making its first appearance since St Moritz in 1948.

Her team-mate Kristan Bromley, who finished 13th in the men's event, told BBC Sport Online: "It was a brilliant result for Alex.

"It was also good for the sport. This will really raise the profile of skeleton in Britain. It could also help with sponsorship, which is very important."


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