CALLUM SMITH has never even met Jenny Jones but he admitted there is a special feeling within the British team after beginning his own Winter Olympic debut.
Edinburgh University student Smith had just started the 30km cross-country skiathlon when fellow debutant Jones was confirmed as Britain’s first-ever Olympic medallist on snow in the inaugural women’s snowboard slopestyle final.
Jones claimed bronze, the same colour as Alain Baxter whose medal in the slalom at Salt Lake City 2002 was taken away from the Scot for a doping infringement.
Smith finished 62nd in the cross-country skiathlon after clocking a time of 1:17:37.1hours as Dario Cologna went more than nine minutes quicker for gold.
Comparisons are cruel though as, at 21, only four of the 68 skiers that started are younger than him and Smith had never experienced an Olympic race before in his life.
But the athlete, who trained some of the time on Arthur’s Seat, is not short on role models at Sochi 2014 – be it history-maker Jones or fellow cross-country skier Andrew Musgrave who famously won the sprint race at the Norwegian Championships last month.
“It is certainly exciting to hear of the successes of the other Brits on the team. I have never met Jenny but it is great that Team GB are doing well,” he said.
“My race was pretty tough. It was okay but maybe not my best performance ever. I started off pretty hard and I think maybe that was a little bit of a mistake.
“I was therefore pretty tired for the last 10km. I was just trying to stick with the leaders for as long as I could. I was isolated for a while but I don’t think that makes it harder. You can ski at your own rhythm a bit, it was a pretty tough field as well.
“The selection to get into this race is pretty hard, a lot of the smaller nations don’t even compete. Even not to be at the back you have got to do reasonably well.
“I would have definitely have liked to have been in the top 60, it was okay, it was certainly not a bad race, it just wasn’t my best.”
Smith didn’t know it but Cologna’s victory was an impressive one as he won a four-way sprint finish to claim the first men’s cross-country skiing medal in Sochi. Cologna had more in his legs at the death than Sweden’s Marcus Hellner, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Russian home hope Maxim Vylegzhanin.
However, Smith’s campaign is far from over and he expects to be better prepared for his next outing in the sprint thanks to his efforts in the skiathlon.
“I have done quite a few skiathlons, I did one last weekend actually and I had a great race so I guess I am comparing to that,” he added. “The next couple of races are new races and I hope I can ski a little bit faster. I have the sprint and the time trial.
“My dad and my brother are here, my mum has not come out, she’s watching at home.
“It is really exciting to be here. I am 21, it is a great experience. It is really nice to be here of course.
“Usually the skiathlon is my best event but also the 15km classical can be good. I was certainly nervous just but because it was my first Olympic race.”
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