Future looks good for GB's winter sports, says Sportsbeat's Ben Baker


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The Editors

David Parsons
Arsenal fan David is the executive editor at Sportsbeat and is responsible for all news output - in print, online and video.

James Toney
Aston Villa supporter James is Sportsbeat's managing editor with special responsibility for our coverage of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

HARD AT WORK: - Ben Baker - working with the media team at the BOA - reports from Liberec

Future looks good for GB's winter sports, says Sportsbeat's Ben Baker


THE forward strides made in recent years in Great Britain have turned our Winter Olympic heroes from humorous Eddie the Eagle types into impressive Amy Williams gold medallists, writes Sportsbeat reporter Ben Baker.

And if a youthful trip to Liberec for the 10th European Youth Olympic Winter Festival is anything to go, the future is bright.

Now I must admit that I am probably as far from being a skier as you can get.

In fact my one and only attempt at winter sports lasted about two hours before I fell off my snowboard and tore the ligaments in my left knee, leaving me with nothing to do for the rest of the week but drink beer. (Ok, it wasn't all bad!)

So when I arrived for the British Olympic Association's ‘kitting out' day, where I received a whole host of goodies from Team GB - t-shirts, hoodies, sunglasses, salapets, gloves and everything in between, I began to feel like a fraud.

And this feeling only increased when I met the 15 guys representing Great Britain at EYOWF, following in the footsteps of athletes like Alpine skier Chemmy Alcott and snowboarder Ben Kilner.

In our ranks we had an under-17 giant slalom world champion in the form of Jack Gower, British Junior Champion snowboarder Jonathan Chan and biathlon British under-21 champion Calum Irvine, who was also taking on cross-country in a gruelling week.

Sportsbeat's Ben Baker reports from EYWOFON THE PISTE: Sportsbeat's Ben Baker (right) was embedded with the British Olympic Association's media team during the European Youth Olympic Festival. The agency syndicated stories from the Games across their network of newspaper and online clients (Laura Meech)

On top of that we had some famous sons with Nick Moynihan, son of BOA chairman and Olympic silver medallist cox Lord Colin, going in the alpine skiing and Scott Dixon, son of six-time Winter Olympian Mike, set to strut his stuff in the biathlon.

I was just hoping nobody asked me to fill in!

But one place where I did get my five-minutes in the limelight was when I was kindly asked to walk out with the team at the opening ceremony.

Irvine had been chosen as flag-bearer off the back of crossing disciplines between biathlon and cross-country, but I was equally as happy when someone asked what sport I did.

I was tempted to say figure skating but anyone who knows me realises that is unlikely...so I said ice hockey. Nobody needs to know!

Figure skater Natasha McKay was first up for Team GB and she set the tone with a personal best in the short programme.

McKay would add to this impressive start with another personal best in the free programme to leave Liberec full of confidence for the future.

She was joined on the ice by Jamie Whiteman who went from tenth after the short programme to seventh with his free routine for another successful outing.

Most of the action was at the alpine skiing with Jack Gower undoubtedly the star of the show.

Gower recorded two top-25 finishes, 22nd in the giant slalom and 17th in the slalom, as well as taking part in the team parallel giant slalom.

Fellow skiers Nick Moynihan, Sam Clissold, Paul Henderson, Natalie Beattie and Emily Evans can all hold their heads high though after their Liberec adventures and along with some positive results comes a huge amount of experience that will last for a long time.

Irvine lived up to his billing as flag-bearer as he also claimed a top-25 finish in his first biathlon race, going on to also be the top cross-country finisher for the team.

And before I knew it the curtain had come down on our week in Liberec as our brave alpine skiers lost out to those pesky Germans in the team event - is there one sport they won't leave us alone in?

Gower was chosen as flag-bearer for his consistently good performances and although we didn't win any medals, that wasn't the point.

WHERE'S WALLY: Reporter Ben Baker - circled at the back - helped Sportsbeat provide more than 75 articles to 20 newspapers during the European Youth Olympic Festival (BOA)  WHERE'S WALLY: Reporter Ben Baker - circled at the back - helped Sportsbeat provide more than 75 articles to 20 newspapers during the European Youth Olympic Festival (BOA)

For all these young athletes this was their first step on what hopefully proves to be a long Olympic journey and let me tell you they enjoyed every second of it.

But the trip was so much more than that as they all learnt what it is like to compete on such a big stage with the five rings on their chest and they all took something away with them from the Czech Republic.

They know now what it takes to transform yourself from an Eddie the Eagle to an Amy Williams and I would bet we hear a lot about these guys off the back of this trip, maybe even in Sochi in 2014.

As for me, my Olympic journey ended a long time ago but considering I got to keep all my new kit I will be wearing the five rings on my chest again and again.

Unless the guys in the office take it all from me that is!

Sportsbeat worked with the British Olympic Association to provide a news distribution service from the 2011 European Youth Olympic Festival in Liberec. Reporter Ben Baker travelled to the Czech Republic and the coverage was overseen by deputy news editor Ryan Bangs in London. In addition Sportsbeat's multimedia team provided a package of video previews - see below example - in advance of the Games. For further information on Sportsbeat services contact James Toney, managing editor, on jtoney@sportsbeat.co.uk