GB Snowsport chief executive Vicky Gosling does not think in silos. Since taking over the governing body in 2018, the former group captain in the Royal Air Force has brought all snow disciplines together - and now she wants to collaborate with different sports to create elite athletes who can compete at both the winter and summer Olympics.
Switching disciplines is not something that has been seen often in British sport, but there are examples. London 2012 long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford is attempting to qualify one of the bobsleigh teams for Beijing 2022, while sprinter-turned-bobsledder Montell Douglas competed at the summer Games in Beijing in 2008 and could return there this winter.
Cyclists and rowers often cross over, while skeleton has had success in recruiting Olympic champions Lizzy Yarnold and Amy Williams from athletics, and 2018 bronze medallist Laura Deas from equestrian.
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But Gosling thinks it can go much further than that. In an effort to spot emerging talent this summer, GB Snowsport thought outside the box and held a skateboarding talent ID event, a sport which found a wider audience with its success at Tokyo 2020. British bronze medallist Sky Brown is an example of how two sporting governing bodies can combine - she is also on the elite youth programme for Surfing England.
GB Snowsport CEO Vicky Gosling has big plans for how sports can collaborate in Britain
Image credit: Getty Images
“If you ask anybody what I always bang on about, it’s precisely that,” Gosling told Eurosport on her ambition to collaborate.
“How do we do talent ID better? We need to find kids who already have the skills, the balance, the athleticism. We’re looking at gymnastics, we’re looking at skateboarding, at cycling for endurance and cross-country, we’re looking at rowing.
What I’m really, really keen to do is create that cross-fertilisation when we do the Going for Gold talent ID, let’s make sure we have the right sports in the room. We need to get into schools, be clear about what makes a good snowboarder or skier, and where are we going to find them so that they can cross-fertilise.
“I would like to be in a position where you give them a period of 12-18 months where they’re training together, you don’t need to specialise yet - a bit like doing your GCSEs I guess.
“Build on skills like agility, athleticism - and then let’s see which sport suits you best, or where do we think your skills suit the best. Particularly if you cluster them - so freestyle, or endurance, or speed. Everyone would then be a really strong place to bring them through.”
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Gosling says success of ‘street’ sports like skateboarding and BMX in Tokyo has given GB Snowsport a “huge opportunity” rather than put them on the backfoot. She is hoping that showcasing what the British athletes can do at Beijing 2022 will inspire children to try out a snow dome or dry slope.
But GB Snowsport are the elite arm of British ski and snowboard, and there has arguably not been a stronger squad which will potentially head to a Winter Olympics. Freestylers Katie Ormerod and James Woods are huge medal contenders, Andrew Musgrave is approaching peak form in cross-country and Dave Ryding is impressing on the alpine skiing slopes, but Gosling has warned they have been at a disadvantage because of coronavirus.
“We’ve had some of the best performances in British history, despite Covid,” she said.
“The 18 months of Covid have reduced our time on snow significantly and we cannot be expected to head into Beijing and overachieve with that as a backdrop.
I’m not using Covid as an excuse, what I’m saying is that despite the odds, we’ve been over delivering consistently throughout the period. We’ve been asking UK Sport what they expect, despite the complexities.
“It’s like asking one of the elite divers like Tom Daley to go and perform in Tokyo without having had access to a pool. We have to put some context around it, they’ve been very good at acknowledging that.
“I don’t feel the pressure of medals, I’m excited to see the athletes, who’ve done so amazingly well against the odds, to go and see that rewarded with a place at the Games. They’ve gone above and beyond, way above expectations.”
Gosling has been in charge for approaching four years, but she believes the progress GB Snowsport has made is just the start. The plan is to build on recent successes, and attract the best of the best to go further.
“It’s all about creating a clear mission to put more athletes across all podiums, across more disciplines than ever before - the military background probably helps!” she said.
“It’s a really clear vision, a healthy atmosphere where people want to buy in. We always look to play to the athletes’ strengths - they’re at the heart of everything.
We’re constantly searching out who is the best, who are the leaders in coaching? If it’s the Norwegians for cross-country, we’re going to look there.
A happy athlete is a performing athlete, and a happy member of staff is the same. I come from an environment where people go to hell and back for you - and trust is the key part of that.”
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