Dame Katherine Grainger has hailed the impact of Team GB’s Charlotte Bankes on the next generation of snow sporting talent, despite missing out on a medal in snowboard cross at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
Grainger was speaking in Bankes’ hometown of Hemel Hempstead in support of Winter Olympic athletes and to celebrate National Lottery players’ vital role in funding British talent.
Together, The National Lottery and government have invested £32million into British Olympic and Paralympic winter athletes and sports for Beijing, allowing Team GB and ParalympicsGB’s dedicated and passionate athletes to achieve their dreams of representing the nation.
Many of Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes have come from a range of backgrounds, having started their journeys at local, National Lottery-funded facilities, such as The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead.
Grainger is delighted to see Team GB athletes performing on the world stage in the Chinese capital – and is encouraged about the chances of the next generation of athletes who will take to the Olympic snow and ice.
The five-time Olympic medallist said: “The kids have come off the slopes and they’re in their ski helmets and their union jacks and they’re so excited to have seen Charlotte in her Team GB outfit, and it was a brilliant start from Charlotte.
“As an athlete and through my chair role at UK Sport, I’ve realised that we are inspired by athletes in other sports, and even being here with all these young people cheering on Charlotte Bankes over in Beijing, it is just amazing.
“To have just seen her at the Winter Olympics wearing Team GB colours and flying the flag will get the children here thinking ‘that could be me’ and want to follow in her footsteps, and aspirations grow.
“I love when we see athletes doing things for the first time and Charlotte’s the first ever snowboard world champion, and there was a time where we thought we’d never have that.
“To just plant that moment and show that it’s possible to go to an Olympics, it shows those ambitions are realistic and possible. You cannot underestimate the impact The National Lottery has had over the last 25 years and will continue to have. I would have never had my career without The National Lottery and as an athlete, it makes it so special because the money comes directly from the British public.
“As part of Team GB you are funded by the British public, and then getting British support, it feels like Team GB is just as part of the public as it is the athletes.
“The National Lottery has enhanced that sense of togetherness and I hope that it continues because our successes and our range of sports and investment into winter sports has all been made possible by National Lottery players.”
Joined by retired GB snowboarder Aimee Fuller, who took to the slopes and put young kids from the area through their paces, the Olympic heroes were able to watch Bankes live this morning and cheered her on from over 5,000 miles away.
Fuller said: “It’s a real devastating blow for Charlotte, and she came in with such a strong form, but the thing is with boardercross, anything can happen, and the margins are so close, and it was to the wire with Charlotte.
“She is brave and impactful and even though it demonstrates the brutality of sport, she is also such an inspiration for snow sport and it’s about setting those aspirations across the UK.
“I started on dry slope at the age of four, and I’m standing in the Snow Centre now which is packed to the brim with young talent. The community is so welcoming and warm and I really encourage people to get down to their local snowdome or ice rink.
“I call snowboarding the degree of life – it’s given me so much from sportsmanship, friends for life, and the opportunity to travel and experience sport at an elite level. It’s incredible to say the mountains are your office.
“The Team GB athletes are all inspiring the next generation and I’m still so excited to see what’s to come.
“The National Lottery is so important for Team GB’s success – from facilities to athletes – it all filters down through to the next generation.
“Anyone can come down and try it and we want to see more people getting on snowboards or skis and getting outside, enjoying the outdoors.”
And British freestyle skier Madi Rowlands was also impressed by her Team GB teammates out in Beijing, after Kirsty Muir came fifth in the Big Air competition yesterday.
“You never know where sport can take you, especially with snow sports where it actually is so easy to get into because there are loads of facilities around the UK,” she said.
“I’ve travelled all over the world doing winter sport and if you get good at it, you’re more than capable of doing it.
“I watched my teammates, Kirsty [Muir] and Katie [Summerhayes] in the Big Air yesterday, and that was a great experience because I watched it with Katie’s sister Molly.
“The tensions were high, but both did amazingly well, and it just shows what kind of level you can get to.”
Snowsport England CEO Tim Fawke added: “The attention to the Winter Olympics shows how it’s such an exciting event and hopefully it’ll inspire people to take up skiing, snowboarding and pursue boardercross or ski cross as we’re hoping to develop the next generation of athletes.
“Snow sports are brilliant because it’s great for your health and wellbeing – overall to become an athlete at the top level and be outside is incredible for you physical and mental health.
“We’ve got over 200 clubs across the UK, and so find your local club and have a go!”
National Lottery players are one of the biggest supporters of Team GB and ParalympicsGB winter athletes and raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing The National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes