Winter Olympics - Kilner: 2012 overshadowing Vancouver

Eurosport - Tue, 02 Feb 17:16:00 2010

Snowboarder Ben Kilner has called on the UK public to wake up and take note of the forthcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver and accused the British media of focusing purely on London 2012.

British snowboarding number one Ben Kilner - 0

Kilner, 21, captured his first ever World Cup medal with halfpipe bronze in Calgary on Sunday, just 17 days before he is due to make his Olympic debut on the west coast of Canada.

He is one of the 52-strong British squad selected for the Games - the largest winter team since Albertville 1992 - featuring two world champions in the shape of curler David Murdoch and bobsledder Nicola Minichiello.

Within the British Olympic Association there is quiet optimism that UK Sport's medal target of three will be met should Lady Luck be smiling in Vancouver, and there are a handful of Brits who could secure a first winter gold medal since 2002.

But Kilner is fearful that with London 2012 consistently featuring on front and back pages alike, the Winter Olympics will pass the British public by.

"I think we are overshadowed by London 2012 and the UK athletes having the competition in their home country," said Kilner, who is ranked 16th in the world in the halfpipe event, following his Calgary bronze.

"The media should be focusing on Vancouver before they even think about London in two-and-a-half years' time. Everyone has forgotten that there is even a Winter Olympics going on.

"I think we'll have a good team this year. There is the potential for medals across the whole British team and I hope some success in Vancouver raises the profile of winter sports."

In January, the Government provisionally accepted recommendations by an independent panel, commissioned by the DCMS and led by former FA executive director David Davies, that the Winter Olympics should be removed from the list of crown jewels - those sporting events ringfenced to be screened on free-to-air television.

The BOA, in defence of the Winter Olympics, cited the six million viewers who tuned in to watch curler Rhona Martin win Great Britain's last gold medal in 2002, but even that is a far cry from the 24 million who witnessed Torvill and Dean's Bolero in Sarajevo in 1984.

Financially, the winter sports are also fighting a losing battle. Cumulatively, they receive just 1.5 per cent of the funding doled out to their summer counterparts, while SnowsportGB are on the brink of administration after considerably overspending.

That has thrown preparations into turmoil for 14 of the British athletes heading to Vancouver - including Kilner - but Britain's number one snowboarder is not one to make excuses.

"It's been tough this year because of the funding but I've tried to keep away from the political side of it and I've relied on my sponsors and family to keep me going," he added.

"In Vancouver I'm really going for experience before Sochi 2014 but I'm aiming to get in the top 12 and I'll be really happy if I can qualify for the final there.

"In 2014 I'm definitely targeting a medal so that is the long-term goal to build towards."

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