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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 23:32 GMT

Britain delivers at Olympics

BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson reflects on the British success at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

This has been Britain's best Winter Olympics medal haul for 66 years.

Three medals - a gold and two bronzes - is a fantastic return for a country that has a lack of natural facilities and does not boast a history of winter sport success.

Before the Games began, Britain had one genuine gold medal hope with skeleton slider Alex Coomber.

But a string of poor results in the first week left the British Olympic Association's nerves jangling a little.

They told us not to judge them until the end of the Games - and they were proved right.

First Coomber, under intense media pressure and in unfavourable snowy conditions, came up trumps with a bronze in the skeleton.

Team GB's 2002 medal haul
Gold: Women's curling
Bronze: Alex Coomber (Skeleton)
Bronze: Alain Baxter (Slalom)
First gold: Since Torvill and Dean (1984)
Best medal haul: Since gold, silver and bronze (1936)
First alpine ski medal: Previous best 4th (Galina Hathorn in 1968)

Although the triple World Cup champion was pre-race favourite to win the event at Utah Olympic Park, she was delighted - and relieved - at winning a coveted medal.

Ten minutes later, Team GB were celebrating again when news was received of the women's curling team 60 miles away at Ogden Ice Sheet.

They had beaten world champions Canada in the semi-final, guaranteeing them at least a silver.

But skip Rhona Martin and co were determined to win gold and with the final stone of the match against Switzerland, their Olympic dream came true.

BOA chief executive Simon Clegg praised the outstanding performance of the team and was proud his pre-Olympic goal of more than two bronzes had been achieved.

Medal shock

On Friday, with two days of the Olympics to go, Clegg said it was unrealistic Britain would win another gong.

But he was happy to eat his own words when Alain Baxter claimed Britain's first Olympic medal on snow.

Baxter's bronze was a huge surprise but proved, despite the lack of funds handed to talented athletes, Britain can produce world class competitors.

The British Government must now take note and instead of reducing grants, as they have done year-on-year in skiing for more than a decade, they should do our Winter Olympians justice.

This was a significant achievement for Team GB, finishing 18th in the medals table - ahead of the likes of Sweden, Japan and Poland.

Now is the time for a funding revolution so that at Turin in 2006 we can be applauding more British Winter Olympic success.


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