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Being part of the most successful OWG Team GB squad of all time

At the end of what has been an historic season for the British Nordic Ski Team, our Olympic athletes reflect on their Sochi experience.

The significance of the Olympics

Andrew Young’s thoughts - “The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting competition in the world. In terms of winter sports it is by far the biggest competition and the pinnacle of sport. To describe what an Olympic games is like is quite difficult. It is something like a big school sports day, extended for 17 days of competition, with people competing from all over the world. Not only are they competing, they are living there and making it their home for almost 3 weeks.”

 

And from Andrew Musgrave - “The Olympics are unlike any other races we ever do as cross-country skiers. The biggest race we do apart from the Olympics is the 50km race at Holmenkollen when over 100,000 Norwegians come out to watch, and people even camp out several days before to get the best spots track-side. In spite of this being such a big event there is no media interest back in Britain. But at the Olympics the media coverage we get increases exponentially. We have requests for interviews coming in from all over Britain and the world. Luckily we had some media people to take care of this for us in Sochi, otherwise things could have got pretty hectic and our phone bills could have bankrupted us!”

 

Kitting out

Andrew Young - “Shortly after selection for Team GB I headed to Manchester to go through a process called kitting out. Team GB is sponsored by Adidas. So all the clothes I used at the Olympics had to be Adidas, right down to my socks. The only things I could use that wasn't Adidas was my ski equipment.”

 

Living in the Olympic Village

Andrew Musgrave - “All the athletes competing at the games live together in the Olympic village. Due to the spread of competition venues there were 3 Olympic villages in Sochi. The cross-country and biathlon athletes were all together in the ‘Endurance Village’ at 1400m altitude in the mountains, about an hours drive from the city of Sochi. We had a pretty amazing village. Teams either stayed in the brand-new hotel or some also-brand-new chalets right by the hotel. We were lucky enough to get a chalet for the team. It was huge, our bedrooms were massive and we had a big lounge, all of which was much better than having to be stuck in a hotel room. Team GB staff had installed Union Jacks, team stickers and red, white and blue colours throughout the house - so we were constantly walking around feeling patriotic and singing ‘God Save the Queen’. The canteen was located in the hotel. The food was pretty good, but you did come out smelling of fried-chicken every time you went in, due to their love of using litres of oil on pretty much all the food. Located all over the village were free vending machines where we could get as much Coke, iced-tea and Powerade as we could possibly drink. Surprisingly, my teeth haven't been dissolved out of my mouth by all this free coke. The village had pretty much everything you needed; a bank, a hairdresser, a games room, a gym, a hospital and a spa. The spa was amazing; an indoor and outdoor swimming-pool and pretty much any kind of sauna/steam-room you can think of: Finnish, herbal, salt to name just a few!”

 

Posy Musgrave - “The consensus among all of the Team GB athletes was that the cross country skiers and biathletes had the best luck. Although we were in a separate village halfway up a mountain (accessible only by gondola), we were staying in a luxury chalet. These chalets are rumoured to have been sold off in advance to various Russian oligarchs so you can get an idea of how nice they must have been! There were 2 athletes to each (enormous) bedroom and the chalet also had a communal area kitted out by Team GB with home essentials such as tea bags and biscuits.The rest of the village included a swimming pool, spa and sauna and the most important place...the dining hall! The dining hall had an interesting selection of Russian food as well as a mix of international cuisine to try and keep all the athletes happy. It was also the place where you realised quite how many athletes from different nations were competing in Sochi. Along with the usual Nordic powerhouses like Norway, Sweden and Russia there were also athletes from Togo, Nepal and Brazil!”

 

Callum Smith - “On arrival in Sochi we were greeted with Scottish summer like temperatures but on moving to the endurance village up in the mountains there was a huge amount of snow, so much that it was constantly being shoveled off roofs onto balconies then from balconies onto footpaths.”

 

Competition

Posy Musgrave - “Despite worries about holding the Winter Olympics in the most tropical part of Russia, when we arrived the tracks were in great condition. It had obviously snowed a lot earlier on in the winter as the snow was piled above head height around the chalets in the village. The tracks are some of the most challenging on the World Cup circuit, including a couple of particularly nasty climbs. Unfortunately a couple of days before the racing started it got much warmer and the tracks started to soften. This led to some tricky racing conditions especially on the days of the time trials when the temperature got up to +15, a bit hot for winter athletes!” 

 

Callum Smith - “The conditions were very challenging for the later events due to temperatures being well over 10°C, many competitors opting for T-shirts rather than race suits”

 

Andrew Young - “I had two individual events, the free technique sprint and the classic technique 15k, individual start. The sprint was my main event, where I had the most realistic chance of getting a top 30. I have been top 30 twice this year at world cup level in that event. I wouldn't say there was pressure on me, at least if there was it was mostly internal pressure, pressure that I put on myself to perform my best. Unfortunately the sprint didn't go to plan. I ended up 42nd. Of course this is in no way a bad result. But it is not my best result either. Quite what went wrong and why the result wasn't as good as I know I can perform, I don't know. I was fairly disappointed with it and for the 2 days between the sprint and the 15k classic I probably wasn't the most fun person to be around. Although it was the winter Olympics, on the day of the 15k classic we were greeted with blue skies and +15 degree temperatures. The sun was strong and snow had melted into thick slush. I really wasn't expecting much from the 15k classic. I had a bad start position. The organisers had altered the start list to give the favourites the best conditions in the deteriorating course. My form obviously wasn't that great after my sprint result, and this was my least favoured discipline. I'm not really sure how, but from somewhere I managed to produce a fantastic result. I had a brilliant day. The sun was so strong, it actually felt like running on the spot in a sauna for 40 minutes. Normally I don't drink during the 15k, but this time I had 4 drinks stations. I ended up 37th, and produced the best ever British result for the 15k event.”

 

And, less seriously, from Andrew Musgrave - “You would think that we went to the Olympics to compete at cross-country skiing, which, to be fair, is why we went. Once we got to the village though, we discovered the games room. Table tennis, air-hockey and motor-biking soon became -if not as important as skiing- then a close second. Every time we ventured over to the hotel to eat a meal we invariably ended up in the games room for a quick round of motor-biking. This involved sitting on a plastic motorbike in front of a big screen and trying to crash as little as possible while driving along. After failing miserable to out-ride anybody, my tactic turned from trying to do well myself to trying to make everybody else crash more than me. This turned out to be quite effective and I would claim that by the end I was the best motor-biker on the team! Table-tennis was also a fiercely contested game. Thomas, our Finnish waxer, was definitely the best player of all of us. However if you distracted him by asking about waxing during a game it was possible to take a few points.”

 

And after the races, from Andrew Young - “After I finished competing I kept training and working towards my next races. As soon was one race finishes the next one starts, though I did find time to meet other athletes and have a good time. I attended the closing ceremony but became separated from the rest of Team GB and ended up walking into the stadium with athletes from Kazakhstan!If anything the Olympics have inspired me to keep working, to keep training. There are 4 years left until the next Olympics. I hope that in 4 years times I will be able to compete at an even better level. ”