As the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang get underway, all eyes are focused on Team GB, as they look set to achieve a record-breaking haul of five medals. Following on from our interview in Impact #250, we caught up again with one of Team GB’s rising stars in short track speed skating, Jack Burrows. He gave us some inside knowledge on who we should put our money on at the Games, what he thinks about the IOC’s ban on Russian athletes and his lifelong love of Nottingham Forest.
We know that you’re often busy with training and studying. So, will you get any chances to watch PyeongChang?
JB: Yes, I think so! We’re gonna struggle with the time zone, for sure. But I’m sure I’ll find a bit of spare time, even if it means coming into training the next morning a bit tired!
For me, it’s important to watch this, because the people racing at these Games are the same ones that will be at the next one. The standard of the racing on show will be the best in the world because you’ve got the best thirty-two athletes in the world together. So, I’ll be watching it very closely, seeing if I like anything that the other skaters do and then, trying to add it to my own strengths in training.
(1/4) Issue #250 of @impactmagazine is out now!! For this milestone edition, we chose to look at how far sport at @UniofNottingham and in the city has changed over the decades, whilst looking ahead to what's in store for the future: pic.twitter.com/0vGEkJWwKd
— Impact Sport (@ImpactSport) January 30, 2018
Who are the main people we should be looking out for at the Games? And, don’t just say Elise [Christie]!
JB: Hah! Honestly, Elise is the one to look out for. Last time, she came so close. I think that she’s definitely going to do it this time. I’d put your money on her!
That sounds very confident! Is there anyone else in particular in Team GB?
JB: For the GB medal haul more generally, I’d look out for Katie Summerhayes, who I went to the Youth Olympics with. Our Team GB Chef de Mission, Mike Hay, has said he expects PyeongChang to be GB’s best medal-haul! In the run-up to this Olympics, we’ve had more world champions, and even from sliding sports like Skeleton and Bobsleigh. Lizzie Yarnold has come back and gone from strength to strength. So, the medals could come from anywhere.
Last time out in Sochi, Russia, Christie had a miserable Olympic outing. Disqualified three times and pursued by Korean fans on social media, the Scot who moved to Nottingham to train alongside the likes of Burrows will come into these Games with her demons well buried after doing so well in the Rotterdam World Championships last year. Burrows outlined the characteristics that have given her such an inspirational edge in competition:
JB: It’s the dedication and desire that she has, that has elevated her to the level where she is now. She is never satisfied with what she has. She always comes off the ice and says ‘well, this was wrong, this wasn’t good enough, I want to fix this’ and the next session she goes and tries to fix it. She has a passion and willingness to find her weaknesses and keep stepping up. I definitely want to have that quality in myself.
What about the talent from the other competing nations?
JB: Well, you can never write-off the Canadians – they are winter sport through and through! The American team and J. R. Celski just broke the relay world record too. And I think the Koreans are going to be deadly.
It’s their home games, and short track speed skating is their national sport. They have university and even high school teams, so they have about thirty-times the number of athletes that we do. Look out for any of the Koreans!
“You want to beat anyone on a level playing field”
One of the big talking points surrounding the Games has been the IOC’s ban on Russian athletes due to allegations of a state-sponsored doping programme at the Sochi Games. How do you feel about the whole situation?
JB: Well, I think it takes a while to look at the evidence. The IOC have taken their stance and the BOA have released their statements. At the end of the day, as a racer, I want to beat anyone. You want to beat anyone on a level playing field. That’s the most important thing. You need the confidence to go out onto the ice knowing that the effort you’ve put in couldn’t be cheated. There must be a level playing field. Had I won a medal knowing that I’ve taken something banned, I wouldn’t be satisfied with that. I want to leave the ice knowing that it was 100% me and nothing else. Whatever I’ve got, I’ve got!
We can see and hear your incredible passion for short track speed skating. But, for those who aren’t completely familiar with the sport, tell us why we should all be watching it at the Winter Games.
JB: It’s the adrenaline and the rush. When I compete, the adrenaline always gets me, no matter how many times I’ve been on the ice.
Everyone is on the starting line, it’s a head-to-head race and the winner is the first person across the line. The fastest wins. I love it! When I compete, the adrenaline always gets me, no matter how many times I’ve been on the ice or I’ve been on the starting line. I can’t not get nervous when I hear the old school starting pistol. There’s no difference for me between an Olympic qualifying round or a regional tournament in England.
— GB Short Track (@GB_ShortTrack) February 6, 2018
You’ve definitely sold it to us now! Outside of speed skating, we know that you’re a big Forest fan. Is it difficult to keep up two sporting loves?
JB: Yes, I’m a huge fan! I’ve had a season ticket with my brother for six years now. I really love and enjoy it. Sometimes, I’ll also come here and watch the Nottingham Panthers play. It all depends on how busy I am with the skating. On a few occasions, it’s been really hard when I’ve had to say to my brother ‘Sorry, I can’t take you today, I’ve got all of these things on’. But I always try my hardest to fit in the time to come and watch the Reds.
It’s been a mixed season for Forest this year. Warburton left, Karanka has come in, and Forest currently lie around mid-table. What do you hope for from the rest of the season?
JB: There’s an expectation there, as we’re a historic club, but personally I’d take a mid-table finish this year, especially after last season’s campaign.
These games, says Jack, came a handful of months too early for him. The Calverton-born racer has recently suffered a cruel injury spell and recovered to the point where he fractionally missed selection for the games. Naturally, Team GB take performance and medal results more seriously than perhaps any other nation, but at just 20 years old Burrows has plenty more chances to tear up the short track scene in the future – continuing Nottingham’s illustrious history on ice.
Image courtesy of Martin Holtom