Wondering which Winter Olympic sport is right for you? We asked a talent scout…

As a child you’re more likely to grow up kicking a football in the park than riding a bobsled, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the transition from a traditional sport to a winter activity.

As a performance pathway scientist at the English Institute of Sport, Amy Warburton helps find and transition athletes with potential into world-class programmes. And while she pointed out that an athlete’s suitability for a winter sport is determined by multiple complex factors, some sports do appear to lend themselves to others.

So if you’re a traditional athlete inspired by the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, what icy escapades might your sport lead you to?

Sprinting

(John Walton/EMPICS Sport)

Sprinting remains one of the headline events at the summer Olympics, and the world’s fastest humans are often seen making the switch to bobsleigh. Why is that?

“The push-start in bobsleigh is really important,” said Amy of the sport popularised by the feature film, Cool Runnings.

“Sprinters may be suited to bobsleigh due to that push element at the start of the race requiring explosive power and speed.”

Skateboarding

(John Stillwell/PA)

Skateboarding is one of five new sports recently added to the Olympic roster, set to feature at the 2020 Tokyo Games. What might skater boys and girls find to their liking on the snow and ice?

“Skateboarders may be suited to freestyle skiing as well as snowboarding,” said Amy. “Due to the acrobatic and creative nature of the sports.”

Amy also mentioned that those suitable to snowboarding are likely to be “people who are maybe more involved in something like skateboarding, something with adrenaline”.

Rowing

(Martin Rickett/PA)

Ski jumping and rowing might not seem like the most obvious connection, but the next Eddie the Eagle might be in a boat right now.

“It’s an adrenaline junkie kind-of sport obviously, with the heights,” said Amy of ski jumping. “And body shape and aerodynamics are quite important too.”

With that in mind, Amy added: “We’d be looking for people who are tall and quite rangy, so people like lightweight rowers. Someone who isn’t too heavy but you need to have muscles to get yourself up in the air.”

Football, hockey, track cycling

(Victoria Jones/PA)

Football has been one of the world’s most popular sports since its rules were first committed to paper, while track cycling and hockey are both events that have inspired the UK with recent Olympic success.

Is there a winter sport that they all might suit?

“Track cycling, hockey and football may be suited to short track speed skating,” said Amy, adding: “These athletes are often quick, powerful and used to competing for space.”

Watch out for Wayne Rooney, Sir Chris Hoy and Samantha Quek skating behind one another at an ice rink near you, then.

Swimmers

(Owen Humphreys/PA)

Swimmers are famed for their fitness and endurance, but due to the way they prepare for their sport, they could be quite versatile when it comes to switching.

“Swimmers tend to have a very extensive training history, so they could transfer quite well into a number of sports,” said Amy. But is there one they might successfully apply themselves to?

“Maybe skeleton,” suggested Amy. “Because sprint swimmers are very powerful.”

Endurance sports

(Adam Davy/PA)

And finally, what does Amy make of the endurance sports, those activities that punish your muscles on the road and in the water?

“Athletes from long-distance running, road cycling and rowing may be suited to cross country skiing,” she said.

Amy said it’s “due to their endurance training history and aerobic capacity”. That makes sense given the gruelling nature of the sport, in which competitors propel themselves across the snow often without the help of gravity.

 

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