Winter wonders

  • Last Updated: February 4 2014, 23:35 GMT

Our Chris Hammer looks at some memorable Great British moments from previous Winter Olympic Games.

  • Eddie Edwards: Star of the 1988 Games in Calgary
  • Torvill and Dean wowed the judges in Sarajevo in 1984 
  • Tony Nash and Robin Dixon won bobsleigh gold in 1964 
  • Rhona Martin celebrates her 'stone of destiny' in Salt Lake City in 2002 
  • Robin Cousins struck figure skating gold at Lake Placid in 1980 

In no particular order...

The Eagle soars, Calgary, 1988

There can't be many nicknames less suited to an athlete than Great British ski jumper Eddie Edwards (whose first name was actually Michael) being labelled 'Eddie The Eagle' but what he lacked in ability, he certainly made up for in character, spirit, guts and, most importantly, comedy value. If you can't be the best, then sometimes the only way to get noticed and capture the hearts of the world is to be embarrassingly bad - and that's exactly what Eddie did. Unsurprisingly, Edwards was the best Britain had to offer in ski jumping so the bespectacled plasterer headed to Calgary to compete in the 70m and 90m events only to finish dead last in both. But his loveable nerdy looks, together with the fact he came from a country with no ski jumps and had to fund all his training himself, ensured he became the story of the Games ahead of any gold-medal winner. He made such an impression that the home crowd chanted his name repeatedly when the president of the local organising committee, Frank King, singled him out for special mention in his closing ceremony speech, saying: "At this Games some competitors have won gold, some have broken records and some of you have even soared like an eagle." Nevertheless, Edwards' exploits were never to be repeated after the International Olympic Committee drew up the so called 'Eddie the Eagle' rule, which requires Olympic hopefuls to compete in international events and place in the top 30 per cent or be in the top 50 competitors. Some sporting purists may unfairly brand him a loser but when you consider the challenges that stood in his way, by simply taking part in an Olympic Games he achieved an impossible dream.

The joy of six, Sarajevo, 1984

When you hear the names Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean you can't help but think of their world famous ice dance to Ravel's Bolero. The couple from Nottingham performed the majestic four-minute piece in the 1984 Winter Olympics on their way to clinching a faultless gold medal that turned them into instant celebrities. The slow, emotional free dance performance resulted in them becoming the highest-scoring figure skaters of all time after receiving across-the-board perfect 6.0 scores for artistic impression. Later on in the year the pair, who are regarded as the UK's most famous and successful ice dancers, became the first to receive the award of Sports Personality of the Year as a couple. Though the 1984 Olympic victory is what they are most known for, fans may also remember the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer where the skating duo performed to Let's Face the Music and Dance but were controversially awarded only bronze.

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Rhona's golden girls, Salt Lake City, 2002

Rhona Martin and her team not only captured the hearts of the Great British public in 2002 but also put the sport of curling firmly on the map following their gold-medal heroics. Described as either "bowls on ice" or even "chess on ice", nobody could have predicted the competition would end in such a nerve-jangling night of high drama which kept Britain's captivated television audience on the edge of their seats. Captain Martin perfectly placed the last stone of the match - later labelled 'The Stone of Destiny' - right in the centre of the house to seal victory in a gripping contest against Switzerland and spark wild celebrations at the Ogden Ice Sheet. As a result of their triumph, the all-Scottish squad - also including Janice Rankin, Fiona MacDonald, Debbie Knox and Maggie Morton - became Great Britain's first gold medallists at a Winter Games since ice dancing duo Torvill and Dean back in 1984. Approximately six million people stayed up until the early hours in the UK to watch the final and it's doubtful many of those have forgotten that winning feeling.

With a little help from our friends, Innsbruck, 1964

When Tony Nash and Robin Dixon first got together as Great Britain's two-man bobsleigh team in 1960, the thought of winning gold at a Winter Olympics must surely have felt like mission impossible. After all, they could hardly practise in a country with no track! But despite the obvious hurdles, self-taught driver Nash and his speedy brakeman Dixon, now Lord Glentoran, raised enough money to purchase hand-me-down sleds from the Italian team, who even sportingly invited them to use their own training base in Cervino. Undoubtedly this generosity enabled Nash and Dixon to grow as a promising partnership and in the 1963 World Championships they took bronze behind the two Italian pairings. Heading to the Olympics at St Moritz, the British duo were in confident mood but despite being second fastest behind the Canadians after the first run, disaster struck when a bolt attaching the runners to the shell of their sled sheared. Thankfully Italy's Eugenio Monti was on hand to provide a spare bolt to his rivals, allowing Nash and Dixon to complete their second journey down the track and subsequently end the day at the top of the timesheets with a narrow lead over - you've guessed it - the Italian crews. On day two the weather conditions deteriorated and the Brits slipped into the silver-medal position after the third run. Nash and Dixon then thought they'd blown it when a mistake on their final run saw them lose valuable time and with both Italian teams still to go, they famously went to a cafe for "coffee and schnapps". But the two Italian bobs also faltered and the gold medal went to Great Britain by a mere 0.12 seconds.

Inhaler blows it for Baxter, Salt Lake City, 2002

Few people had ever heard of Alain Baxter at the start of 2002 Games. By the end, most certainly had. He started off by dying a Scottish Saltire into his hair, which didn't go down too well given he was representing Great Britain at the Games. But the real headlines were yet to come. Competing in skiing's men's slalom, few expected him to mount a serious challenge for a podium place, particularly given he was nursing a knee injury. Baxter's opening run saw him placed down in eighth and when he followed that up with second run exactly two seconds slower, he lost a place to Frenchman Sebastien Amiez. With hopes of a medal seemingly out of the window, it didn't even look like he could even equal a British man's previous Olympic alpine best - Martin Bell's eighth in the Calgary downhill in 1988. However, a conditions worsened, a procession of big names in front of him, including Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Benjamin Raich and Kilian Albrecht all made a mess of the lower section of the course, while World Cup leader Ivica Kostelic crashed out. And when big favourite Bode Miller also blew it as he risked all to overhaul first-run leader Jean-Pierre Vidal, Baxter was assured of at least a bronze. Vidal showed the rest of the field how it should be done as he kept his cool to take gold ahead of Amiez but it was Baxter who made history by securing the first-ever Olympic alpine skiing medal for Britain. Then the story really took off. Days later, the Aviemore ace was disqualified and stripped of his bronze for failing a drugs test, even though the banned substance in question was taken unwittingly via a Vick's inhaler bought in the USA. Although the BOA assisted in Baxter's appeal, the strict liability rule on doping convictions meant his third-place finish could never be salvaged but at the very least his reputation remained intact.

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O'Reilly's skating exhibition, Calgary, 1988

Wilf O'Reilly deserves to be remembered as an Olympic champion but sadly the two gold medals he won back in 1988 came at a time when short-track speed skating was just a demonstration sport. His first triumph came in the frantic sprint of the 500 metres as he avoided the potential dangers of a collision to edge out Canada's Mario Vincent and Tatsuyoshi Ishihara, of Japan, while just a day later he claimed glory yet again. This time he fended off the challenge of another Canadian - Michel Daignault - as well as Frenchman Marc Bella in the 1000m to ensure he became Great Britain's only success story from the Calgary Games. Inevitably O'Reilly headed for the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, where he was handed the honour of being Great Britain's flag bearer for the opening ceremony, surrounded by hype and expectation, but perhaps it was all this pressure which ultimately contributed to his failure to finish on the podium in any of his events, with official medals now on the line. The reigning world champion from 1991 fell and finished last in his 1000m semi-final. Two years on and the popular Brummie had one more crack at the big time in Lillehammer, this time being able to compete in both the 500m and 1000m, but his campaign ended in disaster as he failed to even get past the first round in either race.

Amazing Amy end's Britain's drought, Vancouver 2010

Most British eyes were fixed firmly on Shelley Rudman for a potential gold medal following her silver exploits four years earlier but it was her unheralded team-mate who ended up in the history books...with a little help from a controversial helmet. Unbeknown to the casual UK sports fan, who only pay attention to snow and ice if it puts the weekend football fixture list at risk, Amy Williams had never won a World Cup race during her eight-year career which perhaps suggests why she was very much under the radar in terms of British medal hopes. As it turned out, the 27-year-old smashed the track record twice at the Whistler Sliding Centre as she stormed to gold by more than a half a second - a massive margin in an event like skeleton. Her rivals were not impressed and lodged complaints claiming the ridges in her helmet were illegal and gave her an unfair aerodynamic advantage. Fortunately for Williams, the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation rejected the complaints which allowed her to become Britain's first solo Winter Olympic champion since Robin Cousins in 1980 and the first female to win an individual gold since Jeannette Altwegg back in 1952. Rudman finished down in sixth.

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Cousins dances on ice, Lake Placid, 1980

Robin Cousins is currently everyone's favourite judge on Torvill and Dean's hit show Dancing On Ice, where a host of celebrities aim to dazzle both the panel of experts and the television audience with their new-found skating skills, but 30 years ago he was the one desperate for high scores. The Bristol-born figure skater, whose father played as a goalkeeper for Millwall, arrived at the Games with high hopes having won bronze and silver medals at the 1978 and 1979 World Championships respectively, but the pressure was on to emulate the golden triumph of fellow countryman John Curry four years earlier in Innsbruck. This didn't show on the ice though as the 22-year-old produced a majestic free programme display to edge ahead of East Germany's Jan Hoffmann and clinch Great Britain's only gold of the Games. To cap his memorable achievement, Cousins was made an MBE and also presented with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award - a fitting way to end his amateur days in the sport. For the next 20 years he enjoyed an illustrious career in the professional ranks while his involvement in a string of ice show spectaculars in front of his adoring public.

Elegant Curry strikes gold, Innsbruck, 1976

John Curry's performance back in 1976 undoubtedly helped popularise the sport of figure skating in Great Britain. Graceful and elegant, Curry used his love for ballet and modern dance to influence his sublime performances on the ice and will always be remembered as the competitor who brought the presentation aspects of male skating to another level. The Birmingham-born star, who benefited from American sponsorship and training facilities in Colorado since his 11th-place finish at the previous Games, headed into the year with high hopes even though he had yet to top the podium in a major international event. However, at the European Championships he finally broke his duck, beating his great Soviet rival Vladimir Kovalyov for the first time in the process, and many expected the same two men to battle it out once again for the main event in Innsbruck. It was effectively artistry and elegance against power and athleticism. Fortunately for Great Britain it was Curry who completely outclassed the rest of the field with a series of magnificent displays to emerge triumphant while Kovalyov ended up a distant second. His perfectly coordinated free skating programme, which sealed victory, is widely regarded as one of the finest performances of all time while he went on to cement his position as the best with gold at the World Championships, before turning pro. He sadly died in 1994 at the age of just 44.

Men's ice hockey team, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 1936

Great Britain's first-ever Winter Olympics gold medal came in 1936 in Germany where the men's ice hockey claimed a shock victory. Some would argue it wasn't really a true British triumph due to the amount of Canadian-based players within the squad, who undoubtedly played a major role in the outcome. The golden moment was made possible three years earlier when the general secretary of the British Ice Hockey Federation Bunny Ahearne drew up a list of Canadians of British heritage and convinced several of them to represent his team. Of course, the history books just show GB as the winners and that's fine with us! Ironically it would prove to be a crucial 2-1 win over pre-tournament favourites Canada in Group A of the semi-final round - a result which carried over into final pool of four teams - which proved the difference between gold and silver. Britain went on to beat Czechoslovakia and draw 0-0 with the USA to finish just one point ahead of Canada.

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