Many of us did not really know how much we needed those memorable Tokyo 2020 moments, after a year and a half of uncertainty and difficulty. Team GB’s Olympians - whether they achieved a place on the podium or not - provided inspiring moments which lifted a nation.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the wait for another Olympics is just months away and the winter athletes are closing in on Beijing 2022.
Some of the same issues that affected Tokyo will need to be tackled by China, too. The coronavirus pandemic is still here, and therefore the same debate on whether spectators will be permitted to attend will be fast moving. According to the state-run Global Times last month, “strict epidemic prevention and control” will be in place to minimise infection.
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But it seems that, as things stand, crowds will be able to attend sports which are held outdoors, at the very least. Indoors, strict measures to segregate spectators from athletes and officials could be introduced, and there is also the possibility that only people who live in China will be in the stands.
The pandemic will dictate how that develops over the next few months, but athletes are preparing for the Games with confidence, after Tokyo demonstrated how a safe Games can be held without an outbreak in the Olympic Village.
Now the Team GB focus moves away from the Kennys, Max Whitlock and Adam Peaty. It is time for athletes like freestyle skier James Woods, bobsleigh’s Brad Hall and snowboarding’s Izzy Atkin to take centre stage.
Britain have a modest overall target to try and beat. At the past two Games, GB have come away with five medals. Bettering that will be tough, but this is a team brimming with potential.
BMX was one of the breakout sports in Tokyo, and Beijing will offer its equivalent on snow. Woods is the 2019 world champion in slopestyle, while Charlotte Bankes took snowboard cross gold at the 2021 Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships - think Bethany Shriver, but on the white stuff instead.
Elise Christie is back for another go at a short track speed skating medal, after her devastating run of disqualifications and falls at the last two Games. The 31-year-old Scot offers a tale of resilience and sheer determination, and she will be hoping her talent is finally reflected on the Olympic podium.
Also on the ice, Britain will be looking to win a fourth successive women’s skeleton gold, following the double success of the now retired Lizzy Yarnold, preceded by Amy Williams’ title. 2018 bronze medallist Laura Deas is a contender to take that crown, but this time the challengers could be stronger in the men’s field, with Marcus Wyatt among the contenders.
Then there is the excitement of the bobsleigh, and Greg Rutherford’s attempt to become the first British athlete to win summer and winter Olympic medals. The London 2012 long jump champion is attempting to make one of the crews, and make history.
Stay with Eurosport over the coming months, as we build up to Beijing 2022 by speaking to many of Britain’s leading winter Olympians.
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