By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has set its winter athletes a “best ever” target of at least five medals at the Pyeongchang Olympics after more than doubling funding since Sochi four years ago.
With a month to go until the Games in South Korea, and several competitors yet to be selected, UK Sport is predicting a possible range of between four and 10 medals based on performances.
Britain won four medals in Sochi, the country’s best haul since 1924, and that tally looks likely to become five after Russia’s subsequent doping disqualification from the four-man bobsleigh.
UK Sport chair Katherine Grainger recognised at a presentation on Tuesday that Britain, second in the medal table at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics with 27 golds, was not known as a winter nation.
Attitudes have changed, however, and the amount of National Lottery and government funding for the Olympics and Paralympics has risen to more than 32 million pounds ($43 million) across eight sports.
That compares to 14 million for 2014 and six million for Vancouver before that.
The Paralympic target is for at least seven medals, compared to six in Sochi.
“The target of a best ever Olympic Winter Games is indicative of just how far the athletes and their national governing bodies have progressed over the past four years,” said Team GB Chef de Mission Mike Hay.
“It is a reflection of the growth we have seen across many of our winter sports that they have medal potential on the world stage and that Britain is now viewed as a credible winter nation.”
Short track speed skater Elise Christie, a triple gold medalist at last year’s world championships, will again be one of the big hopes after bouncing back from three disqualifications in Sochi.
Curling, which has received more than 5 million pounds of funding, is predicted to produce at least one medal with Eve Muirhead’s women’s team strong candidates.
Ski and snowboard has a target of two to three medals, with slalomist Dave Ryding and Nordic skier Andrew Musgrave contenders along with others in park and pipe and snowboard.
Skeleton, with Lizzy Yarnold seeking to defend her Olympic title, is another possible medal as is bobsleigh.
Figure skating, where Britain once hailed Olympic champions in Robin Cousins, John Curry, Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean, was also seen as an outside chance for a first medal since 1994 through Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)