Great Britain bobsleighers join call for tracks to be covered

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter in Innsbruck, Austria

Great Britain's bobsleigh team have called for all sliding tracks to be covered after heavy snowfall at the Winter Youth Olympics in Austria.

Team GB were forced to abandon their final training session ahead of Sunday's bobsleigh competition.

GB bobsleigher Mica McNeil, who will compete on Sunday, told BBC Sport: "I think for them [tracks] to be covered would be a huge advantage really.

"You wouldn't have problems like today. You would be able to slide whenever."

The calls echoed that of 2006 Olympic skeleton silver medallist Shelley Rudman, whose sport uses the same tracks as the bobsleigh events. This season a number of World Cup races have been blighted by heavy snow.

Ironically the snow came to their advantage on Friday when Britain registered the first one-two finish in a World Cup event when Lizzy Yarnold, in only her second top tier event, won and Rudman came second after the St Moritz race was restricted to a single run because of the poor conditions.

However in a previous race Rudman had been disadvantaged by snow and she says enough is enough.

"I do think that since the sliding sports are Olympic, all tracks should be fully covered to prevent the problems with snow," Rudman said on Twitter.external-link

GB bobsleigh coach Lee Johnston, who has competed in three Olympic Games, admitted the heavy snowfall had hampered his team's preparations.

"It's frustrating when you have still got kit to test," Johnston told BBC Sport. "When you're doing 80mph and pulling up to five Gs, the last thing you want is not to be able to see."

Great Britain have so far failed to win a medal at the Winter Youth Olympics after a disappointing performance by the curlers and near misses for Katie Summerhayes and Katherine Gale, so the competition's host venue Innsbruck carries added significance for the bobsleigh team.

The city was the scene of their only Olympic gold medal to date, with Robin Dixon and Anthony Nash, claiming gold at the 1964 Games.

Ahead of the competition GB Bobsleigh performance director Gary Anderson admitted his team had 'medal potential', but Johnston played down hopes of repeating the golden performance seen 48 years ago.

"I'd like to think we can, but I don't think we will," said Johnston.

"All of my athletes have stood on the podium during the qualification process and they all have the potential to win a medal, but sometimes the weather throws a whole lottery into the game."

Although Team GB chef de mission Sir Clive Woodward has insisted that there are no medal targets for Great Britain at the Games and that the focus should be on athletes gaining experience of competing at this level, Anderson has admitted there is a degree of pressure.

"Our sponsors want to be associated with people who win," Anderson told BBC Sport.

"All winter sport is expensive. You have to follow the snow, there's accommodation and also balancing that with the kids' education.

"We need around £60,000 per year to keep the set-up running. The aim is to win a medal in 2014 [Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia] and we see the youth programme as an integral part of that."

"I think one of the [GB athletes] we see in action at the weekend could make it to Sochi."