Dame Katherine Grainger: Team GB can unite and inspire at Winter Olympics and Paralympics
It is less than six months since our British Olympic and Paralympic stars returned from a triumphant performance at the summer games in Tokyo, yet the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games is almost upon us.
The proximity of these Games to last summer’s events in Tokyo is a great opportunity for our athletes to demonstrate the thrills, skills and jeopardy that are an integral part of winter sports and I have no doubt that Team GB and ParalympicsGB will capture the imagination of the public.
These moments in the spotlight do not come around too often and the next few weeks are a fantastic opportunity for the athletes to showcase their character, daring and dedication to a global audience.
It comes after an uncertain 18 months in which the athletes have faced unprecedented challenges and shown fantastic adaptability and resilience just to earn selection and make it to Beijing.
I know from my own Olympic experiences that the final hours before competition starts are the most nerve-wracking. You have done everything you can to prepare and you now want the waiting to end and the competition to begin. I am sure that after everything the athletes have been through with the pandemic these feelings will be even more acute for this Games.
In these extreme times we are immensely proud of every one of the team that has made it this far and ensuring we look after the welfare and wellbeing of the whole team is our number one priority. We want to make sure that every selected athlete gets safely to the start line and will continue to work closely with our partners at the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association to do all we can to make this happen.
The lessons we learned last summer when our teams faced similarly difficult circumstances in Tokyo will help our winter athletes and, while I recognise they will still face unforeseen challenges, I am confident they will deliver some unforgettable moments and build on the successes of the last two winter games in PyeongChang and Sochi.
The impact of these successes can be seen in the make-up of Team GB which will be competing in a broader range of disciplines with a collection of athletes from a wider range of backgrounds than at any previous winter games.
It includes a pair of short track speed skating brothers, a coffee shop owner, our first long track speed skaters since 1992 and a former firefighter.
And while we are confident that this young and dynamic team can emulate the achievements of Sochi and PyeongChang, we recognise that success is about more than medals and want these Games to be a platform to bring people together and inspire the nation.
As we prepare to watch our athletes deliver the thrills and spills that make the Winter Olympics such a unique event, it is important to remember that none of this would be possible without the ongoing support and investment provided by the Government and the National Lottery players, for which we are immensely grateful.
That only leaves me to wish the athletes and their support staff the very best of luck. We are right behind them as they step into the Olympic and Paralympic spotlight.
Dame Katherine Grainger DBE is Chair of UK Sport.