Ice Hockey - Britain face tough Olympic qualifying challenge

Ashley Tait insists Great Britain’s ice hockey team are well aware how hard it will be to emerge with an Olympic place from the final qualifying tournament next month.

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Ashley Tait and Great Britain's ice hockey team (Imago)

The 37-year-old forward will travel to Riga with the rest of the British squad at the start of February as three tournaments take place across Europe to decide the final qualifiers.

Britain face hosts Latvia, who are ranked 11th in the world, France, who are 14th and Kazakhstan, who are 17th, in Riga and must finish as the best team to reach Sochi 2014.

If Tait and his side, the lowest ranked outfit at 21st, succeed they will be the first British ice hockey team to compete at the Winter Olympics for 66 years, having last competed at St Moritz 1948.

Britain may not have much recent history in the sport at the Games, but they have tasted success having won gold at Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 and bronze at Chamonix 1924.

They will also travel to Latvia high in confidence after winning their pre-qualifying tournament in November, but not ignorant to the size of the task in hand according to Tait.

“Obviously we’re ranked a lot lower than the other teams so we’ve really got to be at our very best to go through,” said Tait.

“It’s not an impossible task, but we’re going to have to be very good on the day and hope we get a few bounces along the way.

“All the players will be going in fully prepared and will be ready for the task.”

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