GB skeleton race suits approved
Team GB’s cutting-edge equipment for the Winter Olympics was given the allclear yesterday after an international row threatened to break out over the legality of their kit on the eve of the skeleton competition.
As the Guardian revealed on Monday, when the British skeleton squad – including the defending Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold – arrived in Pyeongchang they were given gamechanging skinsuits based on the same technology that has powered Britain’s all-conquering track cyclists in recent summer Games.
Almost immediately, the startling practice times from the British sliders as they hurled themselves face-down the track on a small sled at speeds of 90mph caused disquiet among their competitors. Yesterday Team GB were forced to deny they were breaking any rules after Dom Parsons, ranked world No 12 in advance of the event starting today, led the timings in the men’s practices.
With Laura Deas and Yarnold also leading the way before their competition starts tomorrow, the US slider Katie Uhlaender, the double world champion in 2012, said that “a lot of athletes and coaches” had questions about whether the suit – which is said to massively aid aerodynamic performance – was legal.
“The rules state that everyone is supposed to have access to the same equipment as far as helmets and speed suits go, and not have any aerodynamic attachments on the helmet or in the suit,” Uhlaender added, having also questioned the legality of the helmet of the British slider Amy Williams, who won Britain’s first Olympic skeleton gold in 2010.
However, it is understood that the English Institute of Sport have worked with experts at the tech company TotalSim to find a way to abide by the rules while providing their sliders with a big advantage.
Last night Britain had yet to win a medal in Pyeongchang and the skeleton event is key to their hopes of reaching their target of between five and 10 medals, given sliders have won gold in the women’s competition in the past two Games.
“People can speculate as much as they like,” British rider Jerry Rice said. “The fact of the matter is the British guys are fast because we’re good at sliding, no other reason. We’re innovators, we do everything we can to be as fast as we can be. We’re all very relaxed about it.”
Britain’s Winter Olympic chiefs have said they need a “little bit of momentum” to give their athletes more belief in Pyeongchang after Elise Christie’s crash in the short-track speedskating and the loss of snowboarder Katie Ormerod with a broken heel.
But while Christie spent yesterday working with her psychologist Richard Hampton following her crash in the 500m final, Team GB’s chef de mission, Mike Hay, insisted the speed skater would fight back and the team’s medal target remained attainable.
“Elise will be disappointed and Katie Ormerod in the big air was a big chance,” he said. “Our medal target is hard but we didn’t win any shorttrack medals in Sochi and we won four [in other events], so I’m still confident we’ve got athletes to take us there.”