Monday, February 24, 2014

Best in 90 years

Team GB may not have the most distinguished Winter Olympics pedigree, but 2014 was a banner year. The U.K. equaled its medal haul of 1924, its best-ever showing in a Winter Olympics.

With one gold, one silver, and two bronzes.

Lizzy Yarnold won gold for the U.K. in skeleton. (Photo courtesy of the BBC.)
As I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, the U.K. tends to win one or two medals per Winter Olympics. Sometimes none. They set an "ambitious" goal for 2014 to win three medals, investing a total of £13.4 million in just a handful of the sports which they thought offered a decent shot at winning a medal. That £13.4 million doubled what the U.K. invested for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Given their results this year, it's anticipated that funding will increase for 2018.

A little oddly, the U.K. seems to excel in the skeleton competition. All six times skeleton has been included as a sport, the U.K. has won a medal. This year, 25 year old Lizzy Yarnold won gold, equaling her British friend/landlord from the 2010 Winter Olympics. So the U.K. is now the two-time defending champion in skeleton, and Yarnold looks to be a favorite heading into 2018.

Team GB also won two medals in curling this year. The men won silver, the women bronze. Since the men went into the competition ranked second in the world, and the women went in ranked third, their medals were precisely what you might have predicted. Both teams are young and on the upswing, so it's possible they'll continue to be strong competitors over the next several Olympics. As a side note, both teams are entirely composed of Scots, so these curling medals are truly wins for Scotland.

The U.K.'s women's curling team, winners of bronze in 2014. (Photo courtesy of the BBC.)
In perhaps the most amazing accomplishment for a Brit, this year Jenny Jones won a bronze in a snow event, the snowboarding slopestyle. All of the U.K.'s previous Winter Olympics medals had been for ice events. (They did win a bronze in slalom in 2002, but it was rescinded for a failed drug test.) Jones thus became the U.K.'s most decorated snow sport athlete ever. As she remarked following her win, "Hopefully, I'll be in a few pub quizzes now."

Jenny Jones stylishly winning bronze in 2014. (Photo courtesy of the BBC.)
After this banner year, with its haul of four medals, the U.K. now has a grand sum total of 26 medals from all the Winter Olympics. Their four medals in 2014 account for just over 15% of their collection.

For comparison's sake, the U.S. won 28 medals just in 2014. It has been deemed a disappointing year for the Americans. While the U.S. was second behind Russia (with 33) in total medals, it was fourth in golds (with 9), behind Russia (13), Norway (11), and Canada (10).

It's all about perspective, folks. Team GB is delighted with its historic showing. Considering it's a land with no mountains {Ed.'s note: shhhh, don't tell that to the Scots, who like to "bag" their tall hills, which they call "Munros" and pretend they're mountains}, the Brits are ecstatic over their accomplishments in 2014.

I'm setting the bar high for Team GB in 2018: six medals. More funding, more interest, and returning medal winners should boost their medal count. Go Team GB!

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