LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Great Britain broke their duck on snow at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and now they are gunning for further glory in Pyeongchang.
Snowboarder Jenny Jones won Team GB’s first Winter Olympic medal on the snow, as opposed to ice, claiming the bronze in the women’s slopestyle.
Her success has rejuvenated the British freestyle ski and snowboard program and has led to optimism that more medals can be won at Pyeongchang next month.
In a country where mountains and snow are a rarity, many of the young athletes with Olympic hopes have learnt their moves on artificial or indoor ski slopes.
Speaking at one such facility north of London, British snowboarder Jamie Nicholls said he has his sights set on a podium finish in South Korea.
Nicholls, along with cousin Katie Ormerod, is seen as one of the hottest young snowboarders in the sport and is an example of the athletes benefiting from heavy investment in winter sports programs, including British Ski and Snowboard.
UK Sport - a British government organisation - and the National Lottery have contributed over 5 million pounds ($6.66 million) to improve facilities and opportunities for British athletes.
Nicholls, who grew up near Bradford and has been skiing on indoor slopes since the age of seven, hopes to improve on his sixth place finish in the slopestyle in Sochi.
“I would love to get higher than sixth place this time and higher than sixth is a good chance of a medal so definitely give it a go,” he said.
Any thoughts of being daunted by the attention and scrutiny at an Olympics were dismissed by Nicholls, who loves competing in front of a camera.
“If it is not on film I don’t try as hard, if you know what I mean. If it is on camera then I try really, really hard. Doing competitions it is good to show off.”
Another Briton who made the men’s slopestyle final in Sochi is Billy Morgan. The 28-year-old stressed the importance of the British team being friends and not having the pressure associated with competing for some of the bigger winter Olympics nations.
“I think some people will be holding stuff back (for the Olympics). I think the Canadians especially,” he said in October.
“They will be holding some tricks back because, mainly, they have to compete between the others in their nation because they are all going for the podium. They don’t want the other guys knowing what they have been up to.”
“Luckily for us we are all ‘shred-homies’ and we just ride together all the time and we don’t have to hide things from each other.”
Morgan and his fellow ‘shred-homies’ will have two cracks at Olympic glory this time around, as Big Air snowboarding has been introduced to the program for the first time.
For many of the athletes who have been competing in Big Air for a long time, this is a very welcome addition to the Olympics and gives them a second crack at a medal.
It also represents another chance for Great Britain to punch above their weight and bring more medals home from Pyeongchang. (Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)