Winter Olympics 2014: GB aiming for record medal haul

With less than six months to go before the 2014 Winter Olympics open in Sochi, Team GB are confident about improving their medal chances.

Normally averaging between one and two medals per Winter Games, Britain could eclipse their best effort of four, which came at Chamonix in 1924, in Russia in February.

Chef de mission Mike Hay said results from the 2012-13 season were highly encouraging. "That British athletes can win on a global stage has given our guys a lot of confidence," he said. "There's a whole new belief."

BBC Sport looks at the potential podium contenders and what they say about their chances.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

James Woods

Sport: Ski slopestyle

Previous Olympic experience: None, slopestyle is making its Winter Olympic debut Form last season: 1st Ushuaia and Copper Mountain World Cups, 2nd World Championships, 3rd X Games, Colorado.

Season starts: World Cup, New Zealand, 23 August

Woods became the first British man to win a ski World Cup event at the start of last season and promptly won again at Copper Mountain.

He followed that up with a silver medal in the World Championships, and in the X Games in Colorado he came away with a bronze.

What he says: "I don't just want to be a British person who qualifies for the Winter Olympics, gets there and gives it a bash. I know the Olympic dream is all about taking part but at the end of the day you want to give it your all and to represent your county the best you can.

"My goal is to not just qualify for the Olympics but to smash it!

"The Olympics is the pinnacle in sport and there is going to be a lot of pressure but there is no greater pressure than what I put on myself."

Elise Christie

Elise Christie

Sport: Short track speed skating

Previous Olympic experience: 2010 (11th in 500m)

Form last season: 1000m World Cup champion, 3rd World Championships (1000m)

Season starts: World Cup, Shanghai, 26 September

Christie reached the number one world ranking in 1000m last season after finishing on the podium in six out of the seven World Cup races. She also became the first British woman to win a World Championship individual medal when she claimed bronze in the 1000m in Hungary. Although 1000m is her strongest event, she also competes at 500m and 1500m, winning the Dresden World Cup and finishing on the podium in two other races. She had a bad bout of mumps in April but is fully fit heading into the season.

What she says: "I had a four-year plan after Vancouver but reached some of my medal targets a year early as I was consistently getting on the podium.

"It's good to dream about the Olympics because of all the hard work I'm putting in, it's the goal I'm working to.

"I'm a perfectionist so I've been working on my weaknesses, which are my agility and race skills.

"In the World Championships I didn't race the 1000m well and held onto the bronze medal rather than challenging for a silver or gold. I was the first British women to win a World Championships medal but I regretted not going for it. There is no doubt I will be giving my all in Sochi."

Katie Summerhayes

Katie Summerhayes

Sport: Ski slopestyle

Previous Olympic experience: None, slopestyle is making its Winter Olympics debut

Season starts: to be determined

Form last season: 2nd World Cup Silvaplana, 3rd Junior World Championships, 4th World Championships

The 17-year-old from Sheffield returned from injury at the start of the year and promptly finished second at her first World Cup back, third at the World Junior Championships and fourth at the World Championships. This summer she has had a second operation to repair the cruciate knee ligament on her right leg but says there is no chance she will miss Sochi.

What she says: "I'll be 100% fine for Sochi and still believe I've got a chance of a medal. I will be going in with that mindset building up to the Games."

Shelley Rudman

Shelley Rudman

Sport: Skeleton

Previous Winter Olympic experience: 2006 (2nd) and 2010 (6th)

Form last season: 1st in World Cup in Winterberg, 1st at World Championships, St Moritz

Season starts: World Cup, Calgary, 30 November

Rudman will be the only former British Winter Olympic medallist when she competes in Sochi, having won a silver medal in Turin in 2006.

The mum of five-year-old Ella is the current world champion after triumphing in St Moritz, one of her favourite tracks.

What she says: "I feel a lot more knowledgeable going into these Olympics. I'll be the best prepared I've ever been.

"The Turin track really suited me in 2006 but in Vancouver [in 2010] it was only on the final run it clicked. I've been on the Sochi track for the World Cup and really used it to check set-ups and steering. I'm back there in October when I will know whether I'm suited to it or not.

"I always compare the Winter Olympics to the Grand National in that the favourites don't always come away with a medal - there's a lot of luck involved.

"Having said all that, I'll be going to the Olympics targeting a medal."

Eve Muirhead

Eve Muirhead

Sport: Curling

Previous Winter Olympic experience: 2010 (round robin stage)

Form last season: 1st at World Championships, 1st at Players' Championship, 1st at Scottish Championships

Season starts: Fort Wayne Summer Cash Spiel, Indiana, 16-18 August

Muirhead was only 19 when she was selected to skip the Great Britain team at the 2010 Games but, despite high hopes, the team failed to progress beyond the round-robin stage.

Last season her team won the World Championships, beating Sweden 6-5 in the final in Riga, and also claimed the Players' Championships to become the first European team to win curling's Grand Slam.

What she says: "After Vancouver I sat down and worked out how far behind the other nations we were and what we needed to do to be challenging for a medal in 2014.

"We changed the team, bringing in three young guns, and results started happening quickly.

"We are the best team in the world right now. Winning the Grand Slam was more difficult than the world title but proves it was no fluke.

"We train and practise all the time as we need to be physically and mentally strong because the Olympics are a long haul and it is exhausting.

"I feel good going forward and I'm pretty relaxed about Sochi."

SNEAKING ONTO THE PODIUM?

John Jackson with the rest of the bobsleigh team

John Jackson

Sport: Bobsleigh

Previous Winter Olympics: 2010 4-man (17th)

Form last season: 5th World Championships

Season starts: World Cup, Calgary, 24 November

Jackson was picked for the last Olympics but had to wait for the conclusion of a selection appeal by fellow driver Lee Johnston before the Royal Marine guaranteed his place.

He finished 17th in the four-man and crashed out in the two-man. Since Vancouver, the four-man team has risen from 25th in the world to fifth and they were seven hundredths of a second off a medal at the 2013 World Championships.

Jackson snapped his Achilles tendon in June but is hopeful of making a full recovery for the 2014 Games.

What he says: "There was a lot of stress leading up to the last Olympics. It was a horrible experience and I almost wanted to give up the sport.

"I decided to give it one more year and I'm glad I did. Gary Anderson [performance director] came in and we've moved on a long way.

"Last year we shocked the world with how well we were doing.

"If this injury doesn't get sorted, a GB team will take part in the Games but will not be competing [for a medal]."

Billy Morgan

Billy Morgan

Sport: Snowboard slopestyle

Previous Winter Olympic experience: None

Form last season: 1st Big Air, London, 3rd World Cup Sierra Nevada, 4th World Snowboard Championships

Season starts: World Cup, New Zealand, 18 August

Morgan is a former acrobat and skateboarder who only started snowboarding at the age of 14 on a dry slope in Southampton and was 17 when he first rode on snow.

He has risen up the rankings quickly and became the first British male snowboarder to win an international event at the London Freeze Big Air.

Morgan became a YouTube sensation when he was filmed becoming the first snowboarder to perform the triple rodeo and backed that up with a backside triple cork 1440, which basically means four spins.

He only made his World Cup debut in November 2012 and finished third in Sierra Nevada in March 2013.

What he says: "When I heard slopestyle was going to be in the 2014 Olympics I thought it was great news but did not for one minute think I could be one of those competing.

"So to be doing well, I can't quite believe what is happening to me.

"Getting on the podium in the World Cup was a really big thing for us and made me believe I have an opportunity to get a medal at the Olympics. I'll be working hard on my tricks but the chance to go for gold is exciting."

David Murdoch

David Murdoch

Sport: Curling

Previous Winter Olympic experience: 2006 (lost in bronze medal play-off game) and 2010 (lost in semi-finals play-off)

Form last season: 3rd World Championships

Season starts: European Mixed Curling Championships, Edinburgh, 14 September

Murdoch is a two-time world champion and has been a strong GB medal prospect at the last two Olympics, only to fall short of the medal matches on both occasions.

What he says: "With our ranking we were expected to do well at the last two Games, so it was heartbreaking not to win a medal. I want to avenge that and feel there is unfinished business at the Winter Olympics."

Lizzy Yarnold

Lizzie Yarnold

Sport: Skeleton

Previous Winter Olympic experience: None

Form last season: Two podium finishes in World Cup races, 4th at the World Championships

Season starts: World Cup, Calgary, 30 November

Yarnold admits she had never heard of skeleton when she applied for the Girls 4 Gold scheme, which was run by UK Sport to identify highly competitive sportswomen who could switch sports and challenge for Olympic medals. She was hoping to get selected for modern pentathlon but was picked for skeleton instead.

She burst onto the top-tier circuit, winning only her second World Cup race and has backed that up with further wins at Calgary and the 2012 Junior World Championships. At the World Championships, she has finished third and fourth.

She says: "At this stage my progress is really good but I can't take anything for granted and I'll be working really hard.

"The Sochi track is amazing. It has two long exits and three uphill sections which is a bit strange for a bobsleigh track.

"Britain has won a skeleton medal at the last three Olympics and I'm absolutely aiming to continue that. I'm going for gold."