Tranquilised badgers and career-threatening crashes are no longer the only reasons why Great Britain’s cross-country skiing squad are continuing to cause a stir.
With one year to go to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Andrew Young and Andrew Musgrave boast genuine claims to medals which would lend the nation’s storied snow sports history arguably its most unlikely chapter.
Musgrave, who tweeted that he skied like a “tranquilised badger” after a disappointing display in Sochi, has nevertheless blazed Britain’s trail in the traditionally Nordic-dominated discipline, stunning his hosts by winning the Norwegian National Championships in 2014.
Meanwhile, 28-year-old Young has emerged from his team-mate’s shadow to earn two World Cup podiums this season alone, and will head to next month’s World Championship in Oberstdorf full of confidence despite an horrific crash in Falun, Sweden last weekend.
Young was taken to hospital on a stretcher after crashing through hoardings and striking a wooden post at 26mph, but scans are expected to give him the all-clear to continue his history-making season towards a prospective fourth Winter Games.
“I’m pretty bruised and beaten up but there were fractures in my initial X-rays,” Young told the PA news agency two days after his accident. “But I’m hopeful that I will be back on my skis within a week to 10 days.”
The success of Musgrave and Young is all the more remarkable given the British team’s humble beginnings in Huntly, where Young’s father Roy was co-opted into establishing an initial national squad from distinctly modest means.
Now under the guise of governing body GB Snowsport, Musgrave and Young have access to two full-time Norwegian coaches, as well as a physio and a waxing team, bolstering their very real medal hopes for the Chinese capital.
Musgrave recalled: “It’s been a transformation from being completely unprofessional, from hanging round car parks before races asking for tips on what we should be waxing our skis with.
“That’s mostly down to Roy, bringing us from not doing anything to being a proper professional team. It’s one of the things that’s got me and Andrew where we are today, knowing where we came from. If we weren’t super-determined we’d never have been here.”
Musgrave finished an Olympics-best seventh in the skiathlon at Pyeongchang 2018, and whilst his subsequent 28th place in the 15km was hardly one of his “tranquilised badger” moments, it meant he would have to wait at least four more years to complete the trajectory with a podium finish.
In the meantime Young’s continued emergence – he actually beat the more celebrated Musgrave to a first World Cup podium finish, in Italy in 2015 – has proved particularly pertinent given the role his father played in blazing that trail.
“My dad changed professions in the middle of his career so he could support a group of young skiers to get to be able to compete on the world stage,” Young added.
“That’s the motivation, that if we go on to get an Olympic medal we really have come from nothing to the pinnacle, but there’s another side that says I can look back and it doesn’t really matter.
“We’ve come from nothing and now we’re at the elite end of the sport. Even if I never get a World Championship or Olympic medal, I can look back and say, ‘Wow, what a story we’ve all gone through’.”