GB skele­ton race suits ap­proved

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Sean In­gle Pyeongchang

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.”

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