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Reasons to be confident with one year to PyeongChang

Nigel Walker | 09 February 2017

EIS National Director Nigel Walker believes recent winter sport results can give Great Britain confidence for success in Pyeongchang next year.

It only seems like yesterday that I was in Rio witnessing the fantastic success of Team GB and Paralympics GB, yet today (9th February) marks just one year to go to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, followed by the Paralympics, in PyeongChang.

I know our winter sport athletes, coaches and practitioners have been working hard in preparation for 2018 and the results of this are very evident. In recent weeks we have seen Skier Dave Ryding match Britain’s best ever alpine World Cup result, Paralympic skier Millie Knight win World Championship silver, Snowboarders Jamie Nicholls, James Woods and Katie Ormerod claim medals at World Cup and X Games events, Skeleton sliders Donna Crieghton, Laura Deas and Lizzy Yarnold achieve podium places, Mica McNeill and Mica Moore win Junior World Bobsleigh gold and Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin win medals and break records during an impressive season for our Short Track Skaters to name just some of the achievements.

Clearly these results show that we can head towards PyeongChang with confidence.  We have some exceptional athletes delivering excellent results.  They are supported by coaches and practitioners and a system that has invested in the right areas, however we cannot be complacent and must continue to innovate and improve the high performance system wherever possible in order to maintain momentum.

As an EIS managed programme I obviously take great interest and pride in GB’s Short Track programme, which is going from strength to strength under Performance Director Stewart Laing. The commitment of the athletes, coaches and staff is hugely impressive and I know this is matched by other sports on the winter programme, including Skeleton, Bobsleigh and Para Ski and Snowboard to whom we also provide support services.

What’s also impressive is the commitment of these sports to putting the foundations in place for long term success. Only last week Short Track launched a new academy which aims to nurture talented athletes for future success and Skeleton have also benefited hugely from UK Sport and EIS talent recruitment campaigns to discover some of their top talent, such as Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas.

At the EIS we are also putting those foundations in place and have begun implementing our Tokyo strategy by putting in place new systems and teams that we believe will drive us forward as an organisation. This includes responding to the needs of sports by ensuring we deliver in the areas that sports most need assistance such as athlete health and performance innovation while we continue to provide quality practitioners for the system.  The introduction of the Head of Performance Support role has also been welcomed by sports as this individual will be responsible and accountable for ensuring the efforts of the multi-disciplinary team are aligned to achieve the sports performance objectives.

From Games in Beijing through Vancouver, London, Sochi and Rio, it’s been a momentous decade for British Olympic and Paralympic sport in which we have enjoyed unprecedented success. But we must continue to enhance the system and develop on the strong partnerships we now have with the British Olympic Association, British Paralympic Association, UK Sport and the other Home Country Sports Institutes (HCSIs). Only recently I attended a collaborative Olympic Rio review which was extremely productive as it sought to build on the things that went well in Rio and identify areas for further improvement over the Tokyo cycle.