The Olympic Winter Games officially begin today in Beijing, with Team GB sending a squad of 50 athletes and reserves to China aiming for their best-ever medal haul from a Winter Olympics.
Just like the summer Games, we know that success at an elite level can inspire many to begin, or further pursue, their sporting journey.
However, we also know it doesn’t automatically result in mass participation – particularly with winter sports for which England lacks the natural environment to facilitate them.
We want all sports and activities to be accessible and inclusive, though, and that’s why we fund national governing bodies including Snowsport England and British Ice Skating to help get athletes to the Games, as well as invest in community facilities such as ice rinks.
Our whole Uniting the Movement strategy is focused on tackling inequalities, removing barriers to getting active and ensuring everyone, not matter their background, has the same opportunities.
This includes a Talent Plan for England that has, as one of its seven guiding principles, a focus on creating national teams that reflect the country they represent.
Part of this principle is our funding for the charity SportsAid, who help young athletes with not only monetary awards to enable those from more deprived backgrounds to still chase their dream, but also support for things such as nutrition, time management, media training and mentoring.
Of the 50 athletes and reserves Team GB have in Beijing, 48% of them have received funding from either SportsAid or the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) at some point in their sporting careers.
One such athlete in receipt of SportsAid funding, but with her eyes set on qualification for the next Winter Olympics at Milan-Cortina 2026 rather than success in Beijing, is skeleton slider Taiwo Eyiowuawi.
The 21-year-old is a former 400m runner who only heard about skeleton thanks to being alerted to a ‘Girls4Gold’ campaign on LinkedIn by her mentor.
of Team GB athletes and reserves at Beijing 2022 have received SportsAid funding at some point
The programme was run by the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA) and has proved successful in the past – bringing both Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas from athletics and equestrianism, respectively, to skeleton and taking them to the Olympic podium.
Taiwo was finishing her studies at the University of Birmingham and now, following successful graduation through the first phases of the Girls4Gold programme and a relocation to Bath, is one stage away from being confirmed as a full-time athlete on the BBSA’s path to the next Winter Olympics.
But success isn’t her sole goal, with greater representation for winter sports as a whole, and greater diversity in those sports, also on the agenda.
“The goal is to make Milano-Cortina and become an Olympic medallist, preferably gold,” she said.
“That would change Britain’s history as I’d be the first Black woman to medal within a winter sport.
“Within winter sports it's maybe not the most diverse at present.
“There is still a long way to go in terms of representation. For me, being in this position now, it’s time for me to be a role model and a figure that is part of the team.
“If you don’t see a figure somewhere who looks like you or is relatable, you don’t know what you can achieve.
“With my own story I’d like to inspire others and make people know and understand that the pathway [you want] is there for you too, and you can achieve.
“If people only ever know about one certain thing, they’re only ever going to think ‘that’s all I’ll be good at’.
“But if they have other opportunities or options available, they might think differently.”
Taiwo met her mentor, who alerted her to the Girls4Gold programme, through the Level Up initiative run by Badu Sports and Nike.