Beijing Olympics 2022 - Love, comebacks and fairytale stories - Ryding and Ormerod among Team GB athletes to watch
50 athletes will represent Team GB at the Beijing Winter Olympics, and while the likes of Charlotte Bankes will be favourites, there are others who have faced tough, or inspiring journeys to get there. From Dave Ryding, who became Britain’s first World Cup winning alpine skier, to Katie Ormerod, who is back at a Games after fracturing her heel on the eve of Pyeongchang.
‘Sensational!’ - Ryding makes history in Kitzbuhel with World Cup win
It is the stories that make an Olympic Games, often as much as the medals themselves. In Tokyo, many shared a tear with Tom Daley when the British diver finally won gold, two high jumpers shared the Olympic title with equal joy, and Simone Biles helped people realise mental health needs to be prioritised - and talked about.
Who knows what Beijing has in store, but so many athletes have had inspirational and often painful journeys to get there - including many in Team GB.
Dave Ryding celebrates Britain's first alpine skiing World Cup victory
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Dave Ryding is a favourite on the alpine skiing circuit and there was collective joy across its community when he secured Britain’s first ever World Cup title in Kitzbuhel, following 55 years of competition. One of the nicest athletes on the tour, it was a huge moment for Ryding and GB Snowsport - but also for so many of his peers.
“Not to mention historic. That’s such a special achievement to come from his background skiing on plastic and prove that you can reach the top even if you didn’t grow up in a powerhouse ski racing country.
Ryding has threatened the top slalom racers for a while but has been hampered in the past by not backing up a stunning first run with an equal second. But it is that point that Shiffrin mentioned - “skiing on plastic” - that makes his success even more remarkable.
‘I never stopped believing’ – Ryding after history-making ski in Kitzbuhel
Growing up in the north of England and learning his trade on dry slopes and to get to the level he is at is extraordinary. As he approached his fourth Games in the form of his life, his journey is perhaps best summed up by Eurosport’s Pete Sharland: “On the surface Ryding is a simple Lancastrian lad, he is kind and he is honest, someone who it is easy to warm to and root for. But there is more to Ryding than that. There is an inner steel that drove his unlikely, improbable story, and kept him going even when it looked like the win would never come.
“GB Snowsport have always maintained that Ryding’s legacy would be complete, with or without a World Cup win. The fact that he could achieve podiums against such odds was more than enough. Now though? The Rocket has all of us dreaming.”
Cornelius Kersten and Ellia Smeding
Ellia Smeding will join her partner Cornelius Kersten in becoming Britain's first Olympic speed skaters in 30 years
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After Jason and Laura Kenny - what is an Olympics for Team GB without a real-life couple sharing their dreams together at a Games?! Cornelius Kersten and Ellia Smeding will fill that void in Beijing.
It has been 30 years since Britain last sent a long track speed skater to an Olympics, and now two have come along at once - in Smeding’s case, she will be the first female long-track skater to represent GB at a Games in 42 years.
Both of them have similar backgrounds in that their journey into the sport was rooted in the Netherlands and that they both have a British mother and Dutch father. Kersten has spent his entire life in the country, while Smeding initially grew up in the UK before her family moved when she was a child.
They have both had the seasons of their lives, setting national records across a number of distances. Kersten recently finished fourth in the 1000m at the European Championships, Britain’s best ever finish in 130 years of the competition and he also achieved a top 10 finish at a World Cup in Norway.
Smeding has set national records in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m over seven days in December and achieved two top-10 finishes at the Europeans.
Both athletes are extremely grounded and realistic individuals, who see elite sport as a privilege rather than a right. To fuel their Olympic dream, both literally and financially, they own a coffee company together, Brew 22, which seems to be thriving.
“He really supports me through thick and thin,” Smeding told Eurosport in October.
“If I have a bad race he'll be there for me at the end of the day, if I have a really good race he's the one cheering the loudest. It's really good to still have that company and that familiar feeling when you're away from home.
“It's always been a really positive experience that we get to experience those things together and see the world and still support each other.”
Katie Ormerod will finally make her Olympic debut after injury disappointment at Pyeongchang 2018
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Katie Ormerod should have already made her Olympic debut. The snowboarder had the kit, she was stayed in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Village - and then injury struck in training. First, she broke her wrist - which she could have coped with. But then came the devastating blow of splitting her heel in two, a problem which made her contemplate retirement.
Nine months into her rehabilitation and several operations later, the now 24-year-old thought about calling it a day, but one more trip to the surgeon solved the problem. It was a pivotal moment and Ormerod went on to become Britain’s first slopestyle World Cup winner and to secure the coveted Crystal Globe.
“Although it was really rubbish to go through that, it made my comeback season so much nicer when I went on to have the best season of my career so far by winning five World Cup podiums, my first ever yellow bib and the Crystal Globe, which I've always wanted to win,” she told Eurosport.
GB's Ormerod finishes third as Blouin wins slopestyle final in Calgary
“That would have been the best feeling ever if I hadn’t have been injured, but going through everything - the seven operations - missing the Olympics, I’m really proud I got through it and came back stronger. It really sucked and I’d rather it didn’t happen, but I’m stronger now.”
Ormerod goes into the Games with nothing to lose after the disappointment of her previous experience and in encouraging form having achieved a fourth place finish at a World Cup in Mammoth Mountain at the start of January.
Katie Summerhayes is going to her third Olympics having fought back from three ACL injuries
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Another athlete who has had to fight back from serious injury, freestyle skier Katie Summerhayes is preparing for her third Winter Olympics and the first where she feels genuinely injury free.
Followers of any sport will know that an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injury can play havoc with - or even end - a career, so the fact that Summerhayes has got over the same issue three times is a testament to her mental strength. The most recent was not long after Pyeongchang 2018 and she did not return to World Cup action until the start of 2020.
“To come back from that three times, it's pretty crazy. But I just know that if I can do that, I can battle through anything really,” she told Eurosport.
“I'm one of the most experienced female skiers on the circuit right now and I think I might have been competing one of the longest. I just try to take all my experience and resilience going into every competition - I can use that to my advantage.”
A World Cup silver medallist from 2015, Summerhayes’ talent has never been in question and she is in good shape heading into Beijing having recently recorded a sixth place slopestyle finish at a World Cup in Font Romeu.
Gus Kenworthy is one of freestyle skiing's biggest stars - and he has switched allegiance to compete for GB at the Olympics
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Gus Kenworthy is one of the most experienced members of the Team GB squad - he’s just never gone to a Winter Olympics in a British kit.
The Sochi 2014 ski slopestyle silver medallist has switched from the USA for the Games and goes there as one of the highest profile athletes in Beijing.
Born in Essex to a British mother, he holds a UK passport but has been living in the US for most of his life. He has huge achievements on the snow - having won halfpipe gold at the World Cup in Calgary in 2020, as well as multiple X Games medals - but off the skis, he is a role model.
Kenworthy became the first Olympic skier to come out as gay in 2015 and one of the iconic moments of Pyeongchang 2018 was when he kissed then boyfriend Matt Wilkas live on primetime TV in the US.
“It was the visual representation of my games: getting to be one of the first openly gay athletes to compete at the Winter Olympics for the US,” he told Gay Times recently.
“That will always be quite high on my list of accomplishments – not necessarily the kiss itself, but the kiss is sort of a clean visual of how I felt during that games and what I got to experience there.”
Beijing will be Kenworthy’s final Olympics and he is already forging a second career as an actor and TV star, having appeared as one of the main characters in a series of American Horror Story and as a guest judge on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
On the snow, competition has been disrupted by a bout of Covid, as well as concussion, which has ruled him out of World Cup events this season. But he returned to action recently at the X Games in Aspen, recording a ninth place finish in the SuperPipe competition.
“I don't want to think too much about the results, because it's something I just don't have control over. It's a judged sport. There are so many factors, like weather conditions, how the halfpipe is, that come into play,” Kenworthy told Eurosport in December, when looking ahead to the Olympics.
“I am really trying to just focus on landing the best run that I can and knowing that I can walk away with my head held high.
“If it gets me on the podium, it would not only be amazing for me, and a historic moment for me, but also for GB, and I would feel very, very proud to be representing Team GB if I do that.”