Speed skater Matt Gardner on upward curve after Youth Olympic Games experience

Leeds Speed skater Matt Gardner, 17, has vowed to learn from the disappointment of being knocked out of the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lausanne.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 8:00 pm
Team GB's Matt Gardner competing in the men's 1000m short track speed skating during the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games. Picture: Sam Mellish.

Gardner, who competed in the men’s 500m on Monday and the 1,000m on Saturday, suffered first-round exits in both events.

The speed teen finished fourth in both of the first-round heats, missing out narrowly on the third qualifying spot on each occasion.

The young Team GB star, who skates at the Sheffield Speed Skating Club, felt sad to be leaving both events early.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I feel disappointed,” he said. “I feel that I had a really good chance to go and prove myself and qualify in the 1,000m, proving to people that I can handle the big occasions.

“I didn’t get the start I wanted and I panicked a bit when I wasn’t in the position that I wanted to be in.

“I wasn’t really focusing on the process of skating and it just didn’t work out from there really, unfortunately.”

Gardner, who achieved his personal best (pb) of 44.793 seconds in the 500m as well as a pb of 1:31.452 in the 1,000m at the same track in Lausanne last year, said he wouldn’t change anything in terms of how he had approached the competition this time around. He explained: “I’m definitely going away from the competition with no regrets; I put a lot on the line and gave it my all and as much as it didn’t go to plan, it’s all part of the learning experience.

“That’s how great athletes are made, learning from when they get it slightly wrong.”

Twenty-eight Team GB athletes flew out to Lausanne – the home of the Olympic committee – to represent the nation when the games started on January 9 for a Youth Winter Olympics in which Team GB competed in 11 of the 16 events, the last of which concluded yesterday.

The Games are aimed at 14-17-year-olds with just under 2,000 athletes taking part from 70 nations.

For many of the athletes, this was an opportunity to impress their nations ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and, for Gardner, he could be one of those chosen to lead the men’s speed skating team to glory.

And he thoroughly enjoyed the his trip to the Games.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” he added.

“I’ve been able to appreciate the surroundings, learning about different countries and different sports.

“Short track is a very small sport, so we kind of know each other quite well but it’s good to get outside the sport and learn from other people as well – it’s been really exciting.”

But after his early exit from the Winter Youth Olympics, Gardner is realistic about his chances of competiting in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“I like to look at Beijing as an option but there’s a lot of competition for the boys in the UK at the moment,” he said.

“There’s a lot of high-level skaters so it would be very, very difficult, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I wasn’t at the level I needed to be at by then.

“But I do have that as a goal and it keeps me motivated and I am aiming for that.

“It would be a very good goal to achieve and I’m never going to decline a challenge.”