March 9, 2014
Jones bronze a boost for British snow talent
Jenny Jones's breakthrough Olympic slopestyle snowboarding bronze medal may be the start of something big for Britain, the country that can claim to have invented ski racing without ever being much good at it.
Sarah Lewis, the general secretary of the Swiss-based International Ski Federation and herself a Brit, believes the first Olympic medal by a British athlete on snow could be contagious.
"Australia has shown the way for many other nations, that it's possible to be a non-traditional ski and snowboard nation in terms of infrastructure and facilities and history," the former Olympic Alpine racer told Reuters on Sunday.
"For Britain to get their first ever snow medal is very exciting for FIS.
"The media attention for snowsports in general (in Britain) will be higher and hopefully also the interest and enthusiasm, not just in the media but from youngsters when it comes to participating," she added.
The closest Britain has come to a medal on snow before Jones's exploits in Sochi was when Alain Baxter finished an astonishing third in the Alpine skiing slalom in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, only to be stripped of the medal after failing a drug test.
Other medals have been on ice, in events such as figure skating, bobsleigh and skeleton. On snow, it has long been more a case of taking part than winning.
But tens of thousands of British skiers flock to Alpine resorts every year, following in the footsteps of Sir Arnold Lunn who in 1922 staged the first proper slalom race in the Swiss resort of Murren, high in the Bernese Oberland, and the potential is there.
Slopestyle is new to the Olympics and is particularly attractive to those from non-snowy nations because tricks and techniques can be honed on artificial slopes and indoors.
Britons' love of winter sports is already evident and now Jones, from the port city of Bristol in western England, has shown that Olympic success does not have to go to those raised on skis or snowboards.
"Britain as a tourist market is one of the most important for many, many European resorts. And some resorts in North America too count very heavily on British visitors," said Lewis.
"I think what will happen is that more youngsters will participate when there is increasing interest and there will be a bigger pool to choose from.
"Slopestyle and half pipe, aerials... these tend to be athletes who could also be coming from trampolining and gymnastics and diving and surfing. And Britain is very good at those sports as well," she added.
Snowboarding has been identified by UK Sport, Britain's high performance sports agency, has a sport likely to bring results and funding has been provided to Jones through the National Lottery.
Alpine skiing has been less fortunate - with Chemmy Alcott the sole British skier in Sochi after having to raise funding herself, but there might be hope there too.
"Last season David Ryding won the Europa Cup overall standings in slalom. That is no mean feat," said Lewis. "For him to have achieved that is quite astonishing. He's got to take the next step up but it's for sure feasible."