Winter Olympics: Katherine Grainger insists 'huge disappointments' for Team GB will be catalyst for change
British athletes failed to win a medal until the penultimate day of Beijing 2022 as Bruce Mouat and Eve Muirhead’s curlers salvaged a misfiring campaign with silver and gold.
UK Sport had set an ambitious target of three to seven medals at the Games after British athletes had bagged five in PyeongChang four years ago.
Several sports – including skeleton, snowboarding and skiing – underperformed in the Chinese capital but UK Sport chair Grainger says the setbacks will bring about a much-needed shake-up ahead of the Games in four years’ time.
The five-time Olympic rowing medallist, 46, said: “I do think we'll come back stronger because of this.“It's a horrible thing to say but, having done it as an athlete, those huge disappointments are where you have the biggest opportunity to learn.
“We will learn big lessons from this and I think it gives us all an extra bit of hunger.”
UK Sport had invested major sums of money into Team GB’s preparation for the Games, including over £200,000 via a Beijing Support Fund for sports not in receipt of World Class Programme funding.
Figure skating, speed skating, luge and bobsleigh were among the key beneficiaries as UK Sport aim to diversify British medal-winning potential and enhance the UK’s winter sports fortunes.
How funding will change throughout the next four-year cycle remains unclear and Grainger hopes a full review of British performances will help inform which sports receive more backing ahead of 2026.
She added: “We will make our big investment decisions around the summer, and the main thing is for all the sports individually to go into a review process of not just the Games itself but also the last four years to see what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be improved.
“Curling lifted the team, but a lot of athletes would have been disappointed with the performances out there and we need to find out the reasons why that happened.”
Team GB took exactly 50 athletes to the Games in Beijing, a figure considerably smaller than the near-400 who flew the British flag in Tokyo this summer.
And Grainger, who won double sculls gold at London 2012, believes that disparity can be problematic in determining the accuracy of medal targets.
She explained: “When we talk about the Summer Games as an equivalent – it is between 40 and 70 medals we’re talking about.
“In the winter sports, it’s obviously a much smaller team and with fewer medal chances.
“So if anything doesn’t go quite to plan – and winter sports generally don’t go to plan quite often – then it really skews how it looks and how the team has performed.”
Grainger was also keen to stress the importance of the Covid-19 pandemic in throwing athletes’ preparation into chaos before the Games.
Many stars were unable to train at their usual base abroad and Grainger added: “It has been an extraordinarily difficult Games to lead into.“For our winter athletes arguably even more than our summer athletes, because if you're used to flying down enormous mountains, you can't recreate that in your back garden.
“We may have more challenges because of the need to travel in a lot more of our sports.
“I hope athletes will not be going into another pandemic Olympics or Paralympics after these ones, but we’ll think: ‘what can we learn from that situation’.”UK Sport has an ambition to become an ever-greater force in winter sport. The Beijing Support Fund, which utilises Government and National Lottery investment, demonstrates UK Sport’s commitment to a wider group of sports, athletes and teams in the high-performance community as part of its mission to create the greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments; reaching, inspiring and uniting the nation. For more information visit www.uksport.gov.uk